Gretsch Guitars

White Falcons, Black Falcons

If ever a guitar typified the glorious excesses of the 1950s, the White Falcon would be that guitar. To paraphrase Tom Wolfe, the Falcon was a “Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby.” Or, according to the Gretsch literature of the day, it was simply “the most beautiful guitar in the world.”

Of course, superlatives are costly, and so was the Falcon. To this day, Falcons are highly prized — and pricey.

But for all the things the 6136 White Falcon was, it was not necessarily intended to be a production model at all. It was originally a trade show guitar, a “dream machine” Gretsch put together to show off a little. As the orders came rushing in after its introduction at the 1954 music trade shows, the Falcon was rushed into production.

The story really begins years earlier with Gretsch master salesman and player Jimmy Webster and time he spent in World War II playing an all-white Harmony. Pictures of him playing that guitar turned up in an armed forces newsletter titled The White Falcon, and lodged themselves in Webster’s memory.

After the war, Webster was at the Gretsch factory, wandering the floor and looking for ideas. The Falcon’s outrageous blend of looks and features came from all across the factory and were blended together with Webster’s own penchant for extras and extravagance.

From the drum side, Webster picked up gold sparkle drum material. From the banjo side, he saw the rhinestones and ornamentation that bejeweled the high-end banjos. He put it all together with that long-remembered glossy white finish and name and came up with the White Falcon.

From its debut in ‘54, the Falcon featured gleaming white paint and gold sparkle trim, 24-karat gold-plated metal parts, ebony and real mother of pearl, all working together to dazzle players and dreamers alike. The guitar had three-layer white, gold and black binding, bird-themed engravings on the neck markers, a special winged headstock and “Cadillac G” tailpiece, so named becauce the “V” at the end was reminiscent of a Cadillac logo, back when Cadillac was “The Standard of the World” — and the first GM division with a modern V-8 engine, too.

All the Falcon’s hardware was top-shelf, right down to the Grover Imperial tuners. It was also the only spruce-topped Gretsch — except for the occasional Country Club — and a big bird, coming in at 17 inches wide and almost three inches deep.

In the 60s, the White Falcon switched to a twin-cutaway body, and continuously had more gadgets thrown at it. By the late ‘60s there were so many knobs and switches stuck on the White Falcon it took an electrical engineer rather than a guitar player to actually use one.

Much like the Cadillacs they took styling cues from and that other icon of the ‘50s, Elvis, the Falcons entered the ‘70s as a bloated parody of the cool they had once embodied.

During the ‘70s, Baldwin began taking some of the sillier “features” off Falcons. Whether this was a good idea that actually came from the Baldwin offices or just another example of cost-cutting is open to debate, but Falcon’s became increasingly stripped down and uncluttered. A single cutaway Falcon even returned beginning in 1974, but with a different model number. The classic 6136 White Falcon had came to an end, at least until the modern era.

During the modern era, the Falcon was revived both in classic single and double cutaway configurations, and some new, non-white, Falcons joined the family, too.

31 different models and 192 examples are in the Gretsch-GEAR database, including Black Falcon, Black Falcon I, Black Falcon II, Bono Irish Falcon, Chris Cheney signature, David Lee Falcon, Falcon, Red Falcon, Silver Falcon, Stephen Stills Falcon, White Falcon and White Falcon Junior models.
6126-TCC Chris Cheney signature
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
Living End guitarist Chris Cheney's signature model is sort of a Falconized 6120. Or, depending on how you look at it, the only 16" Falcon. Features include a ...
6136-DSBK Black Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
With Dynasonics
6136-TBK Black Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
With Bigsby
6136-BK Black Falcon
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
The standard Black Falcon, with Cadillac-G tailpiece.
6136-I Bono Irish Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
The Bono signature Falcon was controversial, to say the least, but if you want a Cadillac Green Falcon, the Irish Falcon is the way to go. Just be ...
6136-DL David Lee Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
David Lee of the Legendary Shack Shakers definitely shook some things up for his signature Falcon. The DL featured multi-layered black binding and accents, an aged white lacquer ...
6136-TVTAFR Red Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
Limited run of Red Falcons produced in 2013.
6136-TSL Silver Falcon
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
The 6136 TSL revamped the classic Falcon iconography in gloss black, silver and chrome. It was like a photo negative of a White Falcon. Only cooler. Features were ...
6136-SLCST Silver Falcon
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
A custom-shop Silver Falcon circa 2003 that featured a lacquer finish (of course) and tremolo.
6136-SL Silver Falcon
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
Just like the 6136-TSL Silver Falcon, only with a Cadillac G tailpiece instead of a Bigsbly.
6136-1958 Stephen Stills Falcon
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
From Buffalo Springfield through Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and a stellar solo career, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Stephen Stills played his classic White Falcon ...
6136 White Falcon
  • The golden years: 1954-1967
  • The Baldwin years: 1968-1987
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
One of Gretsch's most recognizable models, the 6136 White Falcon was designed to wow, and that's exactly what it's done for more than 50 years.
6136-DS White Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
With Dynasonics
6136-LDS White Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
Lacquer-finished with Dynasonics
6136-T White Falcon
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
With Bigsby.
6136-LTV White Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
Lacquer-finished, with Bigsby and TV Jones pickups.
6136-DC White Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
An FMIC-era take on the 60s double-cut White Falcon.
6136-T-LDS White Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
Lacquer-finished with Dynasonics and Bigsby tremolo.
6136-T-LTV White Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
Identical to the LTV -- lacquer-finished, with Bigsby and TV Jones pickups -- plus the addition of a Bigsby tremolo.
6136-T-LH White Falcon
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
The Bigsby-equipped modern-era 6136 T White Falcon, in left-handed form
6136-CST White Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
In 2004 the 6136-CST Custom Shop White Falcon was listed right there in the catalog along with all the other models. It was, pretty much, what you'd expect: ...
6137-Stereo White Falcon
  • The golden years: 1954-1967
6139-CB Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
Representing a new take on the venerable Falcon formula, the 6139CB married a thin, 16" x 1 3/4" body with a heavily chambered spruce center block. While the ...
6139-CBDC Falcon
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
Representing a new take on the venerable Falcon formula, the 6139CBDC married a thin, 16" x 1 3/4" body with a heavily chambered spruce center block. It was ...
7593-BK Black Falcon I
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
This modern take on the Falcon takes the 7593 (70s reissue) single-cutaway body, and covers it in Jet Black. Of course the Baldwin-era small f-holes and pickguard are ...
7593 White Falcon
  • The Baldwin years: 1968-1987
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
In the 70s, Gretsch offered the Falcon in both 7593 single-cutaway and 7594 double-cutaway form. In the modern era, these model designations were revived for 70s-style Falcons.
7594-B Black Falcon II
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
It is believed that only 100 of these black double cutaway Falcon IIs were made in Feburary 1992.
7594-SL Silver Falcon
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
Looking for a double-cutaway Silver Falcon? The 7594SL has you covered. If you can find one -- they were only made from roughly 1994 to 1998, and not ...
7594 White Falcon
  • The Baldwin years: 1968-1987
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
  • The Fender years: 2003-present
Double Cutaway
7594-JR White Falcon Junior
  • The rebirth years: 1988-2002
The Gretsch White Falcon Jr. was an attempt to marry the top-of-the-line look of the Gretsch's big bird with a smaller, sleeker body style. Being a Falcon, of ...
7595-Stereo White Falcon
  • The Baldwin years: 1968-1987
The '70s-era Stereo Falcon.