Like so many of you, the Beatles were a huge influence on my life. I just had to have a Gretsch Country Gentleman like the one George had. I had soon discovered what George already knew that while those Filtertron and Supertron humbuckers the “Gent” came equipped with had great bass and midrange response, it seriously lacked high end. That is why George went to the Tennessean with it’s single coil Hi-lo tron pickups for Day Tripper and continued to play a lot of single coil Stratocasters, Telecasters, Epiphones and of course Gretsches for most of his career.
In 1967 the Gretsch family sold out to Baldwin and things changed. I liked the idea of becoming a Gretsch dealer, but in the late 70s Baldwin terminated Gretsch production.
I had been a Harmony guitar and banjo dealer and they went out of business about that time as well. Fred W. Gretsch purchased the equipment to produce Harmony bakelite banjos in Ridgeland South Carolina and I purchased the banjos from him. Fred was great! He frequently invited me to come down and go fishing with him. Unfortunately, I never took him up on his generous offer. During this same period I met Charles “Duke” Kramer at a vintage guitar show. Duke had joined the Gretsch company in 1935 and when Gretsch went out of production in 1981 purchased three trailer truck loads of parts. Duke supplied Friendly River with anything we needed to restore Gretsch guitars and I always looked forward to seeing him at guitar shows surrounded by great players and tons of cool Gretsch parts.
In 1985, Duke brokered a deal in which Baldwin sold the company back to Fred Gretsch III and plans were underway to bring back that “Great Gretsch Sound”. A little later Duke told me that they were working with George Harrison and going to really restore the company. At that time the plan was to produce the instruments in Japan. Duke told me he had some prototypes that were not very good and kindly offered to show them to me if I kept it to my self. The early attempts were pretty rough, but the Gretsch team had very high standards and waited far too long not to make sure they really had it right. By 1989 they were ready to release some truly excellent instruments.
In 2003 Gretsch entered an agreement with Fender allowing them the right to develop, produce and distribute Gretsch guitars. That seemed to be a great arrangement for everyone. Today, Gretsches are produced off shore, and once again, back in America. I am honored to be a Gretsch dealer and service center. Please come by to check out the really cool new, vintage and arguably some of the best Gretsches ever.