My great-grandfather died when I was very little. I remember that he was a large quiet man in a wheelchair who gave us $5 at Christmas and on our birthday. He died when I was probably 4 (I’m not exactly sure). I remember the funeral, but didn’t really understand it. My grandfather passed away when I was in college. I understood this one and, of course, was very sad.
Since then, my grandmother has set about making her life a happier one. Among other things, she took up bowling again, bought a hot tub, and put new floors in the kitchen and bathroom. She also began cleaning out closets that held stuff from my grandfather and great-grandfather. One day she called my dad up and told him she had a pile of instruments from great-grandpa and if he didn’t want them, she was going to take them to the thrift store. Needless to say, we rushed down there and took them off her hands.
In that pile of instruments, was a locked guitar case. Since my husband plays, two of the guitars came home with us. We broke open the lock and lo’ and behold, this is what greeted us.
That, my friends, is a 1960′s (either ’63 or ’64) Gretsch Chet Atkins Signature solid-body electric guitar.
The reason I am telling you all this leads up to yesterday…
One of the perks of working where I do, is sometimes, I get to meet neat people. My work puts on a series called “Industry Legends” where they have the owners of big companies come and talk to us about the history of their company. This one was Fred Gretsch of Gretsch Guitars and Drums.
It was started in the 1880′s by his great-grandfather (also named Fred) and now he owns it. The history of the company is fascinating if you ever get a chance to visit their museum in Georgia, do it. They had rare video footage and lots of neat things to say. I learned a lot that I never knew I didn’t know.
The best part of the event came at the end, though. I’d brought in the family Gretsch (I call it the “Old Man”) for him to see. It was displayed on stage during the presentation (squee!).
Then, at the end, he signed it.
Talk about a nice guy! He not only posed for a picture, but he signed the family guitar!
It was the coolest day I’ve had in a long time. I can’t wait to tell this story to my nephew when he’s a little older, and then someday to my kids. It will certainly be one to pass down for many generations.
(Side note: Hauling a solid-body guitar around in an antique wooden case in heels is very tiring. That sucker is heavy!)