Atkins in the ‘70s: Axes and Chets

The Atkins Axe was a Baldwin-era offering aimed at the rock market. Despite the name, Chet Atkins had relatively little involvement in its development.

Atkins Axes featured distinctive dice-like fret markers on a neck that was only very slightly radiused, as Atkins preferred. The 7685 variant was gray.

Atkins had wanted to name them “High Roller”, with dice engraving on the distinctive square block markers, but Baldwin management squelched that plan.

None Not surprisingly, the Atkins Axe went out of production in 1980, but was resurrected in spirit — for a time — as the modern-day Gretsch Axe.

Like the Atkins Axe, the Super Axe was released in 1977 and was supposed to offer a completely modern instrument for the rock guitarist.

The Super Axe also shared its basic body shape with the Atkins Axe, but it benefitted from much more involvement from Chet Atkins, and a bevy of built-in effects.

A football-shaped pickguard held controls for an onboard compressor, phaser and sustain electronics, all powered by a nine-volt battery. Unfortunately, the electronics have failed with age on many of the Supers Axes, and schematics are extremely difficult to find.

The solid mahogany body is wide but thin, and it tapers toward the edges, making it both lighter and more comfortable to play than it might appear.

Beyond that, the general construction and hardware of the Super Axe show how Gretsch was aiming for a different sound and market, particularly the DiMarzio humbuckers and BadAss wraparound stop bridge. The more traditional buyer could order an optional Adjustamatic bridge/B-5 “Horseshoe” Bigsby combination.

For those willing to take the plunge on this unusual and rewarding Gretsch, three variations were offered: the dark red 7680 Super Axe, dark gray 7681 Super Axe and sunburst 7682 Super Axe.

Note that the Super Axe should not be confused with the much more ornate and altogether different Super Chet.

The Atkins Axe was a Baldwin-era offering aimed at the rock market. Despite the name, Chet Atkins had relatively little involvement in its development.

Atkins Axes featured distinctive dice-like fret markers on a neck that was only very slightly radiused, as Atkins preferred. The 7685 variant was gray.

Atkins had wanted to name them “High Roller”, with dice engraving on the distinctive square block markers, but Baldwin management squelched that plan.

None Not surprisingly, the Atkins Axe went out of production in 1980, but was resurrected in spirit — for a time — as the modern-day Gretsch Axe.

Like the Atkins Axe, the Super Axe was released in 1977 and was supposed to offer a completely modern instrument for the rock guitarist.

The Super Axe also shared its basic body shape with the Atkins Axe, but it benefitted from much more involvement from Chet Atkins, and a bevy of built-in effects.

A football-shaped pickguard held controls for an onboard compressor, phaser and sustain electronics, all powered by a nine-volt battery. Unfortunately, the electronics have failed with age on many of the Supers Axes, and schematics are extremely difficult to find.

The solid mahogany body is wide but thin, and it tapers toward the edges, making it both lighter and more comfortable to play than it might appear.

Beyond that, the general construction and hardware of the Super Axe show how Gretsch was aiming for a different sound and market, particularly the DiMarzio humbuckers and BadAss wraparound stop bridge. The more traditional buyer could order an optional Adjustamatic bridge/B-5 “Horseshoe” Bigsby combination.

For those willing to take the plunge on this unusual and rewarding Gretsch, three variations were offered: the dark red 7680 Super Axe, dark gray 7681 Super Axe and sunburst 7682 Super Axe.

Note that the Super Axe should not be confused with the much more ornate and altogether different Super Chet.

The Gretsch-GEAR database includes 10 different models and 21 examples in the Atkins in the '70s: Axes and Chets family, including Atkins Axe, Deluxe Chet, Super Axe, Super Chet and Super Gretsch models.

Guitar models in the Atkins in the '70s: Axes and Chets group

7680 Deluxe Chet
Documented years: 1973

Offered for awhile in the early-to-mid-70s, the 7680 Deluxe Chet was sort of a simple version of the 7690 Super Chet. The "Autumn Red"-finished 7680 featured a more conventional four-knob setup rather than the controls-on-pickguard setup of the 7690. By '78 it was gone and the 7680 model number was ...

7680 Super Axe
Documented years: 1976 to 1978

Red.

7681 Deluxe Chet
Documented years: 1972

Replaced the ebony-finished 7681 Super Chet.

7681 Super Chet
Documented years: None

Ebony. Became the walnut Deluxe Chet from 72-75.

7682 Super Axe
Documented years: None

None

7685 Atkins Axe
Documented years: 1978

The 7685 version of the Atkins Axe was offered in a Gray finish. The model number was revived for a brief time in the late 90s/early 2000s. Of course, since Atkins was not with Gretsch at the time, it couldn't be called an Atkins Axe. Instead, it was alternately known ...

7686 Atkins Axe
Documented years: 1978 to 2003

The 7686 version of the Atkins Axe had a Deep Red finish. Like the 7685, the 7686 was reissued for a brief time in the late 90s/early 2000s. Of course, since Atkins was not with Gretsch at the time, it couldn't be called an Atkins Axe. Instead, it was alternately ...

7690 Super Chet
Documented years: 1973 to 1977

The 7690 Super Chet came in an Autumn Red stain.

7690 Super Gretsch
Documented years: 2000

A modern day reissue of the 70s Super Chet offered in the late 90s and very early 2000s.

7691 Super Chet
Documented years: 1971 to 1977

Walnut-finished