Vintage Gretsch bad years/eras?

MBB

Very well Known Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
1,192
Reaction score
137
Location
San Rafael, CA
Most brands seem to have periods where they produced crap (or at least less than high quality product). Ludwig clearly did, but I don't know when/if Gretsch did. It makes looking for kits difficult being in the dark. So, can any Gretsch expert inform me of periods to avoid? With new stuff having lead times of 9 months I want to explore possible other sources. This way I can decide what works best for my situation. Thank you in advance for any information.
 

Deafmoon

DFO Veteran
Joined
Nov 26, 2014
Messages
1,998
Reaction score
1,978
Your gonna be severely challenged to find an era where Gretsch Drums had a bad period. From all my years in being around their drums they were generally great sounding drums. Their hardware is another matter completely and I don’t ever remember it being good. The older the drum though, the higher the risk of stuff wrong with it especially if it was not taken care of. I have seen plenty of out of round shells in my day from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Broken lug posts, stripped threads and snapped 8/32nd hex head screws can be problematic. For my money, I think the 90’s through now are the best. That said I play a 70’s Ltd Edition set. Those were shells found in the warehouse when Fred took the company back out to be a serious contender, which they are. I have not played any newer Keller Shells though so I cannot explain as to how they compare to the now extinct Jasper shell. Sound wise, they sound pretty much the same from what I have heard.
 

JDA

DFO Star
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
25,338
Reaction score
14,236
Location
Jeannette, Pa.
Well when they left New York and started in Arkansas the facility was built on a once Leper colony property; but I don't know if you'd call that bad... : (
but it was the ball& socket monster tom holder era.
Tony Williams, Mel Lewis,
didn't seem to care.
77 Flyer
 
Last edited:

JDA

DFO Star
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
25,338
Reaction score
14,236
Location
Jeannette, Pa.
Charlie Roy took it back in what 1982? Then Fred Jr. stepped in around 1986 and established the SC facility ever since.
The Arkansas era- tom holder-wise started with the ball and socket but transitioned to Creative Research (CR) tom mounts (and ft brackets) around what late 78 early 79 into 80...
(never owned any Arkansas; only New York and South Carolina. that's all I know. intimately ; )
NY- 1883-1971
Ark- 1973- 1984(?)
SC- 1986 (?) - present
 
Last edited:

NobleCooleyNut

DFO Veteran
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
May 21, 2019
Messages
1,706
Reaction score
2,767
The Stop Sign badge era had been hit and miss for me . I had some truly great ones and some with issues like TroyH posted . Many of the issues can be rectified .
I have seen some kits come out of the early Fred Gretsch era with misaligned lugs but it is not the rule , but surprising they got out of the factory .
The square badge kits seem to be of pretty consistent quality from what I have seen ( I have not owned any ).
I have owned a 2013 USA Custom and currently own a 2015 USA Custom and both had nice edges and sound(ed) great . The current 2015 kit I just picked up the other day might be the best Gretsch kit I have ever owned with absolutely no issues whatsoever .

I do know if a Gretsch Endorser that got a USA Custom kit from the factory in Azure Blue satin finish that the finish did not match between the drums in the kit.

Every company today has the occasional lemon that gets out . How a company reacts to this is the true measure of a Company.
 

K.O.

DFO Star
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
21,201
Reaction score
4,304
Location
Illinois
Supposedly the early Stop Sign Badge kits made shortly after the move to Arkansas had some issues as an almost entirely new workforce had to learn their jobs. Most of the issues mentioned by various people thru the years revolve around finishing issues such as the poorly cut edges, hardware placement (crooked lugs, etc.) and poor wrap jobs. The parts would not have suffered, the shells were still made by Jasper in Jasper by the same crew as before and the metal parts were sourced from outside suppliers which likewise should not have changed their procedures in any way. It was just the putting it all together that suffered due to an inexperienced workforce. It seems that these issues got ironed out reasonably quickly as people either learned their jobs or got let go. Most of the issues were correctable anyhow, recut edges, rewrap, redrill. Most have probably been ironed out in the ensuing years, although that would mean the drum(s) have been altered from "Factory" (probably in a good way).

