Gretsch musical instruments are well known for their high-quality and relatively pricey professional guitars. They provide different instruments, including acoustic and electric guitars, drums, basses, and more. It makes one wonder if there are famous musicians who have preferred Gretsch guitars over other brands.
Famous musicians who use or have used Gretsch guitars include Chet Atkins, Duane Eddy, and George Harrison. Many singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists have played Gretsch guitars, with some remaining loyal to the brand, using Gretsch guitars throughout their careers.
Along with Atkins, Eddy, and Harrison, let’s look at other prominent musicians known to prefer Gretsch guitars.
List of Famous Artists Who Play Gretsch
As mentioned above, Gretsch guitars became especially well-known in the mid-1990s, as rock n roll started to become more popular. Understandably, musicians at the time started to become more and more interested in these guitars. As the years have passed and the musical trends have changed, Gretsch has remained an important name in musical instruments, as several contemporary artists still use these guitars.
Gretsch: Some Background Info
Gretsch was founded in the late 1800s by a young German immigrant in the United States. Initially, Gretsch produced drums and tambourines on a relatively small scale. However, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Gretsch moved to a larger production facility, as the owners decided to expand to a larger market and produce a broader range of instruments.
In the 1950s, Gretsch established its reputation as a company that produced solid, high-quality instruments like guitars, drums, and ukuleles. They started to produce several well-known models of electric and acoustic guitars that famous musicians soon noticed.
Although this firm has never changed its name, it did change its ownership in the 1980s, as the Gretsch owner at the time could not find a suitable successor to run the company. This company was owned by Baldwin Pianos at some point, and then at the beginning of the 2000s it was sold to Fender, which retains the rights of producing and distributing Gretsch instruments to this day.
Gretsch guitars in particular, are known as consistently vintage instruments, having maintained an old-school look and build. Their particular look and sound during the 1950s were instrumental in the trajectory of rock n roll music. Some of the most famous Gretsch guitars are the Tennessee Rose, the White Falcon, the 6134 White Penguin, and more.
If you want to know more about these instruments, check out my article about the 10 best Gretsch guitars.
You can’t begin to tell the story of Gretsch guitars without mentioning Chet Atkins. He is regarded as one of the most influential and skilled instrumentalists ever. Atkin’s influence in guitar design and playing styles is significant and evident today, and Gretsch has played a significant part in these achievements.
Atkins was one of the first major musicians who took an interest in Gretsch guitars. He played a few different models and gave his notes to the manufacturers to suggest potential additions or improvements. He became a consultant for the company and in the 1950s, Gretsch released the 6120, a new model that was endorsed by Atkins. This line of guitars was produced until the 1980s.
Chet Atkins is credited with popularizing Nashville-style country music, which transformed this genre, making it more accessible to the general public. He is also known for his particular finger-picking style which has become a staple for many musicians nowadays. Some famous creations of his are “Mr. Sandman”, “Wheels”, and “The Entertainer”.
Duane Eddy is one of the most influential rock n roll guitarists of all time. His signature instrument for a long time was a 1957 Chet Atkins Gretsch 6120 electric guitar. This guitar, endorsed by Chet Atkins, was first released in 1955 and is considered a pretty high-end instrument.
Eddy famously favored this particular guitar for a long time in performances and recordings. Gretsch even issued a special model in the 1980s to honor the 25th year of his musical career. In 1997, after decades of collaborations, Gretsch finally released their Duane Eddy signature guitar, the 6120-DE.
Duane Eddy is known for his particular twang that made his music so unique in the 1950s. His most famous songs are “Rebel-‘Rouser”, “Peter Gunn”, “Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar”, and “You Are My Sunshine”, which featured Willie Nelson. His style was incredibly influential and has been cited as an inspiration by other music legends like Bruce Springsteen and George Harrison.
The influence of Duane Eddy on George Harrison seems to have affected his guitar choices. Harrison is another famous Gretsch fan, as he played several guitars made by this manufacturer throughout his career. During a Beatles performance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, Harrison played a Gretsch Country Gentleman electric guitar, which more than 70 million people saw at the time.
As a result, Gretsch guitars became an instant hit with the public and professional musicians alike. The sales of the Country Gentleman and other Gretsch guitars increased significantly in the next months and years. Harrison kept using other Gretsch models for performances and recording music.
