Paul Yandell was both friend and sideman for Chet Atkins for more than 25 years and is one of the world's leading fingerstyle players in his own right. He recalls how he helped the 6122-1959 come to life as a tribute to his longtime friend:
I wanted to reproduce Chet’s ‘59 Country Gentleman, serial number 31444, for three reasons; first to remember Chet, second, because he cut most of his records with that guitar, and third I thought a lot of players (including myself) would like to have one of those if it were available. I got the idea one day while having a cup of coffee. Fred Gretsch had asked me at different times in the past to come in with Gretsch as an advisor so I called him and asked him if he was interested in replicating that guitar. He thought it was a great idea. I knew a fellow who worked at that time at the [Hall of Fame] so he let me go down and take all the measurements off of Chet's actual guitar. I’d had the 59' at my house many times so I knew the guitar pretty well anyway. I made three trips at different times to double check things and I had several conversations with TV Jones about the wiring and the pickups. Because we made it like Chet's it’s not like the standard 6122 issue. Chet’s ‘59 came to him with the standard Grover Super Imperial tuners but didn't like them because they wouldn't stay tight. When the fat “kidney” knobs came along he changed them out. Chet didn't like that stock tone switch because it didn't work right so it was left off. The new guitar is wired like Chet's -- no volume control for the front pickup -- it has master volume, volume for the back pickup and a tone control. You don't need a front pickup volume control with a master volume control when you are using both pickups. The pickups are wound by TV Jones. The fingerboard SuperTron pickup is 4k like the standard Gretsch SuperTron but the bridge pickup is a little under 8k which is what Chet's was. He’d had Shot Jackson rewind it in the 60's. It gives a lot more output. When Chet used both pickups (which was most of the time) his guitar had more balls. He would blend the back pickup, turning it down a little. This guitar has a brace under the bridge in between the top and back. It's about 3 inches across the top and bottom and has good sustain down the neck on the bass and treble. The 6122-59 has Chet's preferred wide neck. Chet's neck at the nut is 44.16 mm or 1.7585 inches at the 5th fret it's 48.00mm or 1.89 inches at the 12th fret it’s 52.75mm or 2.0765, the new one is right on these specs. It comes standard with the Chet handle and bracket. I know the fixed handle is a problem for some owners. When the Nashville Classic was first done I suggested a flat handle and a swivel bracket be included with the Nashville Classic so it could be changed because I knew some couldn't use the fixed handle.
Note that when the 6122-1959 was introduced in 2003 it could not be called a Country Gentleman, because Chet’s estate had not yet reacquired the Country Gentleman name. Therefore, it was called the "Nashville Classic."
In January 2007 Gretsch reached an agreement with the Atkins estate to use the name again, and the headstock plate changed from "Nashville Classic" to "Country Gentleman." Note that a handful of "Country Gentleman" models were made in very late 2006, in preparation for the announcement.
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6122-1959 Country Gentleman Specs
- Filed under
- Country Gents & Southern Belles
- The Fender years: 2003-present
- First registered year
- Last registered year
- Body width
- 25 1/2"