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Book Review: The Gretsch Electric Guitar Book – Guitar Lovers’ Paradise

By Terry Miller

When the publishers first pitched me on the idea of a guitar book, I thought, “Well, it’s not about drums but what the heck…I like guitars too.” Maybe they’ll even send me a sample guitar as well as a book ( Hey, I can dream)

We love books. We get books mailed to us frequently; most unsolicited hoping for some ink and this one stuck me as different. When the beautifully illustrated book arrived I poured over it with enchantment, the images and past glory of the workmanship of Gretsch guitars made are so lovingly inspired me to read on, and on. Full of interesting anecdotes on guitars I never even knew existed, this book will delight anyone who is even remotely interested in music instrument history.

After I tore through the book in record time,
I loaned it to a friend the – he happens to build guitars and owns some of the more uncommon Gretsch models. He too said the book is “outstanding in content and full of information he’d never seen anywhere…” He still has the bloody book and won’t give it back. Can’t blame him, it is rather a collector’s item in itself.

Musical instruments such as Gretsch guitars are works-of-art and magnificent to own and of course play ( I own vintage Slingerland drums – Radio Kings – so rare that parts for these babies are near impossible to find even on that ubiquitous ebay…luckily mine are in very good condition…thus far)

The Gretsch Electric Guitar Book is the latest book in British native Tony Bacon’s guitar series which the press release states is “ a carefully researched text partnered with a gallery of full-color pictures of great guitars, rare memorabilia, and of famous Gretsch players.” I couldn’t agree more.

Chet Atkins , Eddy Cochran, Billy Duffy, Duane Eddy, Brian Setzer and of course, perhaps the most visible player, George Harrison all played and loved the brand. There are some delightful images both colour ( please note the correct spelling) and B&W which show not only the models in detail but also the players who helped make the brand what it is today – iconic!

“Gretsch electric guitars have a style all their own – a glitzy, wacky, retro charm that over the years has drawn players playing all kinds of popuar music. No two old Gretsch guitars sound or feel alike inconsistent crazy gadgetry – cool beauty – weird tone – stylish glamour,” says the PR company. It is all true. If you’ve ever held a Gretsch, you’ll know what they mean.

The book is really reader friendly that takes the reader from the introduction of Gretsch’s first proper electrics, through to the famous Chet Atkins models and the White Falcon, and on to the recent guitars and the Fender era.

Mr. Bacon interviews the great Gretsch players of years gone by to the present.

Gretsch put together a prototype to show to Atkins, probably early in 1954. In a similar way to Les Paul and Gibson, Atkins had little input to the original design of his signature model. The label inside identified the sample guitar as a Streamliner Special, although it was more like a Country Club: it had a Melita bridge, a second DeArmond single-coil at the bridge, and Gretsch’s two-pickup control layout (four knobs plus one selctro). That’s the first one I received,’ Atkins explained when he showed it to me in the 90s. They sent it over and said: how about this? But I wanted a Bigsby vibrato on it and I especially didn’t like the f-holes, and later on we changed those.'”

The book tells the story via the people who design, make, and market these extraordinary beauties – back then as well as right now.

The book closes with a useful reference section with all the information a collector might want on original models, reissues, new c..itars, artist models, serial number, and production details for every significant model, new an : d, of this most enigmatic and revered brand.

Now Tony, how about a book on Gretsch DRUMS! I’ll be here, Charlie Watts and I want a copy, pronto!
Tony Bacon writes about musical instruments, musicians and music. He is a co-founder of Backbeat UK and Jawbone Press. Tony’s books include The Ibanez Electric Guitar Book, The Ultimate Guitar Book, and History Of The American Guitar. He lives in Bristol, England.
$29.99 (US)
Inventory #HL 00120793
ISBN: 9781480399242
UPC: 884088917975
Width: 8.5″
Length: 11.0″
160 pages
Gretsch cover complete

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