That Great Gretsch Sound!
Since 1883, when 27-year-old Friedrich Gretsch founded his little shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., making banjos, drums and tambourines, The Gretsch Company has grown to produce some of the world’s greatest drums and guitars over the span of four generations.
With its emphasis on hand-craftsmanship and commitment to quality, Gretsch has pioneered new designs and manufacturing techniques, winning endorsements from some of the music industry’s most respected artists, including Chet Atkins, Bono, Charlie Watts, Neil Young and Phil Collins.
Gretsch also owns and manufactures some of the other most popular and historic music industry products and brands including Bigsby® Vibratos and Sho-Bud® Pedal Steel Guitars.
History of That Great Gretsch Sound
“That Great Gretsch Sound” is the anthem that began when Friedrich Gretsch, an immigrant from Mannheim, Germany, founded a small shop in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1883. Before dying unexpectedly in 1895, Friedrich Gretsch created a dynasty that would last to this day and beyond.
He passed away while on a trip to his homeland, leaving the company to the enterprising mind of his fifteen-year-old son, Fred Gretsch, who was still in knickers at the time. Energetic as he was enterprising, Fred Gretsch, Sr. built the business on a reputation for precision and quality. Two decades after assuming direction as “the boy in knickers,” he moved the operation to a mammoth ten-story building at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn. From the Brooklyn-based headquarters he responded to the growing demand for more specialized instruments.
In 1935 Duke Kramer joined the company. Kramer provided valued counsel to the company for 70 years as the “string” that tied the generations together. He recalled, “that distinctive sound was our product–the sound that energized the market for decades.”
Fred Gretsch, Sr. retired from the company in 1942, his attire now the pressed suits of a successful businessman. Gretsch’s sons Fred, Jr. and William “Bill” — both of whom had been active in the business since 1927 — were well prepared to assume leadership.
Fred Gretsch, Jr. managed the operations briefly before leaving the company to serve with distinction as a commander in the Navy. Bill Gretsch stayed to run the family business. Duke Kramer recalls that “Bill was a man with a subtle talent for inspiring people to do their best and a genius when it came to constructive counsel. His sense of humor was irresistible. When he passed away in 1948, a legion of individuals felt they lost their best friend.”