In my experience the SSB drums are very similar to the RB drums and I haven't personally seen any evidence of major problems on drums wearing that badge. IMO a relatively small amount of production had these issues and most have probably been corrected at some point.

Gretsch did cling to using outdated hardware designs (spurs, leg mounts, tom mounting hardware) far longer than their competition, most of whom began to upgrade their hardware in the mid/late 1960s. Gretsch made some poor choices there so that hampers a lot of the SSB drums but there are workarounds.

None of the old line brands managed to build perfect drums all of the time. That sort of perfection really wasn't even a goal until the past 25 years or so when the internet raised customer expectations to much higher levels (and gave dissatisfied customers a much bigger soapbox to shout their displeasure from). Back in the day you picked the brand you liked and pretty much accepted whatever they sold you as being "professional" drums.
 

steambent

DFO Master
Joined
Jan 28, 2006
Messages
4,029
Reaction score
453
Location
Ohio
The chrome plating especially on hoops in the 40s and 50s was consistently poor. I can’t believe no one has brought up the sometime problems with modern heads not fitting the 60s sets. The 80s stained sets can really lose their vivid colors and just kinda go a brown color.
 

JDA

DFO Star
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
25,338
Reaction score
14,236
Location
Jeannette, Pa.
yea they at SC changed fairly early in, from a lacquer (? base).. to water..and the Water/stains was mucho better/I never see them fade..
 

JDA

DFO Star
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
25,338
Reaction score
14,236
Location
Jeannette, Pa.
also I won't complain about RB hardware. You had the Diamond plates for FT bracket (no shame there) the Spurs aluminum spikes (no shame ther. The W&A rail consolette still sees service to this day; so I'd say overall compared with the other makes at the time equal. The Diamond plate FT brackets at least as good (I'd argue better) than Luds at the time.
 

MBB

Very well Known Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
1,192
Reaction score
137
Location
San Rafael, CA
Thank you very much guys, this is quite informative. I will keep looking around, but I suspect I will get frustrated and wind up ordering a new set so I get exactly what I want. The 9 month wait is annoying as hell but this will be the last kit I ever purchase. Of course that's what I said in 2009 when I bought one of the first Ludwig Legacy Maple kits. This time at age 67 it WILL be the last.
 

K.O.

DFO Star
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
21,201
Reaction score
4,304
Location
Illinois
also I won't complain about RB hardware. You had the Diamond plates for FT bracket (no shame there) the Spurs aluminum spikes (no shame ther. The W&A rail consolette still sees service to this day; so I'd say overall compared with the other makes at the time equal. The Diamond plate FT brackets at least as good (I'd argue better) than Luds at the time.
The RB hardware was pretty much on par with everyone else's at the beginning of the 60s (except Rogers who were ahead of everyone) but by the 70s the other companies were improving theirs and moving production in house while Gretsch pretty much stuck with W&A as their supplier and continued to use the older designs. When Gretsch did move "forward" it wasn't always in the best way. The Monster tom holder was an unfortunate choice in most people's opinion. But they did finally get more or less caught up when they introduced the Techware hardware in the early 1980s which was at least in the same ballpark as most other companies offerings.

I don't have a problem with rail mounts, etc. I consider them to be "of the time". But the other companies did improve their hardware at a faster rate than Gretsch and by the time of the SSB transition Gretsch was falling behind a bit.
 

