You’re not a real cowboy if you’re not playing a guitar with cactus and steer-head inlays. And if you really want to be the baddest rustler on the range you need this one – probably the earliest example of a Gretsch 6121. Available now on Reverb this one looks like the real deal. S/N 16453.
It’s a Duo Jet. It’s a Penguin. It’s a combination Duo Jet, Penguin.
What happens when you take the coolest headstock in all of guitardom and stab it onto a 1968 Gretsch Duo Jet?
You get one of these. The neck and finish put together by Dan Johnson, the guitar tech for the Black Keys band with Mark Axe doing the wiring and set up work.
It would be easy to confuse the current Gretsch Guitars line-up with their line-up from the late 1950s. A lot of f-holes and big orange guitars with Bigsby vibratos. The model names haven’t changed much either – 6120s, Country Clubs, Falcons, Jets and Anniversaries. And neither have many of the physical specifications, features and hardware. Laminated maple bodies, 2.5 or 2.75 inches deep with 16 or 17 inch lower bouts, filterTron pickups, Grover tuners and on and on. Most of these specifications and features go back to the 1959 model year when Gretsch seemed to really ‘get it right’ and produce guitars that nowadays have reached an almost mythic status and command prices north of $10,000.
One of the keys to the ’59 tone is in the ‘trestle bracing’ introduced in 1959 that allows the thin maple tops to vibrate and sustain but without producing feedback. The FilterTron pickups are another magical ingredient that give these guitars their signature twang and bite.
Despite being made famous as one of the favorite guitars of the Who’s Pete Townshend (and used on every track of ‘Who’s Next’), the ’59 Gretsch was for many years an almost forgotten guitar. That is until the early ’80s when the Stray Cats appeared from their rockabilly time-machine and Brian Setzer’s magic fingers made a lot of young guitar slingers want big orange guitars.
These days genuine 1959 6120 guitars are rare but some of their ’59 siblings can be great alternatives with nearly identical features and specifications.
One of these is the Anniversary model which has an identical body but a little less of the fancy stuff – binding and the horseshoe inlay. Examples like the one below can still be found for about the same cost as the new reissues. Pair one of these with a vintage blonde Fender Bassman and some slap-back echo and tap into that ’59 Gretsch magic!
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