Gretsch Country Gents & Southern Belles
The 6122 Country Gentleman is considered by many to be one of the holy trinity of Gretsch guitars, along with the 6120 and White Falcon. Although it lacks the cowboy cool of a G-branded 6120 or the dazzle of the Falcon, it has an elegance (and some would say playability) the others lack. The fact that George Harrison played one doesn’t hurt, either.
The Gentleman debuted in mid-1957 — after considerable input from Chet Atkins — and was placed between the 6120 and Falcon in price. Originally it had a 17-inch single cutaway body that measured about 2 ¼” thick, with fake f-holes inlaid into the mahogany-finished maple top. The closed body was a concession to Atkins, who was constantly hounding Gretsch to produce a semi-hollow guitar with a solid block through the center, like Gibson’s ES-335. Like Les Paul, Atkins wanted more sustain and less feedback. Atkins never did get the solid block of wood down the center, but Gents do have a partial block. Some early ‘60s Gents also appear with real f-holes, though.
In late 1960 the body, like many Gretsches, was trimmed down to about 2” thick, but the next major change came in ‘62, when the Gent adopted Gretsch’s new “Electrotone” double cutaway body. The ‘62 and ‘63 models were identical, and it was one of these that Harrison made famous. After ‘63, Gents changed again, gaining a “Country Gentleman” logo on the pickguard, a SuperTron pickup instead of a FilterTron by the neck, and different tuners, among other changes.
The SuperTron was dropped in ‘67, rosewood replaced ebony on the fingerboard sometime in the late ‘60s and Gretsch, under Baldwin control, beginning dropping features to keep costs down.
In 1970 the ebony fingerboard re-appeared, but the Gent was obviously a Baldwin creation by this time, with its oddly shaped pickguard, and in the early ‘70s the model was re-designated 7670.
Atkins owned the rights to the “Country Gentleman” name, and in 1978 he jumped ship to Gibson, taking the name with him. Gretsch renamed it Country Squire and soldiered on briefly, before changing the name again to “Southern Belle”.
The 7670 Southern Belle model makes an interesting side note to the Country Gentleman legend: As Gretsch foundered under Baldwin’s ownership, production was eventually moved to Mexico, where at least one Gent was reportedly made.
By some reports, production moved to Mexico in 1978 or ‘79, but according to others no guitars came out of Mexico until the early 80s, possibly as late as 1984 or ‘85. Either way, Chet Atkins had left Gretsch, so the Gents were offered as the Southern Belle model.
According to Gretsch mainstay Duke Kramer, only about 100 Southern Belle/Country Gents were made, all in Mexico. The guitars that were made are beautiful examples and are at least up to the standard of the Arkansas-made guitars. The business and distribution side had simply become too chaotic for them to be successful.
- 6122 Country Gentleman
- 6122-12 Country Gentleman
- 6122-1958 Country Gentleman
- 6122-1959 Country Gentleman
- 6122-1962 Country Gentleman
- 6122-II Country Classic II/Country Gentleman
- 6122-II-DS Country Gentleman
- 6122-JR Country Classic Junior
- 6122-S Country Classic I/Country Gentleman I
- 6122-SP Country Classic II
- 6122-TSP Country Classic
- 7176 Southern Belle
- 7670-Country Gentleman
6122 Country Gentleman
6122-12 Country Gentleman
6122-1958 Country Gentleman
6122-1959 Country Gentleman
6122-1962 Country Gentleman
6122-II Country Classic II/Country Gentleman
6122-II-DS Country Gentleman
6122-JR Country Classic Junior
6122-S Country Classic I/Country Gentleman I
6122-SP Country Classic II
6122-TSP Country Classic
7176 Southern Belle
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- Country Gentleman introduced, bringing the number of Chet Atkins models up to four.
- 6122 Country Gentleman introduced, with single-cutaway body.
- Country Gent switches to closed, double-cutaway Electrotone body. These ‘62 and ‘63 “Harrison Model” Gents can be easily spotted by their twin dial-up mutes with red felt, plain pickguards without “Country Gentleman” on them, and Grover Imperial tuners.
- In February, the Beatles play on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” George Harrison’s use of a Country Gentleman creates a frenzy.
- Grover “kidney bean” tuners replace Imperials, a SuperTron pickup is fitted, and “Country Gentleman” appears on the pickguard.
- SuperTron goes away, reverting back to a pair of FilterTrons, and double mutes give way to a simpler (and cheaper) single-mute setup.
- 6122 designation dropped as the Country Gentleman becomes the 7670 model.
- 6122-S introduced
- Country Classic introduced.
- 6122-1959 introduced as Nashville Classic
- Country Classic models revert to Country Gentleman naming.
- Name changed to 6122-1959 Country Gentleman.
- Twin mutes added, completing the recreation.
- Twin mutes added, completing the recreation.
- Country Classic II renamed Country Gentleman.