JDA

DFO Star
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
25,338
Reaction score
14,236
Location
Jeannette, Pa.
Techware (85 poster catalog) was a group name for everything (4000 part no) including "Giant" cymbal stands multi clamps pedals thrones snare hi hat stands .which included the Creative Research (CR) (detail name) (first in 81 catalog) parts the 9020 brackets and 9002 tom holder and other 9000 parts. spurs internal support spurs, . is how I read that (CR) You can call it techware but I think the proper is CReative Research
 
Last edited:

JDA

DFO Star
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
25,338
Reaction score
14,236
Location
Jeannette, Pa.
I don't have a problem with rail mounts, etc. I consider them to be "of the time". But the other companies did improve their hardware at a faster rate than Gretsch and by the time of the SSB transition Gretsch was falling behind a bit.
.. even leaving the Giant cymbal stands out by 81 the CR 9000 hardware was in.
(It's that small window of 77-81 the "out of Auge" monster twin post with the huge holes in toms that slipped. Is the only odd period and some would probably defend that time period. Take that small window out and there goes the bad hardware issue. Right. In overall overview no worse than even same time period Pearl. All (?) the manufacturers early 70s had to evolve out. Premier for sure needed to and did ; even Rogers evolved to memriloc; Ludwig tried sense (sorta _/- modular)
 
Last edited:

varatrodder

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2016
Messages
815
Reaction score
1,015
I had an early 70's kit that was a dud. It came from the factory with no bearing edges on the toms; they were perfectly flat. I had some proper 30 degree edges cut on them and they sounded 100% better.
 

exliontamer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2020
Messages
102
Reaction score
183
Location
Nashville, TN
My own personal experience having owned four kits, currently owning two and Gretsch being my favorite.

Late 50s Anniversary Sparkle: My favorite kit. The kick drum has the same edge as the modern kits but round badge era toms are cut differently. They round in from the outside. The sound is a little different(I slightly prefer them), but mostly similar to my ears. Heads fit a little tight but nothing to sweat. The Remo Vintage fit Ambassadors are a godsend for these and widens the tuning range a bit. The stereotype with these is always jazzy but I think they work great for Pop/Rock and sound great tuned looser than the typical Gretsch ping(which is beautiful as well). Pete Thomas's sound on This Years Model and Armed Forces is a good place to hear them tuned down.

mish-mash kit refinished in red sparkle 90s kick, 70s rack, 50s or 60s floor: The person who refinished it wrapped up to the edges so heads are a tight fit. The kick is a 16x24 and my favorite kick I've ever heard or felt.

kits I sold:
70s Maple finish w/ ball & socket mount: Terrible/nonexistent edges as in they were actually flat. Mounts are my least favorite of any manufacturer I've played. The tom mounts were awkward and had serious play. Against all reasoning they sounded great.

Mid 80s Walnut: Perfect set, great hardware, heads fit beautifully, shouldn't have sold it.

Maybe every era is going to have it's duds but my experience is that every late 50s/early 60s kit I've recorded with even outside of the ones I've owned have been legitimately great in every way. There's a few big name producers I've worked with who swear by RB kits. Getting them studio ready for close mics sometimes involves taking off anything that rattles(all mufflers) and packing the lugs with cotton balls or felt. With the lugs it's less the rattling and more that they resonate and cause a lot of ambient ring. Not sure if that's particular to the lugs used in that era. I've played modern USA Customs as backline a lot and think they all sound amazing and are very consistent. I grew up 2 miles from Jasper Wood Products and internally can get romantic about that but I don't think there's a sonic difference between the new ones and old ones.

Also I feel the need to add that if you haven't played Gretsch a lot, I'd try before you buy whether it involves borrowing a friends kit or setting one up at a shop isolated. I've have some drummer friends that like them when other people play them but don't personally click with the sound and feel for their playing. They have an attack and bite that doesn't suit some peoples ears.
 
Last edited:

ThomasL

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2010
Messages
660
Reaction score
846
Location
Finland
I've had issues with SSB and early 80s square badge.

Just a thought: drums with issues might be flipped time after time, while great drums are held on to. This might make the percentage of bad drums seem higher than it really is.
 


Top