Celebrating A Double Anniversary

May 16, 2013

Any anniversary celebration is special. But when it’s a double anniversary, that’s extra-special. And when one of those anniversaries marks 130 years…well, that’s unique.

So it was with the Gretsch 130th Anniversary celebration, which was held this past May 4 at Randy Wood’s Pickin’ Parlor in Bloomingdale, Georgia. The location was appropriate, since Bloomingdale is just “down the road a bit” from Pooler, which is where my wife Dinah and I reside. And the Gretsch USA Custom Drums factory is located just across the river, in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

The setting for the event had a somewhat rural feel, with a big white tent covering the table area and the aroma of authentic southern barbecue in the air. And despite grey skies and occasional showers, nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the 100-plus guests in attendance.

The event was made all the more special by the fact that Dinah and I were also celebrating our wedding anniversary. Friends, business associates, and a substantial array of family members were on hand to help us commemorate this unique occasion. In return, we presented our guests with personalized I.D. badges on classic Gretsch-logo lanyards. Each badge also contained a special 130th Anniversary pin as a token of our appreciation.

Prior to dinner a benediction was delivered by our good friend Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Archabbot Nowicki is also a good friend of the Rooney Family, who are the owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers. That latter connection allowed him to obtain photos taken by the Steelers’ photographer of the Rolling Stones performing at the 2006 Super Bowl. Stones drummer Charlie Watts is the longest-running Gretsch drum endorser, and Dinah and I were thrilled to receive those photos.

Next we all enjoyed a down-home barbecue meal provided by Mac’s Place (attached to the Pickin’ Parlor). Dessert consisted of three special cakes: two in celebration of the Gretsch Company’s anniversary and one for Dinah’s and my wedding anniversary.

Gretsch’s 130th anniversary is as much about family as it is about business—a fact that I was honored to relate in my comments at the celebration. I’m a fourth-generation member of the family business. My grandfather first brought me to the factory in the 1950s. I started working full-time in 1965, and I’m still here some forty-eight years later. Dinah’s business skills and warm, outgoing personality have made her an integral part of the Gretsch operation—and my indispensable partner—for thirty-four years. And for more than nineteen years Dinah and I have been ably supported by our daughter Lena Thomas, who is a skilled administrator and operations guru. Between Lena, Dinah, and me, that’s just over 100 combined years of “sweat equity” in the family business. And I’m pleased to report that the sixth Gretsch generation includes sixteen-plus grandchildren, many of whom are pursuing educational tracks that will help them continue the family legacy for years to come.

Video of Fred Gretsch address:

Of course, no Gretsch event would be complete without music, and the 130th Anniversary celebration was no exception. Once we all finished dinner and dessert, we moved into the Pickin’ Parlor—a stage venue that brought performers and audience together in an intimate setting.

Entertainment for the event was provided by the husband-and-wife team of Richard Smith (guitar) and Julie Adams (cello), and by an exciting trio consisting of guitar phenom Joe Robinson backed by bassist Marcelo Bakos and drummer Tito Pascoali. Joe’s original music ranged from Zappa-esque progressive rock to funk, reggae, and pop. Though it was only his fourth gig with the band, Tito Pascoali handled the drum chores with skill and musicality—and wowed the crowd with an impressive solo during the group’s finale. (He particularly wowed Gretsch USA Drums operations manager Paul Cooper and factory employee Tanya Munn, who were in attendance at the event, as he performed on a green Gretsch kit that had been a gift to Fred and Dinah Gretsch from KMC Music commemorating the tenth anniversary of KMC’s partnership with Gretsch Drums.)

Good company, great food, and terrific musical entertainment...what more could you ask for to celebrate the history—and the ongoing legacy—of the Gretsch Company, the Gretsch Family, and “That Great Gretsch Sound.”

Click here to see additional photos from the Gretsch 130th Anniversary Celebration.

Video clips from the evening’s entertainment may be seen at The Gretsch Company's YouTube channel

All photos by Rick Van Horn except as indicated.

Fred Gretsch (shown at center with wife Dinah) represents the fourth generation of the Gretsch family business. The generations continue with (from left) cousin Paul Getchell, granddaughter Abbey Gretsch, grandson Will Gretsch, daughter Lena Thomas, and grandson Logan Thomas.

Fred and Dinah Gretsch display the cake commemorating their wedding anniversary.

The anniversary event featured entertainment by the Joe Robinson Trio, with Robinson on guitar, Marcelo Bakos on bass, and Tito Pascoali on drums. (photo by David Shuler)

Fred Gretsch with Robinson Trio drummer Tito Pascoali.

Gretsch USA Drums operations manager Paul Cooper with Robinson Trio drummer Tito Pascoali.

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