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.

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