Gretsch Body Snatchers

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In April of 2010, just weeks before the disastrous flood destroyed much of the surrounding Nashville area, a cache of 500-700 authentic vintage Gretsch guitar bodies was discovered in a warehouse formally owned by the Sho-Bud company.

Sho-Bud was purchased by Gretsch in the mid-1970s. The Corvette and Astro-Jet guitar bodies were apparently stored there undiscovered for decades. In his own words, Mike Armist — mafiajug on the GDP — describes the circumstances of his find:

Sho-Bud guitars (here in Nashville) had contracted with Gretsch around the early 1960’s to make some prototype guitars of some experiment that Shot Jackson had. Sadly all involved have passed away. Anyhow, I worked with Charlie Derrington for a while and he owed me for a job I’d done for him. He was contacted about all of these bodies in cleaning out the old warehouse where they were stored. I told him I was interested in all of it and we worked out a deal where I cleaned out the area and I could keep the bodies as payment for the job I’d done for him. I intended on making guitars out of them, and I never did. Jim Triggs made a few out of them. I think he made one for Aerosmith? I also have a full size refrigerator box full of miscellaneous parts, Brazilian rosewood bridges for classical, twelve string and a few six string guitars. Some ebony ones in there too. I also have Brazilian rosewood stairstep bridges for an archtop guitar. Some cheap tuning gears from that era too. Not sure of the make on those. Some old Sho-Bud steel guitar blanks as well.

Mike went on to share that he had subsequently contacted Fred Gretsch to see if he was interested in acquiring the bodies, but Fred was not. He also reported receiving an e-mail from FMIC declining to pursue the bodies for a proposed custom shop project.

News of this discovery soon found its way to the GDP thanks to loyal Gretsch devotee and Nashville Craigslist cruiser Rob (Tartan Phantom), and word traveled quickly through the community. It was soon evident that the degree of interest was high amongst the more intrepid GDPers who recognized the find as an opportunity to make their own version of a Gretsch guitar.

Mike soon began communicating to the GDP community, initially pricing the solid mahogany bodies at $100 plus shipping. Rob was gracious enough to stay involved and act as a go-between for selecting bodies (on-site) for interested GDPers. As the best bodies were sold off thru May, some scratch and dent bodies were made available at a reduced cost ($50), encouraging even more takers within the GDP.

As the various GDP member projects got underway, necks were procured from a variety of sources until Joe (Jack Daniels) solicited the business and began producing several styles in quantity. Variations offered included mahogany with rosewood or ebony fretboards, in 4x2 or 3x3 tuner configurations, from $225-$250. Neoclassic inlays were also an option for a slight premium.

Paul Setzer stepped-up to be a source for the requisite pickguard needs for these project guitars, offering a variety of materials, as well as accurate templates for both the Corvette and Astro-Jet models. As far as acquiring the rest of the components, such as hardware, wiring, and finish options… the GDP community members have been very collaborative helping each other to ferret-out sources, as well as conceiving ideas for custom appointments.

In early August Mike announced that he had found a buyer for the remaining bodies (over 400) and that he would no longer be a source for GDPers, but wished everyone luck with their projects, and has continued to periodically check in to monitor the progress of the active participants.

Mid-way into 2011, we are now finally seeing the fruits of the many industrious and talented GDPers who saw potential in Mike’s discovery, and the finished guitars of the “long-lost Nashville bodies” have become a reality.

Coming soon: the gallery dedicated to these project instruments, and the people who have brought them to life.

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