Gretsch, famed guitar and drum firm, remembers B’klyn roots
When people across the world see famous musicians playing Gretsch guitars, drums and other instruments, many aren’t aware that the company itself not only had its start in Brooklyn but remained here for more than 80 years.
And when Fred Gretsch, representing the fourth generation of the Gretsch family, came to New York on Aug 3. to help celebrate the 130th anniversary of the company, one of the sites he visited was the former Gretsch factory building at 60 Broadway in Williamsburg, where most of the company’s guitars were made until the company left in 1970. The factory, which was built in 1916, was one of several facilities the company had in Brooklyn.
Gretsch and its guitars became well-known in 1950s because of endorsements by country musician Chet Atkins and R&B innovator Bo Diddley, but it was the Beatles that really put Gretsch guitars on the map (although they were also known to play Rickenbacker and Gibson guitars).
In the 1980s, the rockabilly band the Stray Cats revived interest in Gretsch instruments. Today, former rival guitar manufacturer Fender markets, distributes and manufactures Gretsch instruments, although the Gretsch family still maintains ownership.
Today, the company remembers its Brooklyn roots in its Gretsch Brooklyn Series drum sets.
As for the former factory at 60 Broadway, it remained empty for many years – this reporter remembers seeing it unoccupied on a walking tour of Williamsburg. Then it became – what else? – a condo development known as “The Gretsch” in 2003.
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