5/13/2018

1962/2018 Gretsch Tennessean Super-Modded Hollowbody Electric Guitar





This guitar came to me as a stripped, damaged, somewhat-repaired husk with many of its original parts and fittings but not all of them. What I did with it will probably enrage most collector-folks, but I don't particularly care as they would not have been interested in the first place. The fact is that a guitar that has to be refinished (as it came bare) and needed as much as this does only has value as a playable, cool old box anyhow. I've parted-out much of its original equipment on Reverb but it does have its original tuners and a couple of original knobs. As an interesting aside -- while the tailpiece is not original, it did come off of a 1930s Gretsch.

The serial number planted in the headstock's top edge (49399) tells us it's a 1962 guitar to begin with. It has the closed f-holes (as in -- no f-holes) of a period Tennessean and despite not having the model-name-block at the headstock, its original complement of 2x Hi-Lo Tron pickups, Bigsby whammy, rocker bridge top, crazy wiring harness, and vague remnants of a "dark mahogany" or "dark walnut" finish tells us it had to be a Tennessean when it was made.

My work on it included fitting a new fretboard (I kept the zero fret idea but changed the scale from 24 1/2" to a straight 24"), plugging holes in the top and blacking it out via India ink (it looks a lot better in person than in the harsh-light pics), quickly staining the back and sides, and finishing the whole thing in a wipe-on poly that feels smooth as a baby's bum. I then fished-out a tailpiece, rosewood adjustable archtop-style bridge, and Seymour Duncan US-made SH-1B humbucker pickup for mounting.

I fretted it with jumbo stock and while the neck is very stable in service, it had an inherent backbow in frets 1-3 that I dealt with via jacking the string gauges up -- this is wearing a very "jazz" set of 56w-13 strings with a wound G. 54w-12 would also probably be enough tension to keep the neck straight, too, and the truss works as it should. After the 12th fret, the neck drops about 1/32" overall (by the time it gets to the last fret) away from the rest of the board, so acrobatics above the 17th fret aren't as smooth as they otherwise would be, though you can hear in the clip that I'm not struggling at all. This all sounds very complicated, but the plain truth is that it's a joy to play -- the big frets feel great and it has a super-fast, slim-C neck shape that lets you play all over the place unencumbered.

Specs are: 24" scale, 1 11/16" nut width, 1 7/16" string spacing at the nut, 2" spacing at the bridge, 15 5/8" lower bout width, 12" upper bout, and 2" side depth. The new rosewood fretboard has a 9.5" radius and pearl dots with a thin-C profile on its rear. The neck is two-piece maple (one side of which is nice and flamey) while the whole body is made from ply maple.



The original trussrod cover had to have layers upon layers of green and yellow paint scraped from it. The bone nut is new.



This Duncan pup sounds excellent -- it has a lot of clarity and zip if you want it while still sounding classic and relaxed. It's not over-hot and perfectly suitable to older styles. In a weird twist, I actually have it mounted into the body via wedging it in place with duct-tape pads. I couldn't use normal screw-adjusting wings because the braces for the top are right in the way. This sounds silly but works jut fine. The trim ring is thus just for show, but does sit well with the binding.


The rosewood bridge is cut-down from its original height, but has room to adjust up and down, no problem.


An original pair of Gretsch knobs are not a bad thing to have.

I've got to say, though, that fishing the wiring harness to where it needed to go was a bit of a pain. My new wiring harness is just a simple volume/tone rig with a .22 cap for the tone, 500k pots, and heavy-duty shielded/braided Gibson-style wire used for everything.




The G-string tuner is a replacement and has a chomed-plastic rather than actual chromed-metal button as this didn't have its full set.


A close look at the heel shows that someone spent a lot of work reconstructing it some time ago. It's stable and good to go, however.






Hah! My ground wire's end is peeking-out at the edges of the tailpiece. Oh well.


It has its original hard case for what it's worth -- I had to duct-tape every edge and all of the remaining covering to keep it together. It'll serve, though, for light or medium use. Amazingly, it's not super-musty and gross. It's just shot.


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