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Discussion in 'THE Gretsch Discussion Forum' started by Desmosedici, Jul 8, 2021.
My Rancher 12-string is an Indonesia Samick. Nice guitar.
This explains a lot, Greg. Somehow, I knew that hallucinogenics would surface, sooner or later.
I'm all over this, Higgy... You want it left handed, or wrong handed?
It is true Gibson owns a factory in China and all they make is Epiphone, Kramer, And a few other Gibson brands. Video is up on YouTube about that.
So, Gretsch isn't Fender is settled. Lol
Lots of things are like that. I’ve worked in appliance, diaper, and popcorn factories that all made different competing brands of their products even though the factory was owned by a specific product company.
You know, Higgy... I have always wanted a caddie green Club myself... Sigh... I need a better carving knife.
With Ford Engines. No more the Daimler V12 but a Ford V8.
In addition to the financial support and marketing aspects of the "arrangement", the FMIC instruments are made differently, and arguably better, than the FGE (Fred Gretsch Enterprises) era instruments, at least the White Falcon models are this way and I think some of the other models are as well.
I have an FGE era 6136 (my "avatar") which I bought new in 1996 (in case you haven't read my rant before) and an FMIC 7594 from 2004, both made in Japan. The FGE era Falcons do not have the same shape as the current models, and it is easy to tell them apart. Look at the upper bout on a 6136 White Falcon from the FGE era - it is noticeably flatter than on the later FMIC 6136 models (which are more true to the original shape). The FGE era Falcons have Grover Rotomatic style tuners rather than the Grover Imperial Stairstep tuners of the FMIC era (the noteworthy exception is the Billy Duffy Falcon which has the big Grover Imperials with Kidney Bean style tuner keys as it is a reissue of Duffy's Baldwin era Falcon where those keys were commonplace). Either will keep the guitar in tune, but the Imperial Stairstep tuners were on the early Falcons (as far as I can tell). My FGE 6136 has the "humpblock" inlays, but without the engravings, I think most of the later Falcons have the humpblocks with engravings, maybe some don't... The FGE era Falcons, as I understood it, have a 5 ply top on them - the FMIC era Falcons have a 3 ply top (more like the originals?) which should resonate better than the 5 ply top. The FGE era Falcons (again, as I understood it) have ceramic magnet Filtertron pickups whereas the FMIC Falcons have AlNiCo magnet Filtertron pickups. I suspect there are additional differences in the wiring harnesses, switches, and potentiometers as well.
So I am guessing that Fender had more to do than just marketing and financial support in the "arrangement". I think they also had an influence in redesigning at least the Falcon models to improve them. I also think the Falcons were not the only models to receive this treatment as I've seen FGE 6120s which visually seem to fit the "FGE" profile. Don't get me wrong, I love my FGE 6136 and won't part with it (yes, I know that's from a Fender slogan), just pointing out some of what I understood to be the differences between FGE and FMIC guitars.
If anyone has additional information to share on this subject, or corrections to the above, I would appreciate the input!
When FMIC joined the Gretsch family, IIRC, Mike Lewis from FMIC was in charge of getting many things "back to vintage."
Body shapes and correct head stock sizes started showing up in the Gretsch model line up.
FMIC had the manpower/engineering group to actually change these specs, and builders follow specs.
Electrical components got upgraded and TV pups became standard on certain models.
Remember, factories build guitars to called out specs, not pics. Pre FMIC Gretsches and post FMIC Gretsches are different animals.
IMO, this FMIC contract with Gretsch was a perfect match to get a better, and close to vintage shapes/features "on the streets."
It was a win/win/win situation for all. More sales for Gretsch, more profit for Fender, and a better Gretsch instrument for players.
I remember when my Dad bought his first Gretsch (a 2000 6120-60) he paid over £2000 in 2001. From what I remember, I was 8 at the time, Gretschs really weren't all that common over here back then and I know this one was imported by a retailer over here specifically for him.
I think the FMIC deal has been a great way to make these instruments more affordable and more easily available to the average player. It's certainly driven down the prices on the second hand market and the new guitars are not unachievable. Between us, we now have 22 Gretschs - 6 of which are pre FMIC. I've seen people slate the quality of the Pre FMIC guitars, but the ones we have here are smooth playing, quality instruments.
