Vintage Gretsch bad years/eras?

RogersLudwig

DFO Veteran
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 31, 2008
Messages
2,729
Reaction score
1,493
Location
Fort Stinkindesert, NM
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.
I replaced the W&A rail mount on my mid-60s RB set with a Steve Maxwell repro. After stripping one of the bolts, I went back to the W&A rail. I do carry an little 1/8” socket driver with a 7/16” socket to tighten the bracket to the rail. Otherwise, it is hard to get a good grip. No complaints about anything, really. Great drums and adequate hardware.
 

mattmalloy66

Very well Known Member
Double Platinum Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 13, 2012
Messages
739
Reaction score
171
Location
New Hampshire
I have seen some early `80s top of the line Gretsch drums with bad bearing edges. Nothing that couldn't be fixed, but not level from the factory.
 

richardh253

Very well Known Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Messages
982
Reaction score
1,441
Location
Bryn Mawr PA
Steve Maxwell has commented more than once that while the late 50s-early 60s round badge kits were great, the snares from that era were often a challenge. "Boxy" is the word I've heard most often. I had a '59 RB WMP kit I bought privately about 10-12 years ago, Steve told me he recognized the kit and commented that it was one where the snare "worked" unlike many of that era.
 

varatrodder

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2016
Messages
815
Reaction score
1,015
Steve Maxwell has commented more than once that while the late 50s-early 60s round badge kits were great, the snares from that era were often a challenge. "Boxy" is the word I've heard most often.
"Boxy" is being generous. I had one where the snare beds were completely off. On one side the snare bed was in the correct place. On the other, the snare bed was centered under a lug.
 

JDA

DFO Star
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
25,338
Reaction score
14,236
Location
Jeannette, Pa.
People use the word boxy for Gretsch wood snares Think the the correct word is Dry..........just like the Gretsch toms bass floor toms.
take a shallow 5" shell spread it 14"
There's nothing specific to the snare...that isn't there in the toms bass and floorage toms.. It's the same.
It follows if you can get along with the toms bass and floorage you can understand comprehend get along or not with the snare
but don't separate the wood shell snare out from the wood shell toms bass and floorage because it's the same just in a wide shallow config
the identical sound thru out the set; once conditioned understood.
But trying to put the Gretsch wood shell snare into a Ludwig Slingerland Rogers wood shell snare box doesn't work. As toms and bass of Gretsch are different so goes the snare it has to sound that way true to the (shell of) rest of the set. Whether one likes or not is something else

Or be consistent and call the toms bass and floors equally boxy
lol.
No . It's Dry.
Consistent with rest of the set.
(either like/can use it/ or not /and that's ok too.
Tight (narrow) (focused?) and dry is Gretsch. Boxy to those that won't like try care (which is fine) to get it.
You have to play (stay on) Gretsch drums they won't play themselves they challenge (relaxing conceptions) you to "keep it up" (and think about it) because "hey man this tone" isn't lingering around very long.. "we're dry"
 
Last edited:

Philaiy9

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
117
Reaction score
67
I just wanted to jump in on the RB hardware. I think the most outdated part was the rail mount placement. Gretsch clung to the trap kit placement meant for 26+" bass drums, meaning the toms hung off way to the side. Ludwig and later Slingerland rails seem to allow for a much better tom position.
 

richardh253

Very well Known Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Messages
982
Reaction score
1,441
Location
Bryn Mawr PA
I just wanted to jump in on the RB hardware. I think the most outdated part was the rail mount placement. Gretsch clung to the trap kit placement meant for 26+" bass drums, meaning the toms hung off way to the side. Ludwig and later Slingerland rails seem to allow for a much better tom position.
Gave new meaning to “rock ‘n’ roll” emphasis on the “roll”
 

AtlantaDrumGuy

DFO Master
Joined
May 10, 2012
Messages
4,640
Reaction score
822
Location
Atlanta, GA
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.
what sizes are you looking for? I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a vintage 60s or 70s era. That would be my choice out of anything.
 

JDA

DFO Star
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
25,338
Reaction score
14,236
Location
Jeannette, Pa.
He already ordered and sounds like a fine choice
 

wflkurt

Deafus Maximus
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
9,987
Reaction score
1,702
Location
Chichester NH
I have not owned a lot of Gretsch drums but they do seem to be hit or miss. The right ones are just awesome though so it's worth looking for those. I still have my first set that I got used in 1983 which is a Gretsch from around 1975. They sound really good and the quality is nice. The set has the ball socket hardware though which is not great but I never use it as I put the 12" tom in a snare stand. My other set is a progressive jazz from around 1965. The rail is in a better place as I would probably hate having a rail in that 50's position. The 60's Gretsch sound great but the snare is the real challenge. I think the snare beds are just too deep. It sounds OK but I honestly think some work to the edges would really help it. I have never had that done to a vintage drum though. I have to Chrome Gretsch snares though and they sound amazing!

