Road Test - 6122-1959 Hall of Fame model

Discussion in 'Guitar & Gear Reviews' started by Synchro, Mar 19, 2012.

  1. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    6122-1959 Hall of Fame

    Reviewing guitars can be challenging. The differences between models tend to reside mostly in the details, the substance being fairly consistent. This model of Gretsch, however, is unique within the line and the example I played is a unique, limited production, variant of that model. The model I'm talking about is the G6122-1959 HOF.

    The Ultimate Signature Model

    Buying an artist's signature model is nothing new. It's been going on for years; a manufacturer studies the guitar of a well known artist and then clones every salient detail into a signature model. Fender has perfected such reverse-engineering and it's possible to buy an exact copy, for instance, of Eric Clapton's Strat. Likewise, the Brian Setzer models are functionally the same as the guitars Brian might use on stage. When they decided to clone Chet Atkins' personal Country Gentleman they had their work cut out for them. Chet was a tinkerer with enough electrical and electronic knowledge to devise some interesting modifications. So, with the help of Paul Yandell, Gretsch developed the G6122-1959, a copy of Chet's beloved '59 Gent. A trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame yielded the measurements needed, both physical and electrical.

    Now, if your nickname is Mr. Guitar and you are an endorser for a company like Gretsch you can bet that they will make certain the your copy of your signature guitar is as it should be and there's no doubt in my mind that Chet's original '59 Gent was the center of attention before leaving #60 Broadway. It had a slightly wider neck than the usual Gretsch neck and this made it perfect for finger style playing. Over the years Chet apparently broke out his soldering iron from time to time and changed not only the pickups but also the wiring scheme. The result was a Gent like no other and it's no coincidence that many of Chet's best recordings were made on this guitar.


    I wasn't sure what to expect when I plugged it into the amp and the brightness surprised me greatly. Wide open on both pickups and it reminded me of Brian Setzer's sound. On the bridge pickup alone it was almost like a Telecaster. Did I mention that it was bright sounding? :) Even the neck pickup alone sounded bright to my ear. My other Chet axe, a 6120 DC is much less bright by nature. But bright does not necessarily mean harsh, the sound is smooth even at its brightest.

    The Body & Neck
    The body depth of 2.25" is one I find very comfortable both standing and seated. It's an easy guitar to play on many levels. The neck and fretwork are beautiful and the action can be set to be comfortable and easy to play. The thickness of the neck is moderate, neither thick nor ultra thin but comfortable to my hand. It's probably a bit thinner than the neck on my 6120 DC or most 6120s I've played but not by a lot.

    The frets are fairly large and the fretwork that I saw was beautiful. I really have to hand it the the luthiers that build these guitars, their craftsmanship is top notch. Supporting these frets is a beautiful ebony fingerboard, as dark and consistently colored as anything I've ever seen.

    The Pickups

    The pickups consist of a Supertron Classic in the neck position and what is called a Plus HT in the bridge position. There are two knobs on the lower treble bout, a tone control and a volume-cut for the bridge pickup. A master volume on the upper treble bout and a pickup switch on the upper bass bout complete the electrical controls. The volume cut for the bridge pickup seems to be the key for reproducing Chet's timbre. Just a little roll-off with that control and you are sounding like Mr. Guitar himself.

    But there's more to the pickup story than meets the eye. basically, they are both based upon a TV Jones Classic pickup. The Supertron is a TV Jones Classic with a blade instead of individual pole pieces. The bridge pickup is a TV Jones Classic Plus with a cover that resembles a HiLoTron. There's enough output to get raunchy and to wake up the front end of any amp I could conceive of. But if you back off the master volume ever so slightly it gets über clean in a hurry.

    The Controls

    The control set of the 6122-1959 is unique among Gretsch guitars to the best of my knowledge. This was apparently Chet's idea and I like what he did. There is a three position pickup switch on the upper bass bout and a master volume on the upper treble bout. On the lower treble bout there are two controls, a master tone and a volume control for the bridge pickup.

    Dialing back the bridge pickup slightly with the tone full up is my ticket to Chet's timbre. I've tried this setting in front of others as well and people seem to like that sound.

    Those Tuning Knobs

    When I first saw the "butterbean" tuning knobs I didn't care for the look. After using them my opinion has changed. They work, and work well. Now I have become accustomed to the appearance and think that the guitar would look funny without them. If they're not cool enough for you, remember, Elvis had them on his Gent too.

