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On May 24,1984, 40 years ago today,I bought my Gretsch for $300.
I had just turned 17 two weeks earlier. I had been looking for a Gretsch guitar for a few months at that point. I would leave school during lunch and walk to the drugstore to get the latest copy of The Swap Sheet. It was a local buy and sell paper. Prior to this, I had sold my 12 foot aluminum canoe to get the money. I could not find a Gretsch anywhere… There was a kid at school who had one that his father gave him. I went to his house to see it with cash in hand. It was one of those cranberry colored Tennessean models from the 60’s. He also had a Sears Silvertone amp. He would not sell it to me because it was his dad’s and had sentimental value.
Up until that point, all I had were two cheap acoustic guitars.

Finally I started calling every music store in the western New York area. One shop said he had one for sale. I did not care what model or what color it was as long as it was a Gretsch. I knew that all the “cats” bands had them along with Cliff Gallup and Eddie Cochran.
The guy at the music store said it had been there for a while. In 1984, there were not many people looking for a Gretsch guitar.
The guitar is an early 1963 Chet Atkins Nashville. It came with two Gibson hum bucker pickups. The tuning knobs had been replaced (Schaller). The first few years that I had it, I did not do much to it.


One of the first things I did was remove the back pickup selector switch. Not only was this feature useless, but it was in the way of strumming and I was constantly turning myself off if I hit it accidentally.
Next I had the guitar rewired so that only the main volume was connected.The other two tone knobs are disconnected. I took the mute thing out witch again was just useless.
Around 1991, I was trying to get more sustain out of it. I had a local guitar tech put three solid maple blocks inside under the bridge area. I also put a used Seymour Duncan pickup in the back. This was a great thing. I could switch from a mellow chorus type sound to an overdrive sound depending on the song or part in the song.
Somewhere I lost the cap for my on/off switch which I replaced with a .22 caliber shell casing. It looks just the same. The guitar was re fretted in Japan in 1993, and my Melita bridge was worked on there also.


The airlines have damaged my guitar twice (British airways both times) They have also lost the guitar for two weeks. I never want to check the guitar in and always try and take in on board. Years ago this was no problem but now it’s a problem every time. The airports in USA like to take my guitar all apart, removing the back panel to look at the maple blocks. They will say something stupid like, “those are not original” (tsa).


This is my main guitar, I take it to every show. There have only been a few shows where I have used something different. In those cases it was because the airlines had lost it. I have used it on every album by The Quakes. The only real spare guitar I have is a 2001 Gretsch sparkle jet -f hole that I fitted with a Bigsby. Its a good back up but I only have it with me for USA shows.
I remember in the early days of The Quakes in Europe everyone wanted to play my guitar and check it out. Back then Gretsch guitars were rare in Europe and very expensive. It was something special. Just because I have had this guitar for 40 years does not nessisarly mean that I know how to play it :-)
I plan on keeping this one for another 40 years ;-)

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