Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Neil Young’s Gretsch 6120’s

1

I'm new to the forum, but was hoping one of you could help me. I am trying to understand Neil Young's Gretsch 6120's. As best as I can understand it there have been at least three of them. The first one he got in 1963 and sold in Toronto in 1965. I think this one is a 1960 as it doesn't have appear to have the neck dowel from the side of the neck.

The next one, and the one in nearly all the pictures, he purchased in mid-1966. It has the neck dowel from the side so I think it is a 1961. It uniquely has the upper switches close to the side of the guitar and a hole (I assume from a removed pickguard) really, really close to the neck pickup. As far as I know he still has this guitar. I have pictures of it from as recently as 2011. That pickguard hole is pretty unique.

Then there is (I think) a third 6120 which he traded to Jim Messina for his Old Black Les Paul in about August 1968. This guitar possibly was offered for sale recently in London. There is another forum post on that. I have struggled to find any pictures of Neil with a second Springfield-era 6120. There might be one from Whittier 1968.

  1. Can anyone verify my thinking on the model years of guitars 1 & 2?

  2. The variation in switch location and pickguard holes really surprises me. I have looked at a zillion 6120 photos lately, and although most are in a about the same location, there is much more variation than I would have expected. Wouldn't they have used some sort of template or jig to drill holes?

  3. Would anyone know how to contact Jim Messina to find out if the guitar he received from Neil had a Bigsby B6 vs the V-cut Bigsby.

I will add some photos below.

Sorry for such a long first post, Tom

2

Neil's first 6120. Sold in 1965

3

Neil's second 6120. Still with a pick guard

4

The second 6120 again. Pickgaurd removed. Note the hole so close to the pickup

5

This is a third 6120 I think from Whittier 1968. Notice the switches appear a more normal distance from the side. The photos are such low resolution it is hard to tell.

6

A 1969 photo of Messina in Poco with a 6120 with a Bigsby B6 similar to the London guitar

7

You've done well so far...

There is a German Website where it's "All Things Neil Young".

There is a complete story like yours with photos.

I'll try to find it, and I know I linked it here on the GDP, just cannot recall the thread.

When compared, there might be some agreement or improved chronology.

8

You've done well so far...

There is a German Website where it's "All Things Neil Young".

There is a complete story like yours with photos.

I'll try to find it, and I know I linked it here on the GDP, just cannot recall the thread.

When compared, there might be some agreement or improved chronology.

– Twangmeisternyc

Thank you. I know the fellow who runs the German site. We have exchanged email and our information is about the same although his page is much more detailed. Here is a translated version.

https://translate.google.co...

I was really curious about the variation between guitars information. Is it rare or odd to have that pickguard hole so close to the pickup and is it typical for 6120's for all those holes to be drilled so imprecisely. And maybe someone knows Messina too : )

9

I agree #2 is a '61. #1 sure looks like the full 2 3/4" depth to me in that picture. I'd be leaning towards '59 without seeing more. If #3 is the one shown in the Poco picture, and the Bigsby is original, then it's a '58 or '59.

10

If you could get a larger pic of the Whittier show that might help us. Jim Messina was (IIRC) at one of our Round Up gatherings a couple of years ago. The Squires era flamey 6120 looks to be around a '59 model; the later one is as you've noticed. Both are discussed in the "Shakey" book, but it's been a while.

As far as "regular" placement of knobs or regular anything regarding vintage Gretsches, all I can say is welcome. It's the weird stuff that makes them wonderful.

Edit: I just went over your Whittier pics with a 10x lens. You may be onto something! Those switches do indeed look like the normal placement. Too bad that fringe jacket is covering up the Bigsby.

Another Edit: I don't think I've seen this Squires photo before. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it may be an early '59 due to what looks like the thicker '58 style hand-cut lucite guard. By '59 Gretsch was switching over to the thinner and more easily cracked molded polystyrene guards but this photo sure looks like the '58 kind.

11

This one is clearly a '61 with the cutaway dowel evident.

12

I can't help directly in this quest, but welcome to the GDP.

