The Gretsch New Yorker guitar is a classic with a vintage feel, and a rich, warm tone. Its double-cutaway body was added to the Jet models in 1961. Its popularity inspired Mike Nesmith, the legendary guitarist, to convert it into a 12-string guitar and create the iconic blonde Gretsch.
The Gretsch music company was founded in 1883 in a music store in Brooklyn, New York. Its founder, Fred Gretsch, was a young man from Germany who immigrated to America at age sixteen. He had the bold idea to expand his family’s business. He began building banjos and guitars. He also imported some of the finest instruments from Europe to ensure the highest quality.
The Gretsch company also made thousands of guitars bearing the name of Chet Atkins. In fact, his “twangy” instrumental records helped introduce the Gretsch guitar to the teenage rock and roll market. His guitars were made in Brooklyn. The guitars were also produced in smaller versions known as the Tennessean and Country Gentleman.
The Gretsch building was a 10-story building with a seventh-floor containing the main factory. Other floors housed administrative offices, a machine shop and a plating section. A basement was also used to store drum parts and accessories. The roof had a terrace where the company could tan drumheads.
The Gretsch name has a long tradition. Friedrich Gretsch founded the company in 1883. His son William Gretsch assumed the presidency of the company after his father retired in 1948. William Gretsch had been a laborer and then became an executive. He remained with the company until his death in 1948 at the age 44. Fred Gretsch Jr., his wife, helped Gretsch rise to the top in the guitar world.
By the 1950s, Gretsch had reached a point of prominence in the market and began collaborating with renowned guitarist Chet Atkins to create instruments with a unique tone and feel. The single-coil pickups at the time were not particularly good for the guitar’s sound and were prone to hum. Atkins and Butts worked with Ray Butts, an American inventor, to create the “humbucking” pickup.
The 1950s also saw the introduction of a variety of new models. Gretsch introduced the New Yorker, the Country Gentleman and four Chet Atkins models. Many of the company’s workers refused to leave after they moved their guitar and drum production to Booneville in Ark. This forced the company to hire new workers with no experience building guitars. Later, the company moved its business offices from Chicago to Chicago.
Brooklyn, New York was the first location of the company’s factory. Fred Gretsch Jr. was elected president of the company in 1948. He eventually contracted with Terada to manufacture the Professional Series guitars. The company subsequently contracted with FMIC and other companies to produce entry-level Gretsch models.