Gretsch Traveling Wilburys Guitar

Gretsch Traveling Wilburys Guitar

Guitar Gavel Lick Of The Week with Ian Cowan - Mellow Blues

Love this lick… it can go several ways as I hear some Keb’ Mo’ in there or a path to swamp it up.

George Harrison was a Gretsch super-fan buying his “first good guitar” in 1961, a Gretsch Duo Jet, from a sailor in Liverpool. That guitar was used to record Please Please Me, I saw her Standing There, and Twist and Shout.  

Two years later he moved on to a Chet Atkins Country Gentleman and played it on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. After that a Gretsch 6119 Tennessean. Between the three models, a Gretsch was his main squeeze through 1965. 

In a 2014 Parade magazine article Fred W. Gretsch stated sales of Gretsch guitars went up 25% following the Ed Sullivan appearance. 

Fast forward through the tumultuous Baldwin era of Gretsch ownership from 1967-1984. Baldwin moved production from Brooklyn to Booneville, Arkansas in 1969 and disaster struck in the form of two major factory fires in 1973. 

Depending on your oddball flavor, Baldwin/Gretsch did manage to introduce some pretty cool guitars such as the Roc Jet, TK300, and Gretsch Atkins Super Axe (Chet’s last signature model). Overall however, the Baldwin thing was really, really bad. So bad Gretsch guitar production stopped in the late 1970s.

In 1984 Fred W. Gretsch bought the business back from Baldwin and began calculating the company’s reinvention. 

And here comes George Harrison again…pictured with a Duo Jet on his “Cloud Nine” album cover in 1987. After seeing the album cover Fred’s wife, Dinah, wrote Harrison a thank-you note and in return the Gretsch’s received a phone call from ole’ George. It just so happened George was working with his super group at that time, the Traveling Wilburys.

While the specifics of subsequent conversations are unknown the result was a Traveling Wilburys promotional guitar. These were sourced in Korea and modeled after a Danelctro U-style guitar from the 1950s. There were six variations of the guitar with different pickup and hardware options. The impetus for the guitar’s artwork was a large 4’ x 6’ commissioned by Harrison with a different section of the print applied to every guitar coming off the line. As a result, no two guitars were exactly alike. 

Introduced in 1988, revenue from these guitar sales helped fund the proper relaunch of Gretsch in 1989. Production continued through 1992. (In interviews with Fred Gretsch, production years vary.)

The TW-300 pictured is the same model Harrison played in the “Handle With Care” music video.

I found a 1990 JCPenny Wishbook listing for a single coil version with tremolo including a Traveling Wilburys cassette tape and poster for $119.00. These used to go on Ebay for like $75-$100  and the current starting price now is around $400. 

Wyatt Wednesdays - An amp guy's thoughts on the best production amps ever and the best amps on a budget

In this episode we talk amps, the best production amps ever, and the best affordable amps ever. Most importantly, Wyatt's thoughts on WHY from both a tone and circuit perspective.

Best Ever: Fender Super Reverb, 65' era, Orange Rockerverb MKIII head unit, Roland Jazz Chorus

Best Budget: PRS Sonzera 20, Peavey Classic 20, Marshall Lead 12


1 comment

I Love “The Traveling Wilburys”!!! I also really dig that 1977 Gretsch ROC II. I’m probably gonna dream about that.

Keith Amyx

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