Gretsch ukeleles, banjos and other oddities


Gretsch made and sold a lot of instruments that wren’t guitars. In fact, in the early days of the company, guitars were barely a blip. Banjos made up most of their production, and the more ornate models were eventually the inspiration for the opulent outfitting on the White Falcon.

Gretsch also had a steady sideline as a musical wholesaler. Low-priced and mid-priced instruments —everything from ukeleles to band horns —would be made by other manufacturers and then resold with a Gretsch logo on them, or Gretsch would farm out models to be sold under other labels, much as Harmony, Kay and Danelectro later did for Sears’ Silvertone label.

Many of the instruments were made by well-known manufacturers in their own right. Conn, for example, made many of the band instruments and LaTosca was responsible for most Gretsch accordians. Valco made nearly all of the vintage Gretsch amps and lap steels.

Gretsch also had their own subsidiary line, Bacon, to round out their market range in the ‘50s. Bacon had made instruments prior to being bought by Gretsch that bore no resemblance to the Brooklyn products, but after the takeover, Bacons were usually thinly-disguised versions of popular Gretsch models.

Later, in the ‘70s, a line of low-priced Japanese-made instruments were imported and sold under the Dorado name in an effort to compete with the flood of imports inundating the market. Flattop acoustics and solidbody electrics alike were sold under the Dorado name. None held much in common with Gretsch’s own guitars.

about 2 yrs ago, I bought a 1920s era Gretsch banjo uke for $100 on craigslist, gave it to my grown uke playing daughter for christmas. It is in excellent condition. As a teenager I had an old gretsch banjo that I sold to a friend, he was lead guitar for a group called “a boy and his dog” which had future Heart founder Nancy Wilson as singer and guitar player.

when i was a teenager i had a Dorado acoustic, an adorable little OOO-sized thing with mahogany back/sides and a laminate top. bought it for $49 from the W.H. Alden catalog. it sounded really good for a $49 guitar. it was stolen out of the back seat of my gf’s car.

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