Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The Six String Side: 1972 Gretsch Country Club

She's big, thick, and curvy.
When I started this blog over ten years ago, I stated that it was a "Bicycle and guitar oriented elixir....". Well, the "guitar" part sort of got pushed out by the bicycle stuff, but I've always been playing. In the Easter post, I mentioned playing my '90 Strat, and someone suggested I detail the fleet, so here ya go. Hopefully ya'll enjoy the change in pace. I'll post something periodically throughout the year. Here's #4

This guitar has a story behind it which is kind of a long one, so please bear with me here....

In about 2000-2001 or so, I was approached by a women who lived near to me in my neighborhood that knew I played guitar who asked me if I was in the market to buy another. Well, that depends on what it is, which is always the case when you are a guitar nerd like me. You never know when that elusive "garage find" might happen, but then again, you have a healthy skepticism about any guitar that you hear is for sale. Generally speaking, they are usually of the type that isn't worth the wood and metal they are made from.

So, I was very skeptical and I was not expecting that anything would come of it when she asked me and I agreed to go see the elderly man down the street about this guitar that he needed to sell to enable him to buy a lawnmower, of all things!

When I arrived at the fellow's home, I was ushered through to the back yard and a covered carport area by the man's wife. On the way through, I noted several old images on the wall of an old time country band posed with their gear. I noted an old, leather covered amp, and that the gentlemen in the image all had those old timey, country and western looking get ups with the contrasting piping and fringes on the sleeves. Like Roy Rogers used to wear. Crazy....

Anyway, here sat this old man with a case that appeared to contain a hollow body guitar. Could this be a good guitar? He flipped open the latches, lifted the lid, and I couldn't believe what I saw. It was the real deal! 

Then I asked how much, of course, but instead of answering that directly, the old man launched into story after story about his country and western band playing days. He was that guy in the images I saw coming in. He had been playing all his life. It turned out that he had actually worn out his first guitar, and this was the replacement guitar, a Gretsch. He didn't know, or forgot to tell me anything about the specs. He just kept rambling on with stories, always looking to the guitar to remember another, and then he'd give me another tale. It was clear to me that this old fellow had quite the attachment to this instrument. He had been to battle, so to speak, with this tool. It was his "right arm", his companion. He knew it like the back of his hand. It was part of the guy's soul.

There was no way I could buy this guitar from this man. It would break his heart!

So, I came up with some cock-eyed story about having to think it over and see about money, or some such excuse. He perked up and seemed relieved that it wasn't working out. I had done the right thing. I was probably more relieved than he was when I got home that night!

I tried to forget about the entire thing. Weeks went by, and I figured it was all over with. Just an odd dream. Then, the woman that first informed me about the deal called me up. She insisted I needed to go see the guy again. He really needed that money, and this guitar was going, one way or the other. Ugh!

So, I reluctantly went back one evening. The guy was very sweet this time, and very compliant to selling. No stories, no beating around the bush. In retrospect, I think he probably had a "come-to-Jesus" meeting with his wife about it all, but whatever the motivation was, I was getting this guitar that night. I sat down, wrote him the check, and carried out the guitar to my car. I barely could believe I got out of there without the guy breaking down into tears, or having another round of stories told to me. I reached for the ignition when out of the corner of my eye, I see the old guy trotting out to my car! Now what?!!!

"Don't you go playing any of that Rock and Roll on that thing now. Ya hear?!!", he barked through my rolled down window. I assured him I would take good care of it, and he walked away, never to be seen by me again.

I found out later through research on-line that the serial number of this guitar indicated it was made by Gretsch USA in 1972. Near as I can tell it is a Country Club model, with two Filtertron pickups, a mute switch, zero fret, master volume, volume, tone, tone switch, and pick up selector controls. The original "G" logo tailpiece was removed by the folks at the old Music Corner shop in Waterloo when it was purchased and replaced with the well worn Bigsby tremolo seen on it here. I also have the original tail piece.

The guitar was so coated in nicotine that I cleaned it three times and it still has a haze on it in places. Years of playing out in the bars will do that, or would back when smoking was still allowed in bars. The hardware is all well worn, but functional. I need to have the output jack looked at here since it crackles and it may have a broken wire. Big surprise! Overall though, for a heavily gigged guitar, it is in great shape. A bit of buckle rash on the back, but over all it is in great shape for the age. I also need to replace the handle on the case. It rotted off several years after I got this.

I can't say I haven't played any Rock & Roll on this guitar, but I think the old man's soul is just fine with that as long as it is still getting played once in awhile!


Okie Outdoorsman said...

Great Post! Really enjoyed the background story on the Gretsch. Played bass, in church, with an older gentleman that had one very similar. It had a beautiful sound, for sure. Thanks for the change in pace.

Galinês said...

Hi Ted,

We would like to send you a press release about a bicycle event in Portugal. Can you send us an email adress, please?

Thank you,

Inês Costa

Choice - Global Communication

Doug said...

That's a beauty. Great back story.