Vintage Gretsch Guitars

R.I.P. Bill Hagner of Gretsch


This straddles both vintage and modern categories but probably deserves its place here.

An extraordinary career with Gretsch, nicely acknowledged.

H/t Eddie Pennington for his FB post.


A very nice tribute. Such loyalty and dedication is a rarity today.


RIP Mr. Wagner. Thank you for posting this.


I had the wonderful pleasure of having several telephone conversations with Bill Hagner in the late 1980's and early 1990's about Gretsch guitars. The second conversation is the one I remember most because practically the first words out of his mouth were that he had misplaced my telephone number and was so so sorry he did. He then proceeded to tell me why he was so so sorry: It seems he had gotten a telephone call from a woman in Indiana who ran a boarding house. That woman had forgotten that she had placed in her attic nearly 30 years before a guitar that a tenant of hers had left in lieu of payment of rent. Bill was so so sorry and I turned out to be so so sorry because the guitar was a BRAND NEW 1962 Country Gentleman that had never even been played, even complete with the plastic bag emblazoned with the Gretsch log similar to a dry cleaner's plastic bag which Gretsch, at that time used to enclose the guitar case so it couldn't be dinged. The woman, it turns out, sold the brand new Gent to a dealer who promptly resold the guitar to a buyer in Japan All I can say is boo hoo, boo hoo at the lost opportunity of owning a new 1962 Gent


58 years! Heck of a legacy! RIP, Bill.


Very nice piece, and an important summary of a crucial link the the Gretsch chain. Bill was obviously one of those kinds of guys who make things work behind the scene, indispensable both as company glue and as a repository and conduit for what we now call "corporate culture" - ie, those things that give history, continuity, and identifiable character to a company's work.


Terrific article about a true legend. He had one hell of a run.


After the second fire at the Booneville facilities in -- if my memory serves me correctly -- late 1974, Baldwin Piano, in the throws of a financial meltdown due to its involvement in the insurance industry which ultimately led to its bankruptcy, decided to pull the plug on Gretsch guitars because they simply had no working capital to put into guitar making. Bill Hagner obtained a $500,000 loan from Fred Gretsch, Jr. and set up Hagner Musical Instrument Company, Inc. which took over the manufacturing of Gretsch guitars from Baldwin while Baldwin handled the marketing and distribution of the guitars. This continued for several years until Baldwin once again asserted direct control over the manufacturing circa 1979. At that time, Gretsch was making the best guitars it had been making since the early early 1950's and for the first time in many years was actually profitable because sales were north of 5000 guitars per year which was the minimum necessary to become and remain profitable. Then in 1980, Baldwin really melted down, ran out of working capital, and therefore closed down U.S. production in January of 1981


Thanks for including that, ewkewk. Wasn't Duke Kramer a partner in Hagner Musical Instruments as well? There was also no mention of the several Gretsch parts guitars Bill had assembled under the "Hagner" name. I've been intrigued with the lost story of those guitars ever since working on one back circa 1988.


duojet55, as far as I know, Duke Kramer wasn't one of the owners of Hagner Musical Instrument Company. He could have been, though. I do know it's less likely Duke Kramer was one of the owners because Duke Kramer worked directly for Baldwin at the time out of their Cincinatti headquarters. I also know that Bill Hagner was not particularly fond of Duke Kramer so that again makes it less likely they were business partners


Duke sure ended up with tons of old Gretsch parts. I wish I'd bought a bunch of those original molded pickguard blanks from him back then.

I did buy one of the Baldwin-era Gretsch ring binders for my catalog collection which has Bill Hagner's name written on the inside cover. I'd been wondering if it was his personal binder? Would be cool if it was!


I wish that Gretsch Lost Weekend site had some info -- still, the 70s were an interesting time for Gretsch. I SAY long live the TK-300, Committee, and BST - -and I am not being snarky on this. Some 70s Annies are killer and quite a bargain now

Register Sign in to join the conversation