I have to say your nick kinda took me by surprise at first, because we had a member named Zuma on the site years ago - who was also a Neil Young fan - and who passed away 11 years ago. I'll take your nick as a fond reminder of a good guy.

Would anyone know how to contact Jim Messina

Yes, in fact. Our member Ric12String will probably stop by at any time, and I believe he can get in touch with Jim - who was a guest at one of our Roundup gatherings several years ago. He talked about the guitar during that event.

13

IIRC in "Shakey", Neil let his first 6120 go to buy a set of golf clubs! He caught the bug, and had to have them.

14

This one is clearly a '61 with the cutaway dowel evident.

– kc_eddie_b

Yes. That shot with the audience behind him is with CSNY from September of 1969 - after the Messina trade for the Old Black Les Paul. So I contend this is 6120 #2 - the main Springfield guitar with the pickguard hole close to the pickup. Here it is in 2011.

15

A bit off topic, but most people know NY bought a tweed Deluxe when it was about 10 years old, 1967 or so, in the Springfied days... for under $100. It became his favorite amp and rumor is he has 400 of them now. Sounds too far fetched to be real, but again this is Neil Young we're talking about.

16

i was told by someone in a position to know that Neil had literally a whole basement full of Deluxes, which i assume had to be moved down south when Neil left the ranch to Pegi and moved back down to LA. yet, he says that his main amp is the only one that works for him.

17

Neil's second 6120. Still with a pick guard

– zuma11

Please, oh, please. Do you have the “full group” version of this photo?

18

Jim has been touring extensively in recent months and is playing lots of dates on the east coast. So, it is a little more difficult to reach him.

Also, Jim is not a gear geek, as many of us are. He is extremely knowledgeable about recording gear as well as how to make a guitar sound like he wants it to. But, he doesn't obsess over little details about vintage gear. I seriously doubt that he would recall if a guitar that he used to own had a B6 or a V-cut Bigsby.

19

Please, oh, please. Do you have the “full group” version of this photo?

– Deed Eddy

I spy what I think that you spy, Deed.

20

Jim has been touring extensively in recent months and is playing lots of dates on the east coast. So, it is a little more difficult to reach him.

Also, Jim is not a gear geek, as many of us are. He is extremely knowledgeable about recording gear as well as how to make a guitar sound like he wants it to. But, he doesn't obsess over little details about vintage gear. I seriously doubt that he would recall if a guitar that he used to own had a B6 or a V-cut Bigsby.

– Ric12string

Lots of pro's are like that.

Read an old interview with Stills, and he was asked about the Gretsches that he used.

He knew that his white one was a Falcon, and stated that he wasn't up on model names or numbers.

He then said that he had two "brown" Gretsches, and that they were "really good" ones, that were regularly played at that time.

Most of us around here are geeks, while the pro's just make and play music.

21

I spy what I think that you spy, Deed.

– Ric12string

Me too... Saw that Guild with a wee bit of "somebody's" signature on the pickguard.

23

Please, oh, please. Do you have the “full group” version of this photo?

– Deed Eddy

Here's the complete photo you asked for - hope it shows what you are looking for. There must be a better copy somewhere.

24

Here's a link to a beautiful '61 Annie with the same switch placement as on NY's '61 6120.

– lx

Very interesting - both the switches and the pickguard screw are located similar to Neil's '61. Thank you.

25

Jim has been touring extensively in recent months and is playing lots of dates on the east coast. So, it is a little more difficult to reach him.

Also, Jim is not a gear geek, as many of us are. He is extremely knowledgeable about recording gear as well as how to make a guitar sound like he wants it to. But, he doesn't obsess over little details about vintage gear. I seriously doubt that he would recall if a guitar that he used to own had a B6 or a V-cut Bigsby.

– Ric12string

I understand. I was hoping that it being his first and maybe only 6120 at the start of Poco (I assume), I thought he might remember some details. I normally wouldn't go to such length to identity a guitar, but with the link to Neil's famous Les Paul and the misinformation out there on that guitar trade, I figured it was worth the effort. Thank you.


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