Vintage Gretsch Guitars

One-Off Employee Archtop


A guy whose father-in-law worked at the Booneville, Arkansas plant brought in a cool one-off Gretsch acoustic archtop yesterday. It is a 17" cutaway with a spruce top. The headstock has a horseshoe overlay, odd trussrod cover and '70s doghouse tuning machines. It also features a non-standard plastic pickguard screwed to the top in the 1970s manner and a graham cracker finish. The tailpiece is the later '60s pattern and the bridge is a wooden-base aluminum Bigsby-style. The body and neck appear to be 1960s vintage, but the guitar has '70s cues as well. The employee who had this guitar had never been to Brooklyn, so this may have been constructed from left-over parts brought down to Arkansas from Bldg. #4. The instrument plays well, having had a neck reset recently. There are a few minor binding issues that a local luthier repaired (unfortunately using solid white pieces of binding rather than bothering to laminate white and black strips together), but the longest is less than an inch. This guitar would be really cool to have, but the current owner hasn't quoted a price and I wouldn't be able to venture a guess as to it's value.


Here is it's back. Notice the 1970s doghouse tuners used on Booneville-era Gretsches.


The finish on the headstock overlay is quite pale, done in the same graham cracker color as the rest of the guitar. The overall lacquer finish isn't quite up to Gretsch's later standards, so this guitar may have been cobbled together before it's new employees got the finishing technique down pat.


Wow. More pix puh-leeze. Can we see the headstock front and back? Is the top solid? What is the scale length? Is there un/kerfed lining on the inside? Any bracing inside? Are the sides and back 3-ply like traditional?

Oh yeah, what's it sound like?


Sorry, I only got those three pix. Here's a close-up of the back of the headstock I enlarged. Notice the cross-lamination of the grain on the neck. It's a good-sounding guitar, typical mid-rangy cutaway sound. As to the top, it had bound f-holes, so not sure if it is solid or laminate. I didn't think to look at the inside, except to look for a label or stamping. There is no serial number anywhere on the guitar, unfortunately.


Ranchers were being made as late as '75, with a traditional truss rod -- Ranchers never got the Burns box. But those had a more top-heavy headstock than this one -- but if the scale length is 25.5" then that is the likely neck donor.


It is hard to tell, but there are a couple of dings on the back which look like they were there before the guitar was finished. It might have been a reject body mated with a Rancher neck. I don't know what management's policy regarding employee purchase of instruments was, so it might have found it's way out the back door. Just my speculation, considering this particular employee had a ton of Gretsch parts.


Very Interesting. Body appears to be 3 1/2 inches thick which was the specification for the Sal Salvador and Constellation models. How is the neck joined, duojet 55? Dovetail or mortice and tenon with a screw-concealing dowel?


There was no covered screw on either the heel or side of the cutaway, so probably dovetail.

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