Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Necks

1

Aloha, folks! Brief backstory: I've been having a hell of a time with my fretting wrist playing guitar, which is why I mostly switched to ukulele. It seemed that no matter what neck angle, width, scale, or radius I grabbed, after an hour or so, my wrist would start hurting and if I played for much longer, I'd be guaranteed to hurt for days.

But then I was in Chicago and found a 1963 6125 and it was definitely in need of some TLC, but the neck on it was perfect. Here I was thinking a smaller neck is where I should be looking because playing the ukulele doesn't hurt (most of the time), but this neck was pretty chunky and it felt amazing. It was beyond comfortable. I was able to play it for more than an hour and there wasn't any pain at all.

But, like I said, the guitar was a bit of a beater. Someone put a hole in the back, there was glue on the binding, and the pickup seemed pretty messed up (sounded fine, though).

So I'm saving for a guitar from the same era to hopefully get that same neck, just on a guitar that was taken care of a bit more.

My question to you fine folks, is what year ranges should I be looking at? I seem to remember JB's '59 6120 having a very similar neck carve to mine where it wasn't very chunky at all. But Curt's Country Club neck is plenty thick so any guidance would be GREATLY appreciated!

Thanks, folks!

2

From your post, I wonder if you might enjoy playing tenor guitar or maybe slide using a cigar box 3-string or a shovel guitar? Much fun to be had with those options. Some great vids on YouTube of folks doing some amazing stuff.

3

I feel your pain, literally, as I snapped my left wrist twice as a kid. I found that the U shape (or D shape) common to Gretsches from '57-'58 seem to work best, but there are always exceptions as Gretsch neck shapes were all over the place. If it felt right and sounded right -- just get it. Who cares if it's a beater. Did you pull the backpad off to see if it had a hole? Gretsch would sometimes put the pad on hole-less guitars, sometimes as a customer request. No mute = no hole. If it's a factory hole there should be a plastic cover that screws on under the pad. If it's an owner modification, you should be able to get the 6125 for a better price as those were never desirable.

4

Hi Pappy, I suggest you try a White Penguin, it is very close to the 6120 era you like. I also understand where you are coming from as my fretting thumb now has arthritis.

5

PAPPY? Who's this...Pappy?

6

I was thinkin the same, Tim. Hey Pappy. Long time no see.

7

The beauty of old builds is the necks were all over the place so you had to play several guitars to find yours. These days there are slight variations so you either have to adapt or opt out.

You need an asymmetrical neck that tilts down a bit so your wrist doesn't have to bend to much.

There are some topical things that do help with what I assume is tendonitis. I decided not to type there's always heroin, glad I didn't because that would have been in bad taste!

8

Yeah, I finally got the Doc to start paying attention to it and there should be some appointments in the future to see what it really is. I had to sleep with a brace for a long time, but that didn’t help at all.

Good times.

I’m just kidding. They’re not good at all.

9

Sorry to hear it, Russ. Durn ol' human frailty.

10

Check if the fatter neck puts your arm or elbow in a different position (different angles at the shoulder/elbow/wrist.) That can possibly contribute. Just a thought.

11

Everything else felt the same as far as arm angles go. I WAS sitting in Chicago Music Exchange’s super comfortable black wooden chairs. Maybe that played a role. I messaged them asking about them, but they couldn’t point me to a resource for one of my own.

12

Does anyone have any recommendations for vintage guitar shops in San Diego? I might find myself there and would like to explore this a bit more.

13

Dang Pappy, I also quite literally feel your pain. I've worn a wrist brace to bed for the past three years now.

I just had carpal tunnel release surgery on my fretting hand. I had been dealing with pain and tingling for the past few years. The moment I realized it was more than just passing pain was during practice, I felt a pop, then and electric like pain and tingling throughout my hand and fingers.

I got a cortisone shot that gave me relief for about a year. Finally decided I needed to get the surgery out of the way as it was becoming more and more of a problem getting through a whole set with my band. The recovery could be as little as 4 weeks, but more likely 6 weeks from what I was told.

The surgery I got was endoscopic, barely visible incision and it took 10 minutes. The IV was the worst part of the whole procedure.

An easy test to see if you might be suffering from carpal tunnel is to tap the inside of your wrist and see if you have any tingling or pain going up into your fingers.

14

Hi there Pappy, it's been ages (says the guy who has not posted for ages). Hope you find the right one for you.

15

Thanks, guys! I really appreciate it. I love playing guitar and it’s been beyond frustrating trying to troubleshoot this. The sheer relief - there’s no other word for it - when’s I started playing that 6125 was crazy and I’m down for looking for an example that at the very least doesn’t have a back pad and organizing a layaway or trying to get my wife on board. I just need some more opportunities to try out some older Gretsch’s but they aren’t common at all here.

Worst case scenario: I have to wait until we move back to the mainland next year to start really hunting one down. But until then, I sometimes end up on the mainland for short stints on trips so I’ll just try finding vintage guitar shops while I’m on the road.

16

The beauty of old builds is the necks were all over the place so you had to play several guitars to find yours. These days there are slight variations so you either have to adapt or opt out.

You need an asymmetrical neck that tilts down a bit so your wrist doesn't have to bend to much.

There are some topical things that do help with what I assume is tendonitis. I decided not to type there's always heroin, glad I didn't because that would have been in bad taste!

– Curt Wilson

Heroin aside pappy, I use Voltaren Gel, a prescription NSAIDS topical goo. I tore a ligament and ruptured the left wrist capsule, requiring surgery. I get substantial relief, it may be worth investigating. These things seem to be more problematic as we chronologically mature.

17

I appreciate the tip!

18

Howdy Pappy—Although I haven’t been down there in a while. I remember Freedom Guitar in San Diego had a huge selection of Guitars, mostly used if my memory serves me..( that’s a big IF ) I’m pretty sure that the Owner is tapped into the used scene in the area as I ran into to him from time to time at Guitar shows.

Link

19

Thanks for the advice! I’ll be sure to check it out!

20

Follow-up question: since Gretsches are more of an... unknown quantity by year when t comes to neck carves, would companies like Guild or Gibson have a more consistent production? Would CE-100s or ES-175s be more bankable as far as neck carves?

21

Follow-up question: since Gretsches are more of an... unknown quantity by year when t comes to neck carves, would companies like Guild or Gibson have a more consistent production? Would CE-100s or ES-175s be more bankable as far as neck carves?

– Pappy

I believe fender makes them for gretsch? Nowdays the necks are probably machined..

22

Modern necks, sure, but I was talking about consistency with vintage models.

I visited Freedom Guitar yesterday. Unfortunately, they’re going out of business (but contrary to their signs, there weren’t a ton of discounts to be had - particularly when I came to the sweet Vibro Champ that they had) and the only offering of any interest was a 1977 Tele that was fun, but didn’t have the right neck.


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