(Here’s an essay I was asked to write about Gretsch Guitars)
Insatiable Love Affair
The plastic guitar at age two wasn’t enough, and when i saw the Beatles on the tele at age 4, I fell deeply in love with guitar.
A couple of acoustic guitars came, one fake that had nails for two of the tuning pegs, and one real that actually stayed in tune. And finally lessons. But I needed an electric guitar. An american guitar. I wanted to bend strings & play the solos I’d been learning on an electric. I was playing chord solos too, learning how to play legato & hold notes
while others note moved & I wanted to hear more sustain.
Because of George Harrison I wanted a Gretsch guitar! And at 12, in 1972 my parents bought me a 1961 Gretsch Anniversary model. Whoa! The passion went deep. It was wildly known the best guitars were American made. George had wanted an American guitar since he was a kid. His Gretsch Duo Jet was his prized possession. It was his first American guitar & he kept it his whole life.
George & I were both influenced by super guitar players. Masters. Players who had a feel & tone that personified the notes they chose. Serious guitar players that were so clever & articulate the music flowed & looked effortless to create. That’s the mark of an expert. It looks so easy when they play and it sounds brilliant. It’s all about the touch & feel; the magic happens with your hands, at your fingertips& you need an instrument that can respond to your whispers & moans.
A Gretsch neck has always felt perfect in my small hand. I love the round shape & made-for-each-other fit. Gretsch guitars have a good weight to them. The workmanship is smooth, every line & crease, every curve is finished. No rough spots, nothing feels dinky. I still have my’61 Anniversary model. I’ve written many songs with it. This guitar’s every shape & form is in my muscle memory. Playing it is like visiting a dear friend. In 2000 I picked up a Country Classic Jr., similar to the Country Gentleman George bought in 1963. This body size couldn’t be more comfortable. It was love at first touch. I feel like George when I’m playing this guitar. There’s a magical essence, chemical reaction, blend of wood &soul when I play Beatle songs on this guitar.
I get verklempt when I think of Gretsch guitars. They’ve loomed so large in my legendary Beatle life’s frame work. George, Gretsch, George, Gretsch, George, Gretsch. They’re in the blueprint of my childhood, the groundwork of my musicianship, the discovery of music & life itself.