1962/2018 Gretsch Tennessean Super-Modded Hollowbody Electric Guitar

Update 2019: After using this all last year, it's changed a bit over time. I've updated the blog post entirely with new pics, a new video, and new description to suit.

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.

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.

Work included: fitting a new fretboard (I kept the zero fret idea but changed the scale from 24 1/2" to 24 1/8"), plugging holes in the top and blacking it out via India ink (it looks a lot better in person -- sort of a muscle car satiny-flat black), quickly staining the back and sides, and finishing the whole thing in a wipe-on poly that feels smooth as a baby's bum. Originally I had a humbucker and standard-style tailpiece installed, but after a couple months I swapped to a Korean-made Alnico P90 pickup, repro Bigsby-style wound-3rd aluminum adjustable saddle/bridge, Jazzmaster-style "buzzstop," and the original Gretsch-branded Bigsby whammy unit. For a while I had the original tuners (with one not-original-but-close machine) on it, but eventually I replaced them with the excellent Grover 18:1 nickel Sta-Tites. These are many-times superior and hold true and steady.

I fretted the neck with jumbo stock that feels brilliant and while the neck is very stable in service, the mix of half-figured/half-plain wood in the neck means that at tension on the treble side in frets 1-2 there's an inherent teensy upbow (1/64" or less) and in the fretboard extension there's a 1/64" drop-off after the 12th fret going to the end of the board. Playability it excellent and if I didn't tell you about this stuff, you would never notice it.

Action is spot-on at hair-over 1/16" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret, strung with D'Addario EXL115W -- wound-3rd 11s in gauges 49w, 38w, 28w, 21w, 14, 11. I wouldn't go any lighter on this as the neck likes to have a little bit of tension over 10s to keep it from going into backbow near the nut.

Scale length: 24 1/8"
Nut width: 1 11/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 7/16"
String spacing at saddle: 2 1/16"
Body length: 20 1/2"
Lower bout width: 15 5/8"
Upper bout width: 11 3/4"
Side depth: 2" sides, 3" overall
Body wood: ply maple
Neck wood: 2-piece maple
Fretboard: rosewood
Neck shape: 10-12" radius board with slim-C rear profile
Bridge: one-piece Bigsby-style adjustable aluminum
Nut: zero fret with bone spacer nut
Weight: 5 lb 15 oz

Condition notes: refinished, old repairs, new repairs, much non-original hardware, some original hardware (including the glorious Bigsby and the G-knobs), and generally funky but wonderful. Think of this has a hopped-up street-legal muscle car.

It comes with: its original, battered-to-bits hard case. 

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

The Alnico-magnet, Korean-made P90 is a really good-sounding one that I'd set aside in a drawer  for safe-keeping after pulling it out of a guitar I'd sold years ago. It has a really "old-ears" tone but mixed with a bit more upper-mids bite. I was playing this with Pyramid flatwound strings 52w-12 for 4 months or so and it was like instant '50s jazz-vibe.

The filled control holes are a little bit blacker than the rest of the finish under glaring light, but most of the worn/distressed areas in the finish (from use, really, now) are not obvious under normal lighting.

The bridge has plenty of height adjustment up/down and the "buzzstop" downpressure bar allows tailoring of whatever back-angle you want to put on it. I keep the angle fairly shallow for a smooth, vintage feel to the Bigsby.

Speaking of the Bigsby -- this thing feels 100% beautiful. It's relaxed and wobbles perfectly.

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 orange cap for the tone, 500k pots, and heavy-duty shielded/braided Gibson-style wire used for everything.

I love me some 18:1 Sta-Tites.

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.

Above is the serial number stamped in the headstock's top edge.

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.

I did use it all last year for to-and-from gigs and receiving tips -- so at least it has some legs left.

I'll let the next owner decide whether to Sharpie-out my name or not...!