George Harrison is best known as one of the four members of the Beatles, arguably the most famous band of all time. He was the lead guitarist, writing several songs for the group, including “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Here Comes the Sun” ” He continued his career even after the Beatles split, creating several hit songs until he died in 2001.
Malcolm Young is another legendary musician who became well-known for his preference for Gretsch guitars in particular. As a rhythm guitarist for AC/DC, he regularly played several Gretsch models. His sound was always bold and loud, thanks to his incomparable skills and his guitar choices.
Young’s favorite Gretsch guitar was probably a 1963 Gretsch Jet Firebird, which he used for several decades. He named this guitar “The Beast” and modified it regularly, adding and removing parts, and refinishing it with different colors. During his tours, he also used a second Jet Firebird as a second guitar.
Young also played a White Falcon for a while, before discovering his beloved Jet Firebird. He also owned another Jet Firebird with Burns Vibrato, which he modified to make right-handed. Young used all the Gretsch guitars he had during tours and recording sessions. “The Beast”, in particular, has become a legend among his fans.
Malcolm Young was one of the co-founders of AC/DC, along with his younger brother Angus. He is widely regarded as one of the best rhythm guitarists in rock n roll, but also as a great songwriter. Young kept playing with AC/DC until 2014, three years before he passed away.
Bo Diddley is another incredibly important figure that has shaped music as we know it. His particular rhythm and guitar playing style are considered cornerstones of modern music styles, including hip-hop and pop. His preference for Gretsch was famous, especially for the peculiar Twang Machine.
The Twang Machine was a unique guitar released by Gretsch during the 1960s, with Diddley serving as a consultant. Its most interesting feature was its shape, which was completely rectangular. This particular shape was a direct influence of Diddley, who built his first guitar from a rectangular piece of wood.
Bo Diddley was initially a blues and jazz musician but then became instrumental in the transition to rock n roll. Some of his most famous songs include “Pretty Thing”, “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover”, “Who Do You Love”, and “Say Boss Man”. There is a specific musical rhythm named after him, called Bo Diddley beat.
Chris Cornell was another legendary musician who preferred Gretsch guitars during his days with the Soundgarden and Audioslave band and during his solo years. Gretsch guitars played a significant role in his style and sound, especially during the beginning of his career.
Cornell owned several different Gretsch guitars that he used during performances and studio recordings. His collections included two vintage Gretsch Duo Jets and a Silver Jet. The latter was the only guitar Cornell used while recording the album Superunknown with his band at the beginning of the 1990s. This album became the first major commercial success of the band.
Chris Cornell was an accomplished instrumentalist and vocalist. He had a successful career with two of the most important rock bands of the 1990s and 2000s, Soundgarden and Audioslave. His unique guitar-playing style, powerful voice, and complex songwriting made him one of the biggest rock legends of this century.
As a vocalist and guitarist in one of the world’s most famous bands, Bono has played several guitars, including Fenders and Gibsons. However, Gretsch has a special place in his collection and his heart, considering that he has collaborated with this manufacturer several times.
The Gretsch G6136I Bono Irish Falcon is one of Bono’s signature guitars with Gretsch. It was first released in the 2000s and was used by Bono on several tours with his band. Bono has used Other famous Gretsch models throughout his career are a 6119 single pickup electric guitar and Gretsch G5623 Electromatic Center-Block, another Bono Signature.
Bono Vox is one of the biggest musicians in the world. He is mostly known as the vocalist of the Irish band U2. He is mostly known for his vocal abilities and less for his guitar-playing skills, but he still has an impressive collection of instruments and has collaborated with several manufacturers for signature guitars.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is So Special About Gretsch Guitars?
Gretsch guitars are often considered pretty special, because they have maintained a vintage look and feel, with their particular shape and design. Their sound is also pretty distinctive and it’s especially sought after by jazz, blues, and country musicians. These guitars are quite well made and are relatively affordable.
How Do Gretsch Guitars Sound?
Gretsch guitars have a very recognizable sound that can be suitable for all types of genres but is particularly great for blues, country, and rock n roll. These guitars are known for their loud, bold, and crunchy sound, without causing distortion.
The twang is also a common element of Gretsch guitars and has been used as a stylistic choice by several prominent musicians who used these instruments.