After Fred Jr. completed his service as a Navy commander in World War II, things really took off for Gretsch. Again, the Gretsches recognized that electric guitars were the future of American music, and they decided to ride the wave. During the era of big cars with big fins and bigger engines, Gretsch guitars fit right in. They came in all sorts of flashy custom colors, and they came equipped with gizmos and gadgets that appealed to forward-thinking guitarists. It also didn’t hurt that Duane Eddy, Chet Atkins, and Eddie Cochrane–three of the most popular players of the time–were Gretsch endorsees. Believe it or not, Gretsch outsold Fender during the fifties!
But, no one at Gretsch could have prepared for the deluge of orders that came in when George Harrison showed up on every music fan’s TV screen playing a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentlemen. America got swept up in Beatlemania, and demand for Gretsch Guitars quadrupled overnight. They went from producing 25 guitars a day to 100, and even then, there was a six-month wait time if you wanted a Gretsch.
Business was booming, but after four decades in the business, Fred Jr. was ready to retire. Since no family members were ready to take the reins, he sold the business to Baldwin Pianos in 1967. During the Baldwin years, Gretsch kept churning out excellent instruments, but time passed the company by. During the psychedelic seventies and the hard-rocking eighties, Gretsches fell out of favor with guitar players. The company needed a shot in the arm.
Enter Fred W. Gretsch, great-grandson of Fredrich and nephew to Fred Jr. Fred W.–the “fourth Fred” if you’re counting–practically grew up in the Gretsch factory, and he worked in various capacities for the company until a few years after the Baldwin sale when he struck off on his own and started Fred Gretsch Enterprises. Under his stewardship, his new company became one of the leading importers and exporters of musical instruments in the world, but he always kept his eye on the old family business. He repeatedly made offers to Baldwin, but he got shot down every time.
After seventeen years of badgering them, Fred and his wife Dinah were finally able to buy back his family’s company from Baldwin in 1984. They weren’t buying much more than the name, as Gretsch had ceased electric guitar production completely, and most of the company’s golden-era schematics had been lost in a series of fires. They would have to start from scratch.
Using the expertise of long-time employees like Duke Kramer and some borrowed vintage Gretsches, the folks at Gretsch were able to reverse-engineer all of their classic designs. After five years of research and development, they debuted their new line of Gretsch classics, and they were a runaway hit. Gretsch stepped further into the limelight in the nineties when endorsees like Brian Setzer, Reverend Horton Heat, Billy Duffy, and Malcolm Young brought Gretsch Guitars back to the forefront of the music scene.
Gretsch rode that wave of popularity until 2002 when they signed a deal with the Fender Musical Instrument Corporation that allowed Fender to take over the manufacturing and distribution of their guitars. Fender’s tremendous resources and considerable pedigree have allowed Gretsch to grow as they never have before, and players across the world take the stage every night with Gretsches slung over their shoulders.
We are proud to present our selection of Gretsches below. We believe that each guitar exemplifies Gretsch’s 135 year-long commitment to excellence, and that they all showcase the heart and soul that can only come from four generations’ worth of love and care. Here, you’ll find Masterbuilt marvels from the USA Custom Shop along with all the classic standard models you love as well as some truly special Wildwood-exclusive special runs. So, we invite you to browse our selection, find the Gretsch that inspires you, and experience the joy of The Great Gretsch Sound.