Categories: Percussion

Percussion Instruments | Vintage Gretsch History

Percussion Instruments | Vintage Gretsch Drums | History of Gretsch Drums


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.


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

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.”


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.


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.”


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!


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.

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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