A Tale About A 1974 Gretsch – instead of Happy New Year Wishes

I got this email from Jose Conde, a well known Cuban guitarist from New York. You can see pictures of Jose, and of the Gretsch here. I wanted him to tell me more about his Gretsch guitar. I’ve edited it a little bit, for clarity, and have included links to the names he mentions.

    “Lets see my love ……my Gretsch! Ahhh.
    A match made in Heaven….errr eBay that is. In the Winter of 2006 while hanging out in Miami I went to a store and played a Gretsch 6120 guitar. I had been listening quite a bit to old recordings of Cuban bands that used hollow body jazz guitars within the context of more modern Cuban dance bands (Los Bocucos with young Ibrahim Ferrer, Juanito Marquez, Manuel Galvan) and I became really interested in this sound.
    When I played the guitar in the store, I instantly fell in love of the sound and the feel. It was powerful yet melodic, and it really cuts through with a signature sound. Its also so easy and fun to play. And such a handsome looking and well designed instrument. A true work of art I thought.
    Of course, the store Gretsch was a new Japanese made replica of a vintage guitar, and still cost something near $ 2000. I had some money saved, and after thinking about it for months before, I decided I needed a musical change.
    You see I had been performing traditional Cuban son for a while and I was about to release my first record that started to depart from that in a very funky way.
    Getting a funky guitar to “skank” on was part of my plan to really express the rhythm that I feel. Acoustic guitar just wasn’t cutting it! So I needed a powerful majestic instrument.
    Next I turned to eBay. I saw a bunch of instruments in there within my price range and beyond. When I saw the ad for a “Country Gentleman” 7160 up for auction in nearby Delray Beach (I was hanging out in Miami) I was very interested. It was being sold by a doctor who presumably bought it and closeted the guitar using it very little since 1976! So without ever playing a 7160 I went hard after it on eBay and won the auction at $2700, what I now see as a really great deal for a vintage quality guitar in pristine condition.
    After winning the auction I drove up to Delray Beach to pick up my new love.
    It was really striking, looked so new and even had a bag of the original strings inside the original guitar case. It was like going back in time. I wasn’t so happy to discover that this models neck is thinner, but I have adapted and become a better guitar player. One more thing, the guitar was sold to me as a “1976” instrument. Because you asked me to write about it I just did some quick research and found that the serial number in fact tells me it is a 1974 instrument. In fact it is the 54th 7160 guitar made by the Gretsch factory in Nashville in August 1974! Now living happily with a Cuban in Brooklyn, NY.
    My Gretsch first appears on my recording – EL CHACAL on the album (R)Evolucion. I actually bought the guitar December 2005, then recorded in the summer of 2006. My new record that I am working on is the first CD that I am playing a bunch of instruments and the Gretsch is all over the album. I am specifically using its signature sound and making it my own.”

I was thinking to write the usual wishes for the New Year, but this story is better.

I wish every friend of mine, and everyone who reads this, to find their signature voice in 2010.

Sometimes it may take a while, but we should never give up trying! With all the errors, all the difficulties, all the challenges, we should always try to get stronger when life tries to silence our voice. Because the world is full with people who can not speak up for they are being oppressed, or being afraid, we should always try to say what we think is right, and think what we say is right.

Happy New Year!

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