Great comment. FMIC returned their lineup to pre CBS specifications by purchasing older guitars and taking careful measurements of everything that could be measured without destroying the instruments. Soon thereafter, they began selling a series of guitars which were said to be as close as possible to vintage specifications, and these were excellent instruments.
Over the years, Fender gained skill in such reverse engineering and advances in technology made it possible to probe more deeply into a vintage instrument without harming it in any way. I believe that CAT Scans are routinely used, these days.
In the late ‘80s, Fred Gretsch III decided to do the impossible, and he brought Gretsch back from the dead, first with the Traveling Wilburys model, which had as much in common with a Danalectro as it did with any Gretsch. But it got the money flowing, and Fred III did something very logical; he contracted with various factories to make Gretsch guitars.
The first guitars were decent enough, but used 5-ply laminate instead of 3-ply and the body shape was slightly off-spec. However, considering the relatively limited resources he had to work with, Fred III did quite well. I played one of these guitars (a 6120j in the mid ‘90s, and it was pretty decent. The sound wasn’t bad and even though the Filtertrons what ceramic magnets, I couldn’t complain. Frankly, I liked the sound better than the HS Filters of today. Ceramic ≠ bad, it just means different, and these Gretsch ceramic Filtertrons had a pretty decent voice, albeit not exactly like a ‘50s Filter.
A lot of people expected Fred to ultimately fail. The mid ‘90s 6120 that I played was bought by its owner, because he expected that the reborn Gretsch would fade out of existence, but it didn’t. The Brian Setzer endorsement helped and the pre FMIC Setzer models were pretty good guitars.
I don’t know the genesis of the marketing, distribution and manufacturing deal between Gretsch and Fender, but it made a lot of sense for both parties. It gave FMIC a solid foothold into the archtop market with brand recognition and it gave Gretsch access to the sales and manufacturing assets of a larger company. Best of all, FMIC had the expertise and experience gained through two decades of reverse engineering the instruments from their past, and they were able to derive the proper specifications of vintage Gretsch guitars with a high degree of precision. The result were improved instruments, with a much better neck joint design and, one of my favorite features, the rediscovery of “anti-feedback bracing”, now called trestle bracing; this last item having come about by using a CAT Scan of a ‘59 6120, I believe Brian Setzer’s own guitar.
IMHO, this partnership has proven to be a roaring success. Gretsch guitars of the FMIC era are great quality instruments and the price is reasonable. They now have a product line which is basically three tiered, and the examples I’ve seen show a dedication to quality that is exceptional. Of the four Gretsch in my collection, three were bought sight-unseen, and I had no disappointments.
Or they could have ended up just Gretsch in name only and been a real cheap brand, and that would have been terrible
Definitely. As has been pointed out, Mike Lewis was the guy from FMIC who played a big part in getting the specs much more vintage-correct on the reissues, which also translated over in varying degrees to nearly all the product line. But to be fair, Gretsch had already improved a whole lot in that direction from 1989 to 2002. But FMIC's involvement is when they started to really get some of the finer points right, as well as general improvements like better electronics.
The "FGE" profile was really the "Baldwin" profile. When Gretsch came back in 1989, most things, i.e. hollowbody silhouettes, Jet headstocks, had a decidedly Baldwin look. Given the recent Julien's auction, it's clear that Fred Gretsch still had possession of a lot of Baldwin-era jigs and tooling. Total speculation, but in retrospect, I would guess that's a big part of how the early modern Gretsches wound up with a Booneville, rather than Brooklyn, aesthetic.
Aye,they only had the Baldwin jigs when they reintroduced the guitars in 89,as they lost all the Brooklyn stuff in the few fires they had.
The smartest thing a family business can do is have professionals operate it, not just family.
Thanks to all for the comments regarding the differences between pre/post FMIC Gretsches, it's great to learn something new about these guitars that we all love.
Fender does not "own" Gretsch. In late 2002, Gretsch and the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation reached an agreement giving Fender control over marketing, production, and distribution of guitars, with the Gretsch family retaining ownership of the company. The history of Gretsch guitars is long and varied, but ownership today is with the Gretsch family and Fred Gretsch is the president. He influences the design and specs.