1950's Gretsch employee...

IPLAYLOUD

Electromatic
Aug 2, 2011
77
Long Island
I recently found out that the mother of a woman I know worked at the Gretsch Factory from about 1950 through 1954.
As I spoke to my friend on the phone, her Mom was telling her how she made "Guitars and Mandolins and Drums and all kinds of things", and that every Tuesday, the bigwigs went to Peter Lugar's Steak House down the street for a lonnnnng lunch.

I hope to interview the woman in the near future. She was very surprised that anyone would be interested today in what the made so long ago.
 

sligo ray

Synchromatic
Jun 17, 2011
502
New Zealand
She could tell a few tales, no doubt! That should be of real interest. I think we also need to talk about the tele in your avatar... interesting bigsby set up. Any chance of pics?:)
 

jepa

Gretschie
Aug 6, 2011
124
Chicago
That would be very interesting. I'd love to read your interview if you get the chance to speak with her.
 

BarryMClark

Country Gent
Apr 4, 2011
1,957
Atlanta
I would be very interested as well!

I recently went to the old Gibson factory (where Heritage now operates) and the history there is amazing. The folks that run Heritage were in the old Gibson factory as far back as the mid 50's. They things they have seen and done is just something. I could listen to stuff for days.

Along those same lines, I am sure she could hold my attention for extended periods of time, too! I just LOVE guitar history stories.
 

IPLAYLOUD

Electromatic
Aug 2, 2011
77
Long Island
She did many things, from dipping skins into water before stretching them onto drums to final inspections on Guitars.
I asked her how many guitars actually got through QC the first time and out the door, and she said "Not many. Nobody stayed long enough to get really good at building, so there was always something wrong, plus, there was always somebody taking one off the wall and banging it on the corner of a table!".
She has been ill, I'm waiting until she feels better to see me.
 

knavel

Country Gent
Dec 26, 2009
1,127
London, England
That's quite interesting already to learn that a person could work in different divisions/departments (drums and guitars in her case).

In addition to 'radius checkers' there wouldn't be anyone anymore who dips skins in water and stretches them over the hoop (tucking heads) because that is a technique for calfskin heads. Heads are all basically mylar or other plastic now. It's interesting also to learn that Gretsch made their own heads at the time and didn't have them made by a 3rd party.

I look forward to hearing more. Hope she feels better soon.
 

Wayne Gretschzky

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Aug 27, 2008
3,637
East Coast
I actually provided IPLAYLOUD a photo of the QC inspection tag that resides with my 1953 Duo jet. The green "OK cards" had not been introduced yet, and this small tag was initialed by several people, presumably checking different aspects of the guitar. The woman in question, seems to recognize at least one of the sets of initials... how cool is that, if I can document the name of one of the people who inspected my guitar 58 years ago!
 

IPLAYLOUD

Electromatic
Aug 2, 2011
77
Long Island
I asked her if she ever met anyone famous, she said the only one she remembers was Louis Bellson. He stopped in regularly to "see how his drums were coming along". He always went into the factory and said hello to her and the workers. She said he wore the nicest suits she had ever seen.
 

knavel

Country Gent
Dec 26, 2009
1,127
London, England
From that video series---I didn't know that the drums were made in a different building than 60 Broadway. So it looks like your friend would have worked in more than one place?
 

IPLAYLOUD

Electromatic
Aug 2, 2011
77
Long Island
I asked her about another building, she only remembers working in the big factory. They may have done Drum work in both. She said the place also smelled bad when they did the chrome plating (before it was farmed out, I suppose).
 

Wayne Gretschzky

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Aug 27, 2008
3,637
East Coast
Gretsch didn't move the drum operation out of the 7th floor of the 60 Broadway building until the guitar boom started (60s), and they needed the space for the guitars. The drums went down the road, and I believe they even did some in a Queens location.
 

knavel

Country Gent
Dec 26, 2009
1,127
London, England
Gretsch didn't move the drum operation out of the 7th floor of the 60 Broadway building until the guitar boom started (60s), and they needed the space for the guitars. The drums went down the road, and I believe they even did some in a Queens location.

Yes, clearly I made the mistake of listening to Fred Gretsch in that video. Gretsch stopped making its own drum shells sometime in the mid 50s when it went from 3 ply to 6 ply, the latter being made by Jasper in Indiana. Surely that must have freed up a lot of space at the big factory and it makes sense the production was eventually moved offsite completely as Gretsch's drums didn't take off comparatively like the guitars in the 60s (which helps explain why the drums are generally the most expensive in the vintage drum world).

When this person was there in the early 50s it was still a vertical production, as evidenced by the fact they were still tucking their own calf drum heads.
 


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