Book Review: The Gretsch Electric Guitar Book


The Gretsch Electric Guitar Book
60 Years of White Falcons, 6120s, Jets, Gents, and More
By Tony Bacon

The Gretsch Electric Guitar Book: 60 Years of White Falcons, 6120s, Jets, Gents, and More is yet another book on an iconic American guitar maker in what seems to be a growing line of these literary tributes to American made electric guitars. Some of the most recent publications of this sort is The PRS Electric Guitar Book by Dave Burrluck, The Fender Archives by Tom Wheeler, an eclectic review of rock’s legendary artists and the instruments they played in 108 Rock Star Guitars by Lisa S. Johnson, and Brian May’s Red Special by Brian May with Simon Bradley, just to name a handful.

Bacon’s latest work takes us through the early Gretsch years from around the turn of the century and gives a detailed account starting with the Brooklyn beginnings featuring the “New York classics” produced from the Gretsch building at 60 Broadway. There you will find the early Gretsch electric models including the Electro II, one of the first cutaway electrics, the 1954 Corvette non cutaway, which is followed by pages of semi-solids including the Jet line, Jaguar models, and the Country Club model with its accent on color options including a Cadillac green finish, two-tone grey, sunburst and naturals, and a combo of Bamboo yellow front and Copper Mist back on the 1956 Streamliner.

There is a brief history on the signing of Chet Atkins to endorse the Gretsch brand, an idea that was ironically first dismissed by Fred Gretsch (in retrospect, going ahead and signing Atkins may have been the most important decision he made) with the complete story, description of the line-up and a gallery of photos beginning with the company’s first signature electric models, the 1954 Prototype Streamliner Chet Atkins Hollow Body 6120 and the 1955 Chet Atkins Solid Body 6121, the latter of which was launched in the wake of Gibson’s successful Les Paul models.

Roll through this history of classic guitar models and some of the more obscure models, The White Falcon, launched in 1955, The Convertible (effectively an acoustic suitable for electric playing) later renamed The Sal Salvador model, and the 1958 additions to the Chet Atkins line, The Country Gentleman and the less expensive Tennessean.

The journey through this work follows a road map with interviews of players and guitar makers and demonstrates how well Gretsch carved out its own place among the great guitar brands like Fender and Gibson, with its very own unique styles and shapes, not to mention that throaty sound that comes from a Gretsch.

The list of players whose identity became synonymous with their Gretsch guitars, besides Chet Atkins of course, are Eddie Cochran, Duane Eddy, and Billy Duffy, and includes most notably, George Harrison (1961 Duo Jet, 1963 Country Gentleman, and 1964 Tennessean) and Brian Setzer (who launched a reawakening for Gretsch in the ‘80s which led to signature models for him including the 1999 Nashville Brian Setzer Hot Rod 6120SHB).

This book is a complete and comprehensive celebration of the 60 year reign of The Gretsch Company and these wonderful instruments we know, play or listen to stars play, and love with insights from the people who design, build, and sell them and from those iconic musicians who play them.

The main story is supported by End Notes, a complete bibliography with dates of the Author’s interviews, and then transitions into a reference list to help the reader learn more about Gretsch electric models.  This list covers all the electric guitar models issued by Gretsch, complete with production details and date ranges, between 1939 and 2014. The Author notes, however, that “bass guitars, acoustic guitars, and steel guitars are beyond the scope of this book.”

Tony Bacon is a renowned guitar expert and author and has published over 50+ books on one of our favorite topics – guitars. 

The Gretsch Electric Guitar Book
60 Years of White Falcons, 6120s, Jets, Gents, and More
Series: Book 
Publisher: Backbeat Books
Format: Softcover 
Author: Tony Bacon
$29.99 (US) 
Inventory #HL 00120793
ISBN: 9781480399242
UPC: 884088917975
Width: 8.5″
Length: 11.0″
160 pages 


About the Author:

Tony Bacon writes about musical instruments, musicians, and music. He is a co-founder of Backbeat UK and Jawbone Press. Tony’s books include The Ibanez Electric Guitar Book, The Ultimate Guitar Book, and History Of The American Guitar. He lives in Bristol, England.


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