Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Vintage Gretsch guitars are basically working antiques in the making


I dont particularily like a vintage Gretsch being modded. I think it should be kept as original as possible. This has become a time consuming almost obsessive hobby for me. If I buy a vintage guitar that needs parts replacing for original ones then I will try and track them down. As for the music well that stopped being more important ages ago for me. To me the maintaining of a vintage gretsch has nothing to do with the fact that I love eddie cochran and the Clash. As long as I own a 55 6120 it will treated with respect and maintained to the highest standard. If I cant do this I will sell the guitar. I play the 6120 every day. Its not gigged but its played for at least two to three hours without fail every single day. Thats why I bought it. A guitar that doesnt play is a tragedy in my eyes.I dislike collectors and dealers who buy a guitar and keep it in the case in a dark room etc etc.


Additional stuff, if you can't play it because something needs to be fixed or God forbid replaced then do it with as period correct parts that you can. I just spent twelve hours working with rotted wire where the outside case was good but the inner rubber stuff was dry rotted. You couldn't help but have a short so as in this case it was replaced with vintage period correct wires.

– Curt

Additional stuff, if you can't play it because something needs to be fixed or God forbid replaced then do it with as period correct parts that you can. I just spent twelve hours working with rotted wire where the outside case was good but the inner rubber stuff was dry rotted. You couldn't help but have a short so as in this case it was replaced with vintage period correct wires.

– Curt

Curt, I have a 50's DeArmond with that problem and need to replace the wire. Can you recommend what type of wire I need and where I can buy it? Thanks in advance, Andreas


Andreas, here's one option, link below. I was lucky that the guitars owner, caretaker, had a box full of vintage wire.



@billydlight - yeah beat to sh!t - kind of reminds me of my 55 round up even had a tidal mark - after its neck reset it played like a peach in fact it practically played itself.


i'm not as sure about be a steward as some of the other poster here.

when i found my gretsch, or when it found me, it was stock and near mint. since it was an annie, it didn't have a bigsby.

the nut was bad shape, and would bind...even with lube. so i replaced that.

the space control didn't intonate, so i replaced it with something that did, and pinned it.

the list goes on. while i appreciate a stock vintage instrument, i wanted one that functions and sounds how mine does. i have no regrets about the mods and was never concerned about altering the value of the guitar. i knew i would never be selling it, and it has served me well.


Personally I wouldn't mod a Vintage guitar but I wouldn't "kick one out of bed" for being previously modded if the mods were beneficial and didn't bastardize the guitar too far past what it was to begin with and was playable.


If the old guitars are in fact "antiques"-and I believe they are- they need maintained just like any other antique. Otherwise it's like having a 100% original wooden chair from a hundred years ago that you can't sit on because all the glue joints have let loose.

As for mods, unless they're necessary-and done with care/taste- I feel leave the modding platforms to the Electromatic line. I don't feel one ounce of guilt for modding my 5120 because there's a million of 'em out there. Now my first model year Setzer, well, other than maintenance she's staying original.


its not the guitar that makes the music ...its the "nut.".. BEHIND the nut.! new or old. lol..


I too believe in keeping them as original as one can but they must be fit for purpose. Recently I refretted my 6120...not because the originals were worn to the board, but because I couldn'tplay the blasted thing with those little matchstick frets. Now not only does it sound a million bucks, but it plays like it too.


I try to buy the guitar that suits my needs of the moment instead of modifying one to make it fit the job. Since I started buying mid-range and up instruments, it's proven to be the better way to go inasfar as my own preferences are concerned.

I'm not much of a tinkerer, although sometimes I'd like to be, nor am I collector of any particular brand, so finding an axe that 'works' for me in a particular style or for a particular job has always been the way to go. It's also let me wind up with a somewhat eclectic collection of instruments which has grown and shrunk over the years (currently numbers 13), ranging from a 50 yr old 3/4 scale Spanish flamenco through to a brand spanking new Ric 370/12, although I think my Chet is likely the single most valuable guitar in the room right now.

All of them are original, or as close to original as they can be. Parts are replaced with NOS if available, or as near as possible to NOS if not.

That's the way I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh....


