Gretsch Country Clubs
The Country Club was in many ways Gretsch’s most traditional guitar. Although they are not as avidly sought as White Falcons and 6120s, they are also among the company’s best.
Among Gretsch’s first commercially successful electrics, the Country Clubs were directly descended from the 6030 and 6031 of the Synchromatic line, which were in turn directly descended from the pre-war “cat-eye” Synchromatic 300.
In other words, the 6192 and 6193 Clubs were 17-inch pedigreed jazz boxes when they were introduced in 1951. They were the largest Gretsch electric models, other than the White Falcon, and the only guitars in the line other than the Falcon to use a spruce top, although spruce is rarely found after ‘55. Clubs were never offered with a stock Bigsby whammy bar, although one was available as an extra cost option some years.
Until late 1954, when the entire range of guitars was revamped, Gretsch used small plastic knobs on the few Country Clubs made. These early Country Clubs are usually known as Electro II’s, and evidence suggests Gretsch was inconsistent naming them.
The 1955 model year was a major turning point for Gretsch across the guitar range, and in the Country Club line it was the first for the Cadillac Green 6196 and the earlier Synchromatic-style tailpiece was phased out about this time in favor of the common G-cutout style. Some 6196s have appeared in two-tone gray and other colors, suggesting 6196 was originally a custom paint code before Cadillac Green was established as a standard color.
Starting in 1958 FilterTron pickups replaced DeArmonds, along with other changes corresponding with the rest of the Gretsch range, including the addition of the tone switch in place of the previous knob. Stereo models were also offered, under model numbers 6101, ‘02 and ‘03, but they were never popular. The earliest, ‘58 and ‘59 stereo models are easily identified by their close-spaced pickups.
The “zero fret” became standard in 1960, and the body was thinned to about 1 7/8 inches in 1961, about the same time the stereo wiring was simplified and the pickups moved back to the normal positions.
The Clubs never went to the double-cutaway Electrotone body, and the thinner body was a relatively short-lived experiment in the line. By 1964 they had plumped back up to 2 3/4 inches. Even though the body remained a single-cutaway, the Clubs did receive the Gretsch padded-back treatment, along with a standby switch and string mutes. These other additions were also short-lived and long gone by 1964 or ‘65.
Cadillac Green was phased out in 1968, and Baldwin-era changes began. By 1972, the 7576 and 7577 designations had begun, and the Club soldiered on, selling in small numbers, until the factory shutdown in 1981. It was far and away Gretsch’s longest lasting model, and was quickly revived when Gretsch rose from the ashes in the late 80s. It continues on today, providing a classy and cool big-bodied alternative to the flashier Falcon line.
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- Electro II losses the Synchromatic headstock logo, and with the new T-roof logo (and truss rod adjuster on the headstock) the model is renamed Country Club, creating one of Gretsch’s best-known and longest-lasting models.
- 6101 Stereo Country Club introduced.
- 6101 Stereo Country Club discontinued.
- First appearance in a catalog.