    The "Chet-Style Arm"

    The Bigsby has a Chet-style wire arm which I'm starting to like. I'm not ready to convert all of my guitars to such an arm but I'm not ruling it out in the future either. The wire arm is conducive to a subtle touch. If you use a Bigsby the same way that Chet did this handle is an asset. The more I use it the more I like it.

    Legend has it that Chet designed this Bigsby handle himself. It definitely works well for fingerstyle playing but I have seen no disadvantage for flat picking either.

    So, What Good is this Guitar?

    Of all the Gretsch guitars I have ever played I would say that this has the most personality, perhaps I should say personalities. After what I've heard about the G6122-1962 I had expected a somewhat darker sounding guitar but that has not been my experience. It's actually a chameleon of sorts going from Brian Setzer bright to very warm with just a few control adjustments. Even with the tone control rolled back it doesn't get muddy sounding, just warm. Beyond the range of timbres it also is a commanding sound. It never sounds thin or strained even when playing pinch-harmonics.

    I have long been attracted to the idea of a guitar I can play for any purpose on any gig. Several of my Gretsch guitars are capable of this although they all have both strengths and weaknesses. My Duo Jet is very strong on Country (Chik'n Pick'n), Surf and early Rock but not as strong on the mellow stuff. Likewise, my 6120 DC is strong on the mellow end but somewhat lacking in definition as a Surf axe. The 6122-1959 probably has a better ratio of strengths to weaknesses then the average Gretsch. It sounds good for Duane Eddy stuff and/or Surf music but it sounds just as good in full-mellow-mode. In between there's a whole lot of guitar sounds on tap. Most of my playing time is spent on both pickups and this instrument really puts its best foot forward in that mode.

    In Summary
    It strikes me as the guitar equivalent of the full-sized Mercedes sedan. It's big and comfortable yet faster and better handling than the average sport coupe. Hanging in a music store it could leave the impression of being an old man's guitar but in fact it can get as raunchy and raucous as most of the classic rock axes hanging nearby. It will feed-back, but standing in front of the amp and off a bit to the right tends to keep it controllable. When I pushed hard into my Deluxe Reverb the overdriven sound was nice and even-handed, not too harsh, not timid either.

    All that having been said, this guitar is a purpose built tool for fingerstyle playing. It has the right feel, the right sound and the right vibe for anyone that wants to add a touch of Mr. Guitar to his or her playing.
     
  2. NickGretsch

    NickGretsch Synchromatic

    937
    Aug 30, 2011
    Cornwall, England
    Fascinating reading as always Synchro.

    Like others who aren't able to see many Gretschs in the flesh let alone special models like this, these reviews are a mine of information and make great reading.

    And thanks for setting up this review area.
     
  3. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    My pleasure to do them. The problem is . . . I keep falling in love with my test subjects. :) I want to add a thank you to Paul for setting up the gear review area here at G-T.
     
    cqscqs likes this.
  4. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    I should mention, in the spirit of openness and full-disclosure, that the HOF I tested happens to be mine. I had an Eddie Cochran model on order bit it was delayed until May so I bought this instead.
     
  5. PacRat

    PacRat Synchromatic

    677
    Jan 4, 2012
    Atlanta, Texas
    I think this is a excellent review, but a better test of this guitar would be to place in the hands of rank amateur . . .since I resemble that remark I think you should send the guitar over and I'll give it a real review after, say ten or more years . . . after all, one should not judge to hastily . . .
     
  6. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    I wouldn't hold my breath. :)
     
  7. desertfox4

    desertfox4 Synchromatic

    534
    Aug 19, 2010
    Cottonwood, AZ.
    Super job on the HOF Gretsch review Synchro. Worthy of the best guitar magazines in any big book store.
    Mr. Guitar's guitar. That's the man and the sound that made me love the guitar
    oh so many years ago.
     
  8. Mark W

    Mark W Country Gent

    Age:
    69
    Jun 6, 2008
    Central Florida
    Mark - Great review!
     
  9. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Thanks. We need to sign you up for one. :)
     
  10. Mark W

    Mark W Country Gent

    Age:
    69
    Jun 6, 2008
    Central Florida
    I have a couple of new acquisitions I may be sharing. I like to get past the honeymoon phase cause quite often after the dust has settled my opinion changes sometimes. PLus there is my big dislike of having to take pics and like they say pics or it didn't happen.
     
  11. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    That's my biggest shortcoming. I write about 'em during the honeymoon and by the time the dust has settled I've already traded up. :)

    That "picture rule" didn't come from me BTW and I don't agree with it. Nonetheless, here's a photo of the Hall of Fame Gent.

