Tuesday, January 31, 2012

1967 Gretsch Country Gentleman

Perhaps no other Gretsch model is as famous and ubiquitous as the Country Gentleman; this model was seen by 73 million viewers strapped around George Harrison on February 9th, 1964 when the Beatles made their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.

After the show, Gretsch was flooded with orders for not only this model (which was quite expensive at the time), but for their other guitars as well. The company was given a super boost in the form of free advertising that money simply can't buy, and their production ramped up as a result.

Models made (between '62-early'64) with the exact 'Harrison" specs are quite scarce, as various subtle hardware changes began to be seen in 1963 on this model, which included the addition of Gretsch's newly designed "Supetron" pickup in the neck position in mid-64. By 1967 (the highest year of production for Gretsch), the Gent was back to having two Filtertron pickups (as seen here- these are the 'classic" Gretsch low-output humbucking design, also as seen and heard in the "Harrison spec" guitars). The Country Gent is a large guitar, measuring 17" across the lower bout.

Other quirky Gretsch design features are seen on this guitar, namely the painted on "f" holes and the back pad. The faux "F" holes were Chet Atkins idea; he liked the traditional look of the "f" hole, but wanted a closed body to increase sustain and limit feedback howl (it works!). The back pad was Gretsch's way of compensating for loading electronics into the closed body; snap off the back pad and there's a plastic covered, screw off hatch which allows full access to the electronics.

This beautiful example has survived in excellent condition. Gretsch guitars have developed a reputation for "falling apart", mostly due to the celluloid based plastic used on their binding having a tendency to rot away. This is not limited to Gretsch guitars, as many instruments from Gibson, Epiphone, C.F Martin and D'Angelico have also suffered a similar fate in both binding and pickguard material crumbling away due to this unstable material.

images courtesy of the author; c2012 Derek See.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

1965 Gibson Hummingbird

The Hummingbird was introduced by Gibson 1960, and was like no other acoustic guitar ever seen previously. The guitar featured a beautifully engraved floral scene with its namesake hummingbird among the flowers. This was also Gibson's first "square shouldered" dreadnought; previous Gibson acoustic designs featured the round shoulder design as seen on this J-50.

With a combination of a short scale on a large guitar, the Hummingbird has a bassy (yet clear), tight and focused sound that makes for an excellent singers' accompaniment guitar. As seen on many Gibsons, the soundhole is also slightly smaller than on a Martin style acoustic which yields even MORE bass response. The mahogany back and sides produce very good clarity and treble cut, making for a guitar that has a less pronounced midrange; perfect for the human voice (and all its midrange) to sit in the pocket.

Hummingbirds were finished in the vibrant cherry sunburst finish as seen most famously on 1958-1960 Gibson Les Paul Standards. This guitar's finish has faded to a gorgeous muted shade that is less like a sunburst and more like a sunset. This guitar, a California resident for its' entire life, probably saw massive sun exposure at folk festivals and love-ins.

Hummingbirds have many fans, and they are seen by many as being the perfect "acoustic rock" guitar; I would agree, as they are the acoustic of choice for Keith and Mick of The Rolling Stones, and are heard all over their records from c1966 onwards.

images courtesy of the author; c2012 Derek See.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

1965 Gibson SG Special

Positioned in the SG series at a price point between the single-pickup SG Jr. and the slightly more deluxe SG Standard, the SG Special featured two single coil P-90 pickups which are punchy, raw, and aggressive. Typically Specials are seen with vibrato tailpieces; this rare example features a stock factory stop tailpiece.

Images courtesy of Gryphon Stringed Instruments.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

1961 Gretsch 6120

Introduced in 1955, the original Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins model started its life as the epitome of 50's rockabilly style; early examples even featured a western belt buckle style tailpiece and "G" brand on the lower bout. By the late 50's, the western motifs were history and the guitar began losing its buxom deep body, becoming much more svelte, as seen here. The luscious western orange finish remained until the early 70's. This variation of the 6120 is similar to the model used by Neil Young in his Buffalo Springfield days. In 1962, the modernized double cutaway 6120 was introduced with painted on f-holes; this is the last of the single cutaway, open f-hole models.

Guitar courtesy of Tom Culbertson. Images c2012, Derek See.

1964 Gibson SG Custom

What a contrast to my '65! This beautiful SG Custom shows only the slightest lacquer patina over it's original stark white finish and has survived in near mint condition.

Images courtesy of Gryphon Stringed Instruments.

c1969 Mosrite "Post-Ventures"

After Semie Moseley lost the rights to use the Ventures name, he continued to make guitars in the style of the Ventures model, in very limited numbers, making this gorgeous tuxedo-finished guitar all the groovier!

Images courtesy of Gryphon Stringed Instruments.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

1966 Fender Jazzmaster

After the CBS takeover at Fender, changes began being implemented to the line throughout 1965-1967. This early (March) 1966 Jazzmaster shows some cool differences compared to my '63. The headstock got larger and thicker in '66 (as it did on the Stratocaster as well), plastic binding was added to the neck in '65, and the Fender logo changed to what's known as the "transitional" logo in '66 as well. By mid-'66, the round, pearloid fretboard dots were replaced by Gibson-like block marker inlays, and the solid black Fender logo began to be introduced, appearing on custom color guitars first. The worst CBS change (in my opinion) was the introduction of a catalyzed finish to the Fender line in 1967 which was prone to odd discoloration and wear, and did not have the patina of the original, fine lacquer finishes.

1965 also saw the introduction of the classic black Fender case with orange lining, which was used until at least 1978.

This Jazzmaster also features a chunkier neck profile than my '63, and the bridge pickup sounds drastically different (MUCH brighter). Both are incredible guitars with unique voices.