Play it, enjoy it, fix it if its broke otherwise leave it alone. Its a shame to mess with an original piece of brooklyn magic unless it needs it!


I love my 6117 vintage Annie with Hi-LoTrons. But I also love the sound of original Filters, too. Maybe one day, if I ever win the lottery, I'll try to find one of those, so feed that desire, and not have to hack one up, to have it how I would like it.

That only leaves the Dyna uncovered. Now, I have a 6128TDS, because of George, but it doesn't have the sound of the big hollow body. It may take a couple of years (being on a fixed income bites the big one), but I'll do my best to make that happen too.

Oh, and the 6117 I currently have? Since I had to be satisfied with Baldwin era NOS parts from Duke Kramer at the time, I'm going to set it right, albeit with gold original parts, just because gold looks better with that beautiful sunburst.

And yes, it does need a new nut as well.


You know, I think that being a steward of an instrument does not necessarily mean..."can't dare do anything to it to upgrade it." Yes? But, to me, yes, it does mean "don't do anything to bastardize it."

A vintage XK-E...hopefully doesn't have the original oil in it. It should be drivable or exhibit-only. Take your pick. But if it is to be driven, then keep it up.

BUT...I saw a "survivor" '67 Cougar a few years ago. It was incredibly cool to see. But I would have no idea what I would do to it. I do know that I could not possibly tear out the original interior. I just couldn't do it. It was in okay condition...but okay enough to say "that's the original." But not okay enough carry people around in, I don't think. What would I do? I'd want to be the steward of the "survivor." ...I think....

The less original it is...I think, the less it relevant stewardship is.

Judgement comes into play.


As for the Cougar, ask Jay Leno, he seems to have a few old clunkers hanging around. :)

As for the XKE, my brother-in-law has an original '68 ragtop he bought new in '68. Doesn't drive it very much, because he thinks the maintenance is too high on it.

But don't feel bad for him, he's got more cars than fingers on his right hand.


OH.whowie's me... opened the 69's jet case today to find the binding pretty much gone,that day has come...gotta get a rebind/be the good "caretaker".... one more thing on a growing list to take care of.... ;-)

oh... the 64/6120 is just fine.. go figure,ha!


Like a good woman you just got to treat em right. bit of guitar botox and renovation is great so long as it keeps the originality as much as possible. At the end of the day an UNPLAYABLE 100% original vintage gretsch is no good. Its got to play to be of value musically. Gretsch guiatrs must be the most re set/ re bound guitars ever..... Dont matter they sound the best and its all about that unique vintage sound! half the fun is the problems they give us. What else we gonna a gibson? YAWN


Great thread - they are instruments worthy of our respect and our care - they need us - and we need them... they're extensions of ourselves - Fascinating comments everyone...


i´m fan of modded a guitar to my owns specifications, either if it is a old collector piece a guitar must be playable, a guitar must sound and make music it is not a plumb Soldier, Don´t know why i ended with a BZ Jet like my main and favorite guitar, perhaps because the BZ mods on the Jet are very cool and useful and or i become too lazy to do my own mods


I agree that guitars should be played and enjoyed, but one can find "playable" guitars, or newer or cheaper guitars to modify to one's liking, without messing with historic or valuable old guitars. There has never been a time when there was more opportunity to go out and find new instruments that fit your needs (or to have guitars custom-built to your needs). If everybody modded old guitars, we would lose a lot of our history and musical heritage, and the opportunities for people who love original vintage guitars to find what they desire would become more difficult and even more expensive.



As a 35+yr electrical/electronics person (i got into the trade due to playing guitar!), i would wonder why one would not want to replace wiring, which is relatively hidden, with a better modern grade instead of rubber, which is highly subject to deterioration? That would be the tradesman in me speaking, not the vintage guitar owner/player. It would seem to be like putting more reliable modern caps in a Fender Tweed amp to replace the bad existing ones, another controversy in itself!



I want it as original as possible. If we start replacing old parts that are working just for better quality then we might as well just buy modern guitars. For me its not like for like. Its not really about them being better although I think they are IMO. Its about them being a slice of that era thats long gone and thats warts and all!



I do agree about Working Parts, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!



Hey SZ, thats right. Got to respect the materials of the day

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