    [​IMG]
     
    Groutsch likes this.
  12. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Update: Day 18

    One advantage of reviewing a guitar you own is that you can go beyond your initial impressions and tap into real world experience.

    After 18 days with the guitar I am as impressed with both the sound and the versatility as I was on day number one. At yesterday's rehearsal I was using a Peavey Delta Blues which has a lot more mid range than the Deluxe Reverb I usually use. When we did Surf tunes I still had plenty sparkle and clean highs. The bridge pickup is basically a TV Jones Classic Plus and it's not lacking at all in the high end. Both Country and Surf music come across well on this axe. The Blues sound played through the Delta Blues amp was incredible, nothing special, just the guitar on both pickups playing straight into the amp but the output has filled with character.

    So, after 2 1/2 weeks what have I concluded?

    Pros:
    Verstatile.
    Perfect Chet sound.
    17" body allows for a very hearty voice. Hearty but not muddy.

    Cons:
    It is heavier than average for a Gretsch.
     
  13. 59Anni

    59Anni Electromatic

    26
    Dec 12, 2011
    My thoughts exactly!! Hoping to buy a new Gretsch in the near future and I really enjoy reading what other, obviously talented players, think about their guitars.
     
  14. MitchC

    MitchC Synchromatic

    557
    Feb 8, 2012
    Newbury Park, CA
    My HOF is one of the best guitars I've owned in my 50 years of guitar playing. I can't find a single negative thing to say about it. It's pure JOY to pick it up an play it !
     
  15. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    That's pretty much how I feel. It's probably the best guitar I've ever owned. There's an ironic side to this, when I was first learning to play the Country Gent was a dream guitar. By the time I was old enough to afford an expensive guitar Gretsch was well into the Baldwin era and I had lost respect for the model. Now, 46 years later I have one and it's indeed my dream guitar once again.

    Wow, post #11,000! I needs to get a life. :)
     
  16. MitchC

    MitchC Synchromatic

    557
    Feb 8, 2012
    Newbury Park, CA
    yep, 11,000 posts = 'no life' ;)

    I grew up owning a Gretsch Country Gent double cutaway with the 'cheater' mute thingies (??? I didn't get it at the time) and a Double Anniversary 2 tone.. and my main '65 Stratocaster.

    My dad was WAY into Chet Atkins and insisted that I have a couple Gretschs...(the Beatles had them so I agreed) :rolleyes:

    It's been since then that I've owned Gretsch guitars again. BIG difference ? or not ? Time, experience... I dunno, but these new Gretsch's I have are SO darn good ! New, they feel like vintage guitars, already 'worn in'.. they fit so close and fine like a hi-fashion suit... Classy stuff to say the least.
     
  17. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Yep, it's my opinion that were in the golden age of Gretsch. There are five MIJ Gretsch guitars hanging on the wall as I type and all of them are winners.
     
  18. markguitar

    markguitar Gretschie

    200
    Mar 4, 2013
    Santa Barbara, Ca.
    This was an EXCELLENT review. I Just got my G6122-1959 HOF off a Craigslist ad YESTERDAY!I bought it from a nice guy who lives 45 min so. of me. I have barely had a chance to play it. However, in our first go round, the Gent impressed me immensely. I agree will all of your comments as to the versatility and quality of this fine guitar. They really got it right! The guy that sold it too me said he was "not a good enough player for this guitar"
    I'm not either...Yet! I've been playing since I was 10yrs. old. I'm now 53 and a fair player of various styles (blues, folk, a little Jazz). Well, time to become a really good guitar and learn Chet's (and Merle's) style. I met Mr. Atkins when I was 15. He is now inspiring me again all these years later. This guitar is already kicking my butt! Thank you for this review. It has confirmed my decision to buy this axe and encourages me to hit the instructional travis picking and Jazz guitar videos on youtube. Wish me luck!
     
  19. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Congrats, you landed a real trophy. Mine is about a year old now and I love it as much as ever. I am always amazed by the versatility of this guitar. It holds its own as a Jazz axe and has spank approaching that of a Tele. It is very competent in many areas.
     
  20. pilgrim

    pilgrim Country Gent

    Age:
    73
    Jun 15, 2010
    Mississippi
    Boy, you nailed the review. Now I know why I always grab that one, even though I WANT TO PLAY MY NEW "PEARLY GATES" !
     
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