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Re: "A Little Bit of Blues"....Which Guitar?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 6:33 pm
by albertgen
As far as a unique sound, I always wondered how he got that beautiful sound on Tiger Rag? And so many others like MacArthur Park? Too many to mention!

Re: "A Little Bit of Blues"....Which Guitar?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 7:30 pm
by guitarchuck
Thanks Albert, Norm & Craig for the info. All of this got me to thinking and I got out my Gretsch book to do some more research. I found out that Gretsch introduced the Hi-Lo Tron pickup on the Tennessean somewhere around 1963. The Hi-Lo Tron pickup had a chrome open face cover/case. So I'm guessing that Chet used a chrome Hi-Lo'Tron pickup cover on the bridge pickup, since Paul said that Shot Jackson re-wound that pickup for Chet sometime in the 60's. Also, at some point Chet changed the heavy solid metal control knobs with the lightweight knobs that came out in the late 60's. I wonder if Chet used that open face cover to try to get the most out of that pickup, or in his desire to lighten the weight of the guitar.

From the Paul Yandell FAQ's:
The Legendary ‘59

The Fingerboard Pickup

“On the ’59 Gretsch single cutaway Country Gentleman Chet favored for years the fingerboard pickup is a two bladed affair instead of the 12 pole Filter Tron standard. Ray Butts told me he made that one for Chet. He said it was part of his original design; it's on his patent. He made that one for Chet and he liked it. Chet said you got a fatter note with the pickup like that. This pickup, in production, became the “Super Tron”

The Bridge Pickup

Chet told me he had Shot Jackson rewind the bridge pickup on his ‘59. I used that Guitar one time and I measured the ohms on the back pickup and it was between 8000 and 9000 ohms. The standard Gretsch Filter Trons meter at 4000 ohms”

I looked up Ray Butt's patent on the Filter'Tron:

Patent drawing:

Looks like Ray Butts had the idea of the blade's instead of the pole pieces when he filed the patent in January of 1957, although only for 3 of the strings. (Interesting to note that Paul Yandell modified some pickups made like this with 3 strings with pole pieces and 3 with blades.)

Re: "A Little Bit of Blues"....Which Guitar?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 1:59 am
by Norm
Using the blades would have been the easiest way for Ray to demo his unit but he also was far seeing enough to know the blade style and polepiece style would be possibilities so he most likely included them both in his patent.

RCA Victor LPM/LSP-2887 "Best Of Chet Atkins" (the one with the rather dramatic angle of his gentleman in its three switch configuration looks to me like the bridge pickup casing is standard filter tron. I think he used the more open case when Baldwin bought the company. We'll never know why. Chet is gone and Paul never asked him about it apparently. The lighter knobs are a Baldwin factor too I'm pretty sure

Re: "A Little Bit of Blues"....Which Guitar?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 2:27 am
by Norm
Generally speaking, people use it (the Baldwin era) to refer to Gretsch in the 1970s. More specifically, however, it refers to the period when the Baldwin Piano Company owned Gretsch, which was substantially longer—from summer 1967 to early 1985.

The Baldwin era is a much-maligned period in Gretsch history. The term is often used in an unflattering light to denote generally neglectful Baldwin rule that resulted in a decline in quality, unpopular new instruments, corporate upheaval and dwindling sales that ultimately led to Gretsch guitar production being shut down altogether in 1981.

Chet went to Gibson by 1980 of course. If you look at the Chet Atkins Plays Back Home Hymns I think it is pretty evident the bridge pickup has the standard filter tron casing. That album was a 1962 release. Just when he swapped the casing out (or why) is something we'll never know. Personally I think it would have been 67 or later. He may have just liked the looks of it.

Actually we don't know exactly when he had Shot Jackson do the original rewinding either. Paul was unspecific about it but it seems from his comment that it was fairly early in the 59's existence.

"...However, the bridge pickup on the ’59 is a little under 8k. Chet had Shot Jackson rewind it that way back in the 60’s. It gives a lot more output. I think the idea to have a Gretsch Filter-Tron pickup rewound to 8K came from the effect the higher output of the P-90 had on his D’Angelico. " Paul Yandell CGP