Gretsch Guitars

Van Eps

The Van Eps model was named for guitar virtuoso George Van Eps, a seven-string guitar pioneer and jazz king.

Van Eps had used a custom-built seven-string until Gretsch negotiated his endorsement in 1968. The resulting Van Eps model was a high-end guitar, with a 17-inch body and the type of appointments found on Gretsch’s best. It was the world’s first signature seven-string.

The Gretsch Van Eps used a Country Club body with a custom 7-string neck and headstock, Price in 1968 was a whopping $650, which isn’t surprising, given the high level of appointments and the amount of custom parts the Van Eps used.

The headstock had a unique 4+3 tuner setup, and featured a gold “Van Eps Model” plaque. Pickups were custom 14-pole FilterTrons. Why they didn’t use stock bar-bladed SuperTrons is anyone’s guess. Other custom Van Eps features included special cast FilterTron covers and a special seven-string tailpiece.

A six-string model, while exceedingly rare, was also made.

1971 was the last year for the 6079 and 6080 nameplates, as Gretsch changed to the 7580 and 7581 designations for 1972.

The resurgence of interest in seven-string guitars has led to a renewed popularity for the Van Eps models, the first mass-produced seven-string.

Unlike today’s shredder seven-strings that use an extra string tuned to B, the Van Eps seventh string was tuned to A by Van Eps and most jazz players. An .080 works well.

Thanks to Gordon F. for his notes on the Van Eps.

Six different models and Two examples are in the Gretsch-GEAR database, including Van Eps models.
6079 Van Eps
  • The golden years: 1954-1967
The sunburst-finished version of the Van Eps seven-string.
6080 Van Eps
  • The golden years: 1954-1967
The 6080 Van Eps was identical to the 6079 seven-string other than its light walnut finish. It is however, even rarer than the already rare 6079 Van Eps.
6081 Van Eps
  • The golden years: 1954-1967
6082 Van Eps
  • The golden years: 1954-1967
Walnut-finished six-string
7580 Van Eps
  • The Baldwin years: 1968-1987
The Gretsch 6079 sunburst-finished Van Eps seven-string switched to the 7580 model designation in 1972.
7581 Van Eps
  • The Baldwin years: 1968-1987
7581 was the designation given in 1972 and later for the walnut-finished version of the Van Eps family.