September - October
Off to the Far East
Gretsch’s anniversary celebration went international in September, when Fred led a touring group to Japan to meet with industry colleagues and Gretsch customers alike. That group included guitar marketing manager Joe Carducci and Gretsch drum artist Stephen Ferrone.
The first stop was Nagoya, which is the home of Gretsch Professional Series guitar production. Says Fred, “We gave an original print of the famous Gretsch ‘Founders Portrait’ to our guitar-building team here. That’s eighty-plus people who have completed at least two years of guitar-building education in the best local tech schools. I was pleased to see four young women in the group . . . and their number seems to be growing.”
Friday, September 12 was Gretsch Day in Tokyo, held at the Grand Palace Hotel. Gretsch’s alliance partner of twenty years in Japan, Kanda Shokai Corporation, organized an event for dealers and trade press in the Tokyo area. Video and slide presentations documented the production of drums and guitars. Then Stephen Ferrone gave a demonstration performance on Gretsch drums, and Joe Carducci joined in for a jam session on Gretsch guitars.
Two hours from Tokyo by bullet train lies Osaka, where Gretsch 125th Anniversary Night was held at the Rain Dog Club on Saturday, September 13. Then it was back to Tokyo on the 14th in preparation for Stephen Ferrone’s drum clinic on the 15th. Fred Gretsch comments, “September 15 is a national holiday in Japan, called ‘Respect to Elders Day.’ Makes me feel right at home...”
Ferrone’s clinic on the 15th was held at the Eggman Club in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. “Stephen put on a whale of a show,” says Fred. “He began with a solo, and then played four songs from his latest album. Halfway through the performance he answered questions from the audience. Since each remark had to be translated, this ended up being a patient labor of love. A high point in the Q&A was when Stephen invited the questioner to come on stage and play along with him—on a second drum kit—to illustrate the point being made. The last set showcased playing drums with bass and lead guitar, with two top session players on hand to play four more songs with Stephen. Bottom line: great power and groove.”
And the Winner Is...
In September came the announcement of the winning bands in the Next Gretsch Greats Unsigned Artist Competition. After music lovers from around the world listened to the nearly 900 entries, they cast 55,000 votes to select the top ten finalists. Those finalists were then considered by a panel of celebrity judges including Stephen Ferrone, Chuck Leavell (touring keyboardist for The Rolling Stones), Keith Scott (guitarist for Bryan Adams), and Fred Gretsch. Ultimately the judges chose the three prize winners based on stage presence, performance/sound quality, and press kit quality.
The grand prize winner was Colourslide, an indy-rock quartet from Gainesville, Florida. Along with $15,000 in Gretsch drums and guitars, they earned the opening spot at Gretsch's 125th Anniversary Big Event concert. Lansdowne, the first-prize winner from Boston, Massachusetts, won more than $5,000 in Gretsch instruments, while the second-prize winner, London Egg of New York City, walked away with $1,250 in Gretsch gift certificates.
Hall of Famers Themselves
September 20 was a special day for Fred and Dinah Gretsch, as they became the first musical instrument manufacturers to be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. The couple was honored with the Mary Tallent Pioneer Award. As inductees, the Gretsches joined the likes of Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, R.E.M., The Allman Brothers Band, and industry professionals like music attorney Joel Katz and record label owner Antonio “L.A.” Reid. The 30th annual awards banquet, held at Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, recognized those who have made significant contributions to Georgia's music industry.
“Fred and Dinah Gretsch have been integral patrons and partners since 1994,” says Lisa Love, executive director of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. “They played a tremendous role in our early fundraising efforts, which allowed us to open the museum in 1996. Today, Dinah is an active member of our Foundation board, and both of them continue to support our mission to celebrate Georgia's rich musical heritage and support our artists and industry professionals.”
In honor of Gretsch’s 125th anniversary, The Georgia Music Hall of Fame hosted an exhibit aptly titled “That Great Gretsch Sound.” It featured a display of historic and current Gretsch replica guitars and drums used by musical legends such as 1995 inductee Chet Atkins, George Harrison, Brian Setzer, and the late Bo Diddley.
On the Road Again . . . Again
October saw Fred and Dinah on the road yet again, this time visiting several drum shops in the Southwest, as well as the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, California and the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Washington. Then, in early November, it was off to Austin, Texas for the annual Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC).
At PASIC, Fred, Dinah, and John Palmer presented the Gretsch history to an enthusiastic audience of drummers, educators, and fans. Immediately following, Stephen Ferrone delivered one of his great clinics to a packed house. Stephen then brought on the Steve Bruton band for selections showcasing his patented drumming groove with first-rate blues guitar and vocals.