Images courtesy of the author; c2012 Derek See.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

1967 Gibson J-50

During the folk boom of the 1960's, guitar manufacturers were doing all they could to keep up with the public demand for acoustic guitars. One of the most loved acoustic guitars of the era was Gibson's J-45, which was introduced in 1942. In 1955, Gibson took the sunburst J-45, gave it a natural finish and called it a J-50. In 1963, Gibson redesigned the pickguard in grand 60's style thick celluloid which is the style we see here.

photos c2007, courtesy of Gryphon Stringed Instruments.

1970 Gibson ES-355

Wait a second? A 1970 model being featured in a site that celebrates guitars of the 60's?

Let me explain!

In my opinion, decades don't necessarily start at a particular year when it comes to styles. The semi-hollow Gibsons (ES-335, ES-345, ES-355 which all shared the same body design), while introduced in 1958, were a foretaste of the coming decade in their ground breaking design. These guitars, while rooted in tradition, featured a solid center block to allow the guitar to be played at high volume without howling. Throughout the 60s, volume kept getting louder and louder. Plus, the cherry red image of these guitars was ubiquitous on stages around the world throughout the decade.

This 1970 model differs only from those of the 60's in two ways- an embossed "Gibson" on the pickup covers (which only lasted until 1972) and a reinforcement volute on the back of the headstock. Sadly, the original bound tortoise-style celluloid pickguard of this guitar crumbled to dust (as they were prone to do).

The ES-355 differs from it's more famous sibling (ES-335) by featuring an ebony fretboard, L-5 style inlays and a six-position tone filtering system called the Varitone which I find very cool and demonstrate in the video below. This guitar has also been rewired from stereo to mono.

images courtesy of the author; c2012 Derek See.

Friday, January 20, 2012

1967 Gretsch Monkees Rock 'N Roll Model

The success of the Beatles in the United States in early 1964 caused a massive spike in interest of the type of instruments used by the Beatles. Those lads from Liverpool sported not only exotic hair and suits but also some cutting edge instruments from Ludwig, Rickenbacker, Hofner and Gretsch. George Harrison's use of the Chet Atkins Country Gentleman model drove demand sky high for the model, and helped make Gretsch one of the most successful musical instrument manufacturer's of the 1960's.

Gretsch learned from this success, and when word spread of a new group, put together specifically for their own network TV show, the company got their foot in the door as THE guitar of the Monkees. Gretsch, in effect, received a relatively free commercial each week that reached millions of teenagers.

While Mike Nesmith was typically seen in the Monkees proto-video clips with a custom built Gretsch 12 string electric, Gretsch also introduced a signature model towards the end of 1966 (shortly after the show began airing in September '66) with a fabulous new design.

In effect, the Monkees model is very similar to a Gibson ES-330 (ie a fully hollow, 16" thin body electric), the guitar featured some excellent Gretsch kitsch- namely, a fire engine red paint job, Monkees ephemera on the headstock and pickguard, and punchy Supertron pickups.

Unfortunately for the group and Gretsch, a controversy of sorts erupted when it was revealed that The Monkees had not played the instruments on their records. While the millions of people who had enjoyed the show and music and could care less who was playing the instrumental backing, the music community as a whole took a harsh stance against the group. Retailers began requesting Gretsch to supply them with parts to non-Monkee the Monkee models to make them more sale-able to musicians. The model remained in the catalog until 1969, but for all intents and purposes existed in 1967 only. The model was reborn as the Streamliner, sans Bigsby vibrato, double thumprint fretboard inlays and of course, The Monkees guitar-shaped logo.

photos courtesy of the author. c2012, Derek See.

1965 Gibson SG Custom

The SG Custom was Gibson's top of the line solidbody electric throughout the 1960's, and was made in very limited numbers (around 100 or so per year). The double cutaway design of the SG replaced the original Les Paul model in late 1960, and retained the Les Paul name until Les Paul's contract with Gibson expired in 1963.

The guitar shown has been exposed to a very heavy amount of cigarette smoke in its life, and has turned from stark white to an incredibly cool shade of yellow. This guitar is also a rare model with a stop tailpiece; most were made with Gibson's Lyre Vibrola. The shiny new gold plated pickups are by Jason Lollar; in my opinion every bit the equal of coveted vintage Gibson pickups.

Compare and contrast with this near mint example from 1964.

here it is in action with my band; The Bang Girl Group Revue.

guitar images courtesy of the author. c2012, Derek See.

1963 Fender Jazzmaster

Introduced in 1958, the Jazzmaster was Fender's attempt at competition within the Jazz guitar market, specifically targeting competitors Gibson and Guild. while the Jazzmaster never made it as a jazz guitar, it has become a guitar that is virtually synonymous with certain fringes of guitar playing. The guitar is far more versatile than as a fringe dweller, and in this writer's opinion sounds every bit as great as the more univerally loved Telecaster and Stratocaster.

This particular example, built in 1963, has been well used in its nearly 50 years of service, and is full of honest wear and heavy soul. Compare it with my '66.

Notice the arm area wear; the black area of the sunburst finish is worn away to the base coat, which is the color seen in the center of the sunburst target. Fender finishes of the time are of extremely thin lacquer, applied with incredible skill.

When introduced initially and until 1960, Jazzmaster cases were covered in tweed. Following the tolex covering change to amplifiers, cases became brown in 1960 until mid-1963 when the white case (seen here, in poor condition) was used for a short time until mid-1964.

Fender guitars came with a simple leather strap, seemingly from the early '50's and well into the 1970's. Here's a period strap draped over the guitar.

guitar images courtesy of the author, c2012 Derek See.