Hall of Fame and Chet's 59 Gretsch?

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Hall of Fame and Chet's 59 Gretsch?

Postby Bryan B. » Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:38 am

Hi all,

I recently visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and saw Chet's 59 Gretsch. I noticed that the description card said that he received his 59 in 1964, this isn't correct is it?
Why would he receive his new model years after it was introduced?...

Bryan
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Re: Hall of Fame and Chet's 59 Gretsch?

Postby PhilHunt » Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:51 am

Someone didn't do their research when they labeled Chet's stuff in the Hall of Fame. I think the Studio Classic was labeled wrong as well. I'm surprised they didn't put "Chet Adkins" instead of "Atkins" as well.
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Re: Hall of Fame and Chet's 59 Gretsch?

Postby RandeDager » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:00 am

Good point, Phil.........maybe "Trace Atkins"........lol
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Re: Hall of Fame and Chet's 59 Gretsch?

Postby thenorm » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:04 am

This is from my Paul Yandell archive
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It was in 1959 where the Country Gentleman took its most well known single cut-away form. In the Russ Cochran book on Chet's guitars there is a typo on page 89 where it says it's a 61. It is not. The serial number on that guitar is 31444 which puts it squarely in the 1959 range. (Serial number source GDP: … 30,000s to 34,000s = 1959 ) The guitar shown on page 89 is his ’59 in its final form and that is the guitar I used as a foundation for the Nashville Classic.
He told me that he liked that one because the bass strings sustained all the way down the neck. He said it was hard to find a Gretsch that would do that.
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Re: Hall of Fame and Chet's 59 Gretsch?

Postby Richard Hudson » Tue Apr 05, 2011 11:07 am

Norm, would you happen to have a chronology of the mods Chet did to his '59? Maybe it has been posted before, but that would be interesting to know when he changed the pickups, switches, etc.


EDIT to add another question - whether the wider neck was already on the guitar or whether Chet added it or requested it be made that way?
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Re: Hall of Fame and Chet's 59 Gretsch?

Postby thenorm » Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:54 pm

I don't have the chronology to a T.
the double bladed pickup was one of the Butts prototypes put in a Filter Tron casing so I would think that was about 1957 or 8 since that was about when Gretsch first used Filter Tron pickups.

According to Paul Chet had the bridge pickup rewound by Shot Jackson
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"... the back pickup is a little under 8k ... He’d had Shot Jackson rewind it that way back in the 60's.."
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aul never said (to my knowledge) exactly when that was but I would imagine it was fairly soon after getting that '59.

He had a 'mysterey period' where he apparently had the selector switch at the cutaway and (possibly) individual tone switches for each pickup but it's hard to say. Chet did like to tinker and you just can't see what's going on in there during the "three switch" period. I asked Paul about it and he said he really didn't know. It never occured to him to ask Chet what he'd done. Again, from the archive:

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"...For a long time he had a switch on the cutaway where the Master Volume usually is. I never thought to ask him about those switches in that configuration. At first I assumed the switch on the cutaway was a kill switch but I was never sure. Chet liked to experiment with things and try to get a better sound.
I think when he had those other switches he wasn't touring much, just recording. When he started doing concerts it worked better to have the master volume at hand.

Recently somebody sent me a picture of Chet back in the 70's playing his ’59 with the Oklahoma City Symphony. He had that switch on it where the master volume goes. He's playing and the switch is in the middle position. I think, then, it was the pickup selector switch and for some reason he’d moved it down there.
Also the two switches on the upper bout are always down when he had that three switch configuration. He had something going on there but I don't know what since I never asked him... With the upper bout selector switch down it normally would activate the treble pickup alone and I know he hardly ever used the back pickup by itself except on Yaketey Axe.

I finally talked to a fellow in 2004 who, back in the 60’s, had talked to Chet about his ‘59 Gentleman. He said Chet told him the switch he had where the master volume goes was a pickup selector switch and that the two switches up top was a tone switch for each pickup.
I think when Chet had that wiring setup the two controls down at the lower bout were: the front one was a master volume and the back one a volume control for the back pickup.

When Chet first started playing the 59' he used the front double bar pickup, when I started working for him he was using both and sometimes the back pickup when he was playing live so as Chet always did he changed down through the years,

Chet could never get Gretsch to change that wiring format. Chet experimented with different things in switch applications and eventually eliminated the tone switch altogether on his ’59, reinstalling a tone pot on the lower bout instead. He removed the old tone switch and plugged the resulting hole.

Once he wanted a phaser effect mounted in his guitar so he had me cut a hole in back of the tone and back pickup volume knob, about 3" square. I put a plate over it. That was the only way to do it. He used the phaser on Charade. There’s a little micro switch between the two knobs on it. It was a phaser from an Electra guitar I had at the time...."
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"...He changed the brass knobs for aluminium to make the guitar lighter. Chet’s ‘59 came to him with the standard Grover Super Imperial tuners but didn't like them because they wouldn't stay tight. When the fat “kidney” knobs came along he change them out. The Imperial's of the 50's and 60’s did work loose as did most tuners. Later they started putting nylon washers on the shafts and that stopped that problem..."
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Neither Paul or Chet bothered to note exactly when those changes were made. Back then they couldnt' imagine there would be that much interest in the minutae of a couple of guys just trying to get their guitars to be more efficient and perhaps sound better.

Anyway, thats' the best I can do with what I have to work with...
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Re: Hall of Fame and Chet's 59 Gretsch?

Postby Richard Hudson » Tue Apr 05, 2011 2:46 pm

Thank you Norm. I don't know why we are always such nuts over this kind of stuff, but it is just interesting to know some of the things he did to his guitar(s) and try to figure out why. The one thing you didn't address was the neck width. I was thinking I read somewhere that Chet's guitar was one of a few in a certain batch that had that wider neck, but I am not sure about that. Do you have anything on that?

Thanks,
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Re: Hall of Fame and Chet's 59 Gretsch?

Postby thenorm » Tue Apr 05, 2011 2:58 pm

Here are Paul's statements specifically referencing wider necks:

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Chet and I were discussing his D'Angelico once and he told me when he ordered it he asked John D'Angelico to make the neck wider at the nut
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Back in the 50's I never heard anyone talk about a "wide neck". No one was interested. I think Chet's 59' was probably the first mass produced model that made a wide neck available.

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I never saw a picture of Chet playing the ‘58 Gretsch Country Gentleman. I don't think he cared for it. He gave the one he had to Jethro. About 1959 Chet was playing a classic guitar more and more and a short scale narrow neck guitar didn't quite make it any more so he went to wider necks on his main guitar(s).
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He asked Gretsch to start offering two sizes of neck, regular and then the wider one like his.
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I'm sure he requested they make him one (Gretsch Country Gentleman) with a 25 1/2 scale and they sent him different ones before he found one that had the right sustain which he kept and that was the guitar we now refer to as his favorite ’59

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