So it was February, 1964. I was sharing an acoustic guitar with my sister, and my main influence was the thriving folk scene. Peter, Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio, The Weavers, these were my heroes, but was all about to change. The fabled "British Invasion" was about to begin in earnest. The Beatles would be taking the stage of the Ed Sullivan show.
John, Paul, George and Ringo caught my attention that night, but for me there was a fifth star. George Harrison's guitar. It was gorgeous! I would learn later it was a 1962 Gretsch 6122 Country Gentleman. "Country Gentleman" by the way, was the nickname of Chet Atkins who designed much of the instrument - nice work Chet. But I was not yet into my teens, and a guitar like that was one that I could only dream of. That a guitar could cost into the four-digit realm was inconceivable to me, but so it was... My love affair with this guitar would have to wait.
Eventually I reached adulthood, but by the time I could afford such a beastie, Gretsch had stopped making them, and the Country Gentleman had moved into the category of rare, high-priced collector's item. I would still have to wait.
The Gretsch company fell out of family hands when none of Fred Gretsch's kids wanted to run the business. It was sold to Baldwin, makers of fine pianos, but as it turned out they were utterly clueless about guitars. But when Baldwin realized that they weren't going to make it in the rock and roll business and looked for buyers, the Gretsch family was there - it seems Fred's grandchildren were most enthusiastic.
Eventually, Gretsch made reissues of some of their vintage guitars. Oddly, I didn't much like the reissue of the George Harrison guitar, called a Country Classic because Chet Atkins had my now moved to Gibson and took his nickname with him. But when the Country Classic II came out, a reissue of the 1963 model (looking much the same) I bought one.
As much as I'd wanted it, I wound up having a love-hate relationship with that guitar. At my first performance with it, I discovered that it had a free-standing bridge, held in place only by the tension of the strings. It slid and I was thankful I had brought my cheap backup Tele to the gig.
I quickly had the bridge anchored, but found the wiring to be quite finicky, often creating embarrassing noise or cutting out entirely as I worked the volume controls. I had it fixed several times and the last one seemed to take.
But I had traded the cheap Tele in for a higher end model and found that I generally preferred it to the Gretsch. It was simply more versatile and dependable. I was finding that if I brought the
Shin the Musician
Last update: October 31, 2019
The John Shinnick Web Site
Time to part company?
two guitars to a gig, I'd play the Tele far more than the beautiful Gretsch. Then I left my commercial band and began only playing at church, where I've used the Tele exclusively. Taking the above pic is the first time the Gretsch has been out of its case in a year.
I have another guitar in the same position except that it never did find its way into regular use. I'm looking at selling both. I simply don't see the point of keeping them. I've never been a collector or a sentimental fool when it comes to instruments. Our recent brush with fires makes me feel that I have too much stuff anyway. And room? My house is simply too small to keep things I don't use.
But it's so beautiful! And I wanted it so much twenty years ago. Time and perspectives change. Back then I didn't have two saxophones that called out to be played.
The recording, lyrics, and back story to "My Brain Is Too Small", a song I wrote and recorded in 1990.