Progressive Jazz1.jpg


Gretsch SSB.jpg
 

Troyh

Team DFO
Staff member
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
5,578
Reaction score
150
Location
Hills of Southern Indiana, Nutopia
When my drum 'Malaria kicked in, (as Harry put it), in the late 90's, I bought what was then called the USA Maple series. They were a little cheaper in oil finishes, but the drums were spectacularly made.
Of course that sent me on the road of all things Gretsch. I've owned 7 sets through the years and, excepting the Arkansas, never had any real issues with manufacturing.
The last new set I purchased was the 2003 Anniversary SSB Walnut in 22/12/16 w/snare. (Reportedly only 125 made.) If you ever find a set of these out in the wild, grab them. They are impeccable.
That and my 50's 22/13/16 are my keepers, but back to op, imho, you can't go wrong with any if the US made sets, and as KO said, even the Ark. drums can be remedied.
 

drummingbulldog

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2010
Messages
732
Reaction score
558
Location
Jacksonville, FL
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.
My SSB kit had edges recut at Fork's in Nashville or Memphis. The floor tom & bass drum had Yamaha legs and tom holder but has Gretsch bass drum legs/spurs with the 2 pointed tips. The kit sounds exactly like my 50s RB kit except smaller diameter shells. My edges on that kit were also cut to sharp .45 edges.
 

Attachments

hefty

DFO Master
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
3,290
Reaction score
404
Location
Seattle
When my drum 'Malaria kicked in, (as Harry put it), in the late 90's, I bought what was then called the USA Maple series. They were a little cheaper in oil finishes, but the drums were spectacularly made.
Of course that sent me on the road of all things Gretsch. I've owned 7 sets through the years and, excepting the Arkansas, never had any real issues with manufacturing.
The last new set I purchased was the 2003 Anniversary SSB Walnut in 22/12/16 w/snare. (Reportedly only 125 made.) If you ever find a set of these out in the wild, grab them. They are impeccable.
That and my 50's 22/13/16 are my keepers, but back to op, imho, you can't go wrong with any if the US made sets, and as KO said, even the Ark. drums can be remedied.
Are those 50's RBs the ones I sold you Troy? I think it was you. I've often wondered if you still have those, and also why I sold them! These:

full_set2.JPG
 

hefty

DFO Master
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
3,290
Reaction score
404
Location
Seattle
Hefty!
Sure are. I love 'em. Best sounding Gretsch kit I've had. Thank you, thank you!
I love that you still have them and are still enjoying them. I shipped those off to you in 2008! I can't believe I sold those but selling them financed my 80's Gretsches which I still have and won't ever sell so it all worked out.
 

DolFan54

Camco Enthusiast
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
11,162
Reaction score
387
Location
Santa Rosa, CA.
I personally avoid monster mount Gretsch kits but other than that I've had very good experiences from all eras of Gretsch drums!
 

Fibes

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2008
Messages
77
Reaction score
60
People use the word boxy for Gretsch wood snares Think the the correct word is Dry..........just like the Gretsch toms bass floor toms.
take a shallow 5" shell spread it 14"
There's nothing specific to the snare...that isn't there in the toms bass and floorage toms.. It's the same.
It follows if you can get along with the toms bass and floorage you can understand comprehend get along or not with the snare
but don't separate the wood shell snare out from the wood shell toms bass and floorage because it's the same just in a wide shallow config
the identical sound thru out the set; once conditioned understood.
But trying to put the Gretsch wood shell snare into a Ludwig Slingerland Rogers wood shell snare box doesn't work. As toms and bass of Gretsch are different so goes the snare it has to sound that way true to the (shell of) rest of the set. Whether one likes or not is something else

Or be consistent and call the toms bass and floors equally boxy
lol.
No . It's Dry.
Consistent with rest of the set.
(either like/can use it/ or not /and that's ok too.
Tight (narrow) (focused?) and dry is Gretsch. Boxy to those that won't like try care (which is fine) to get it.
You have to play (stay on) Gretsch drums they won't play themselves they challenge (relaxing conceptions) you to "keep it up" (and think about it) because "hey man this tone" isn't lingering around very long.. "we're dry"

yes and no. yes - the roundover edges have a lot more contact with the heads, no - many of the snares had snare beds cut very deep and uneven, many poorly aligned, making the snares a challenge to get a responsive snare sound. So the snares were boxy in many cases, especially if you were using calf or fake calf. But I consider the roundover tom/bass edges more of a tone thing, if modern heads float. I have an early SSB with great edges and beds. My favorite jazz snare - not sure what was up with the factory on the day they made this one - it's the 8 lug student model, complete with tin foil standard strainer (which still works but was bent badly when I got it but took years to find a backup strainer that matched the holes) but they used a jasper shell with it. Go figure. But it sings.
 

JDA

DFO Star
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
25,338
Reaction score
14,236
Location
Jeannette, Pa.
that's the G snare I use 4103 1965 Renown RB 8L here light and somewhat delicate throw but it's never yet failed me. Gretsch snare seem to have like the bass drum edge. pointy 45/45/ edge?.
I don't see it as roundover or round .
 

K.O.

DFO Star
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
21,201
Reaction score
4,305
Location
Illinois
but they used a jasper shell with it. Go figure.
Jasper shells were used for all their wood 6 ply drums. That was their bog standard shell. They didn't make their own shells after arranging for Jasper to make them for them so they didn't have much of a choice (although it's rumored that they bought shells from Keller when Jasper got behind on filling orders).
The mystique attached to Jasper shells, and even the knowledge as to what they were, really only materialized in the past 20 years when they were no longer available. Prior to that they were pretty much just run of the mill pre-fab drum shells made for Gretsch that happened to sound really good.

Gretsch didn't advertise that they were buying shells from an outside supplier or ever mention that it was Jasper who was making them. The earliest I recall ever hearing about "Jasper shells" was in the early 2000s when, after they were no longer available, Gretsch was promoting their "vineyard" drums that were drums that were made either before the change in shell suppliers or new drums made from whatever Jasper shells they still had in the warehouse.
 
Last edited:


Top