Gretsch Concert Bash the High Note of 125th Anniversary Year! "Big Event" Concert, Oral History Live! Event Round Out Gretsch Anniversary Celebration in 2008
Photos by Dino Perucci
With great fanfare, The Gretsch Company, one of the world's best known drum and guitar manufacturers, recently culminated its 125th anniversary year with a wave of special events. The following celebrations proved a testament to the company's rich history and built the foundation for the next 125 years of providing high quality instruments to new and veteran Gretsch fans.
"Big Event" Concert in New York City
On Nov. 18 at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan, The Gretsch Company hosted its "Big Event" concert with performances by new and veteran Gretsch artists who epitomize That Great Gretsch Sound.
Gainesville, Fla., rockers, Colourslide, the grand prize winner of the Next Gretsch Greats Unsigned Artist Competition, opened the show, followed by a psychobilly rock performance by David Lee & His Mercenaries. Then international pop-rock stars Fountains of Wayne, the Grammy-nominated band best known for its hit single "Stacy's Mom," entertained the crowd with their distinctive brand of power pop.
Stephen Ferrone, drummer for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers; G. E. Smith, former Saturday Night Live guitarist and musical director; Tim Ries, touring pop and jazz saxophonist for The Rolling Stones; Andy Hess, former Gov't Mule bass player, and guitarist extraordinaire Bob Sabellico rounded out the evening's performances. Chuck Leavell, touring keyboardist for The Rolling Stones, served as the house band's musical director and lead vocalist.
"These class-act musicians are some of the best in the industry and represent the bright future and colorful history of The Gretsch Company," said event host Fred W. Gretsch. Co-host Dinah Gretsch also remarked, "The magical evening of performances not only celebrated 125 years of That Great Gretsch Sound, but also kicked off another 125 years of supporting great musicians."
The makers of Wente Wines, also celebrating their 125th anniversary this year, commemorated the shared milestone by offering a selection of vintage wines to Gretsch concert guests.
Two other pillars of the musical manufacturing industry co-sponsored the event: D'Addario & Company, Inc., and Remo, Inc. D'Addario & Company, the world's largest manufacturer of guitar strings, celebrated its centennial anniversary in the U.S. in 2005. Drumhead specialist, Remo began its legacy shortly after WWII when Remo D. Belli discovered that Mylar, a polyester film used during the war for nighttime reconnaissance flight, was the perfect material to produce drumheads. Sabian Cymbals, a well-known cymbal maker founded in 1981, also served as an event sponsor.
Gretsch marketing partners, Kaman and Fender, joined the night's festivities. Other special guests in attendance included Gretsch drummers and jazz greats, Bill Stewart and Cindy Blackman; bass guitar star Will Lee; new Gretsch artist and The Rascals guitarist, Gene Cornish; and the second prize winner of the Next Gretsch Greats Unsigned Artist Competition, London Egg.
Celebrations at Nationally-Acclaimed Music Museums and Programs
While the concert bash and Next Gretsch Greats Unsigned Artist Competition helped celebrate and support the next generation of Gretsch musicians, an important aspect of the 125th anniversary year has been looking back at the heritage of the fourth-generation, family-owned business since its humble beginnings at a small Brooklyn, N.Y., factory in 1883.
Internationally acclaimed drummer Stephen Ferrone and TV Jones, a word-class pickup maker, joined the Gretsches for the event after conducting music workshops for the public throughout the day.
At the Museum of Making Music, an American popular music museum in Carlsbad, Calif., a spotlight exhibition highlighting the evolution of Gretsch instruments over the years is on display until late February. Gretsch enthusiasts had the opportunity to meet Fred and Dinah Gretsch at a reception held on Oct. 15 at the museum in honor of the company's anniversary.
Additionally, The Gretsch Company partnered with the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Mass., to host a music clinic, led by guitarist and performer Bob Sabellico and Memphis Drum Shop owner and drummer Jim Pettit, for Berklee students, musicians and enthusiasts in August.
"The best part of this entire anniversary year has been personally meeting Gretsch fans from around the world," said Fred Gretsch. "Dinah and I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing fans' experiences and stories about their Gretsch instruments, and we are so thrilled to have shared this special 125th anniversary with them."
Beyond the recent Next Gretsch Greats Unsigned Artist Competition, "Big Event" concert and museum celebrations, other anniversary festivities throughout the year have included the introduction of new lines of limited edition anniversary drums, guitars, and other Gretsch products; a nationwide tour of guitar/drum shops to host Gretsch celebration events with fans across the country; and a trip to Japan to celebrate the anniversary in Tokyo and Osaka.