Percussion Instruments | Vintage Gretsch History

Percussion Instruments | Vintage Gretsch Drums | History of Gretsch Drums

Old Black and White Photo of Fredrich Gretsch

Fredrich Gretsch
That’s the sound, the anthem that began when Friedrich Gretsch, an immigrant from Mannheim Germany, founded a small shop in Brooklyn in 1883. He was to create a dynasty lasting to this day. Yet Friedrich Gretsch died unexpectedly in 1895 before he could see it bloom.

Black and White Photo of Fred Gretsch, Sr.

Fred Gretsch, Sr.
Fredrich Gretsch passed away while on a trip to his homeland leaving the company to the enterprising mind of his teeneage son still in school, still in knickers. When young Fred Gretsch, Sr. entertained customers at a nearby restaurant, the waiter took the drink order but quickly advised the boy:

“No matter what you order, you’re
going to drink milk!”

Energetic as he was enterprising, Fred Gretsch, Sr. built the business on a reputation for precision and quality. Two decades after he had assumed direction as the boy in knickers, he had moved the operation to a mammoth 10 story building at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn, where it remained until the company moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1972.

Fred Gretsch, Sr. retired from the company in 1942, his attire now the pressed suits of a successful businessman. His sons, Fred, Jr. and William “Bill” were well prepared to assume leadership. Both had been active in the business since 1927.

From these headquarters he responding to the growing demand for more and more spacialized guitars: The first acoustics becoming popular with country western performers, the age of electronics.

Gretsch Factory 104 South Fourth Street, Brooklyn. NY
Gretsch Factory 104 South Fourth Street, Brooklyn. NY

Black and White  Photo of Duke Kramer

Gretsch Drum

Duke Kramer

In 1935 Duke Kramer, joined the company. Today Duke Kramer is still a valued counsel to the company, the string that ties the generations together. He says, “That distinctive sound was our product, the sound that energized the market for decades.”

Black and White Photo of Fred Gretsch, Jr.

Fred Gretsch, Jr.
Command was again passed to Fred Gretsch, Jr. and the Navy veteran led the company into a new age of prosperity. The age of rock. It was the explosion of the music market begun by Elvis Presley and continued by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and many artists of the day.

Black and White Photo of William Gretsch

William Gretsch
Fred Gretsch, Jr. managed the operations briefly, then left the company to serve with distinction as a commander in the Navy, and Bill Gretsch became president. Duke Kramer recalls, “Bill was a man with a subtle talent for inspiring people to do their best and a genius for constructive counsel. His sense of humor was irresistible. When he passed away in 1948, a legion of individuals felt they lost their best friend.”

1985 Fred W. Gresch
Determined to return the company to family ownership, it was in 1985, when Fred W. Gretsch, the great-grandson of the company founder, made good on his promise. The Gretsch Company was once again in capable family hands.

Operations moved to Savannah, where the revitalized company began to offer new, vintage styled, Gretsch guitars and classic Gretsch drums. The success of the new products was immediate and Gretsch instruments were quickly back in demand.

Today there is much to celebrate as the Gretsch Company has truly come full circle now spanning over 120 years and four generations!

Fred W. Gretsch

Dinah Gretsch
A career in banking, computer software design and ownership of her own credit bureau prepared Dinah for her far reaching responsibilities at Gretsch. Dinah is Executive Vice President for Fred Gretsch Enterprises and handles all computer and accounting functions of the company as well as artist relations.
2002 A Gretsch Family Tradition
July 2002; The Gretsch family recently celebrated Fred’s Birthday and another year continuing the tradition of “That Great Gretsch Sound!” Here, Fred and Dinah are joined by their eleven grand children for the annual celebration. Wow, what a difference 2 years makes!
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Vintage Marimba


The origin of Marimba isn’t known, but it seems it started off as wooden bars laid over a hole on the ground which was struck with some sort of stick. In the myth of Zulus (of South Africa), there is a story about a goddess called “Marimba” who made an instrument by hanging gourds below some wooden bars. It sometimes is referred to as the source of the name of this fine percussive instrument.

Build your own Marimba!

Marimba, which was born in South Africa, was brought all the way to South America in the early 16th century by the Africans who were taken there as slaves. There, a Guatemalan called Sebastian Hurtado made a Marimba with a wooden resonator pipe instead of a gourd. This formed the basis of the modern marimba.

Marimba, which was improved in South America was brought to the United States eventually, and they started to make marimba around 1910. Deagan of Chicago changed the wooden pipe to the metal pipe. Numerous other improvements were made since then including the rearrangement of the keytop to resemble a piano. Modern Marimba is now treated not only as an orchestra instrument but also as a solo instrument thanks to the louder sound achieved by the pipe.

Most vintage Mirambas go for over $5000, but you can build your own Miramba very cheaply.

Build your own Marimba!