The British Invasion and Gretsch
In the late 1950’s, the sounds of American rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues artists began to arrive on the shores of the British Isles. The music of artists like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly and Muddy Waters began to inspire young British musicians to attempt to recreate those sounds they heard. Finding it difficult for them to authentically replicate this new musical art form, which was quintessentially the reflections of American youth growing up in the 1950’s and influenced by the rebellious images of James Dean on the big screen, and Elvis on the TV, the British took the best of the elements from those American influences and applied their own musical leanings, such as skiffle music, pop, and music hall stylings and created a new sound that was truly the best of both worlds.
Although the Tornados (with their instrumental hit, Telstar), and Dusty Springfield, (with her hit, I Only Want To Be With You), are often considered to have been the earliest of the British acts to have had hits in the United States, the floodgates opened once The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. With that historic event in American pop culture, the British Invasion was well underway.
With the arrival of Beatlemania in the States, American radio stations, and the kids buying the records, couldn’t get enough of the British acts with their fresh guitar-driven sounds and rich vocal harmonies. Other Liverpool bands, such as The Searchers, and Gerry and the Pacemakers, launched the new sound that was quickly dubbed “Merseybeat.”
But, bands from other parts of England, as well, also scored big hits across the Atlantic on the American charts, such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Animals, and The Hollies. Ireland sent us Them and launched the lengthy career of frontman Van Morrison. The Moody Blues, Spencer Davis Group, The Troggs, Donovan, Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, and Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders were other British Invasion bands that proved to be great successes on the American music scene.
England, with London as the epicenter, became the leader not only in music, but also in fashion, with the trendy boutiques of Carnaby Street dictating fashion styles in the States as well. It was the era of “Swinging London” and Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy became household names. Mini-skirts and the dangerously naughty micro-skirts were all the rage.
It seemed that, during the mid-Sixties, America was crazy over almost anything British.
And Gretsch guitars were on prominent display during the British Invasion. George Harrison, who initially sported a Duo Jet in the band’s Hamburg era, but was quickly attracted to the big 17-inch Country Gentleman played by his guitar hero, Chet Atkins, and later a Tennessean, was easily the most visible Gretsch player of the British Invasion.
But, many other Gretsches were seen in these British bands. Remember the arpeggiated Am chord which opened the Animals’ song House of the Rising Sun? That was Hilton Valentine playing his Gretsch Tennessean.
Or do you remember Gerry Marsden fronting his band, The Pacemakers on Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying? Again, Gerry played a Tennessean.
Or Derek Leckenby, lead guitarist of Herman’s Hermits, played a Tennessean on many of the band’s earliest hits, like I’m Into Something Good.
And Brian O’Hara, of the Fourmost, played a Country Gentleman which was rumored to have been given to him by George Harrison after George purchased his own Tennessean.
And, a bit later, around 1970, Pete Townshend was given a 6120 by Joe Walsh, which he used extensively on the albums Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. But, John Entwistle beat Pete to Gretsch by playing a Gretsch bass, a 6070 model.
The sounds of the British Invasion, and the British players who used Gretsch guitars, clearly made a huge impact on the United States and the music that we began to produce here. Before long, inspired by their counterparts in the British Invasion, Gretsch guitars were showing up in numerous American bands, from The Byrds to The Monkees to The Buffalo Springfield, and countless others.
Lodging and Venue Information
The Clair Tappaan is a historic lodge now owned and operated by The Sierra Club. Lodging is hostel-style accommodations with rustic style beds with mattresses. Guests supply their own sleeping bag or sheets/blankets. There typically are extra blankets, however, in the event that the temperatures dip during the night. Room sizes range from small single rooms to dormitory-type rooms with multiple bunk beds. Hot showers are available in centralized restrooms.
As with any hostel-type of accommodations, guests are asked to perform a light, quick, and easy chore (such as sweeping the dining room, or carrying serving dishes to the kitchen, etc.) after breakfast and after supper.
The Lodge also has a library, which will be available for acoustic guitar jamming or, if no musicians are present there, for reading or quiet time. There is also a lovely area in front of the lodge (actually on the backside of the Lodge) where lunches can be eaten or just chat with other Roundup guests. Day hikes can be easily made from the Lodge as well. Take a break from the music and get in touch with Mother Nature in the forest surrounding the Lodge.
Temperatures in September are still quite warm during the day, but the temperatures will drop down into the 40’s or high 30’s at night. Bring short sleeve shirts for the days and sweaters or windbreakers for evening.
Three meals are included in the price of a night’s lodging. Breakfasts are usually hearty with eggs, potatoes, pancakes, fruit, etc. Lunches are brown bag lunches with the Lodge providing the ingredients, such as cold cuts, cheese, PB&J, fruit, chips, cookies, and drink. Evening meals are a variety of hot entrees depending upon what the Lodge has planned, from chicken to pasta to Mexican fare. The food is hearty, good, and plentiful. Vegetarians will also find plenty to eat.
Lodging at the Clair Tappaan is available at $55 per night (plus taxes). Again, this includes three meals a day. Reservations should be made in advance by calling the Clair Tappaan Lodge at (800) 679-6775.
Also, visit the Lodge’s website to book your stay at the Lodge online.
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What's On Tap?
We will be setting things up on Friday afternoon, so music can begin as soon as we have enough musicians present to start playing. We will have the exclusive use of the Lodge for this event, so we will be able to play as late into the morning hours as we desire. Because of the special event on Saturday evening, we really do want to take full advantage of the Friday night time slot. Music will start up again immediately after breakfast on Saturday and continue on throughout the day until supper time. The event of our special guest, Peter Asher, will then be Saturday evening, followed by some of our usual festivities. And then more music into the early morning hours. Finally, on Sunday morning, we try to get some last tunes in before everyone heads out for home.