Why do gretsch late 70’s SSB kits sound so good?

multijd

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I sat in on a friends gretsch kit at a jazz picnic yesterday. The set used to belong to a great drummer and mentor to many of us in Western New York (Buffalo region) who passed away a couple of years ago, Louis Marino. Apparently Louis had an endorsement deal with Gretsch and when it was coming to an end he got a complete set of toms (12,13,14,16 &18), a snare and two bass drums. When he passed one of his students bought the set. He brought a four piece to the picnic and we traded off playing them. They sounded wonderful! The snare was by far the best gretsch snare Ive played. The 20” bass drum was everything you could want and the toms, though I would have tuned them slightly different, were also great. I posted a picture on facebook and another drummer friend commented on how this era of gretsch sound so good. Why? What makes these drums so good? I have two round badge sets but they don't sound quite that awesome. Is it the wrap on the round badges restricting the shell and also causing the heads to fit too tight? Were the wood finish drums of the 70’s designed for plastic heads? Any thoughts why this era of gretsch are so incredible sounding?
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bellbrass

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I have a SSB kit made for me by Sam Bacco, formerly of Gretsch Central / Fork's in Nashville. I think the shells are 80s, but I'm not sure. Anyway, I have Tangerine Glass Glitter on them, and they sound terrific. Of course, Sam redid the edges before he completed the kit for me.
There is something about how those shells age - maybe it's the gumwood; who knows. The fact that they are oversized shells definitely affects the sound. That kit you played, since Louis was an endorser, probably had cream-of-the-crop shells and edges. Those are Jasper shells, and there's a reason they are highly collectable. Some of the Gretsch guys think that era was the best-sounding ever for Gretsch.
The kit I have has the best bass drum sound I've ever heard.
 

JazzDrumGuy

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All of my RB and SSB kits are awesome! Could be the wood......no wrap that is, but I have 3 SSB, one wood and 2 wrap, and all are good. 1 wrapped square badge and 2 wrapped RB all are awesome. Doing a SSB now as a Charlie Watts tribute so will be wood....I just love vintage Gretsch!
 

VintageUSA

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I'm not certain what the answer is.
I'm fortunate to have a set.
While I was in music school in Dallas, I custom-ordered my SSB shells from Arnold and Morgan music company out on Garland Road.
They arrived on August 26, 1977.........exactly 10 days after the death of Elvis.
I still gig with those same shells and, yes, they are awesome.
Those shells are Jasper and the assembly on those drums was completed in Arkansas.
The move from Brooklyn to Arkansas was controversial and it took a few years for all of the new labor to get better at their craftsmanship........by the mid-to-late 70s, the Arkansas crew was building some fine drums.
BTW, my shells are not wrapped.........the finish is (the still popular) ebony gloss.
As you can see by the date above, next month I will have owned and played these drums for 43 years.
 

hardbat

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60s RB were half round bearing edges. My early 80s are more modern edges. What edges were cut in the SSB 70s period? It would be a tangible difference.
 

kip

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my Drop G SSB kit,... sounds like no other..... the diecast hoops on the toms....those drums BARK..... and they are idiot proof to tune!
 

NobleCooleyNut

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The majority of the Gretsch kits I have owned were SSB kits including my first a professional kit . The Jasper shells were nicely made and the interior silver sealer looks much different from the current Gretsch USA Custom kits made today . The SSB silver sealer looks more silver with a more metallic sheen than the current silver sealer which is less shiny and more grey .
SSB are hit and miss when it comes to build quality IMHO - the snare that came with my new kit had no bearing edges or snare beds on the snare side of the drum , his that got past quality control is baffling .
 

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Gretsch has been famous, IMHO, as the company that did nearly everything wrong, e.g., sloppy QC and lousy hardware - and made amazing sounding drums treasured by studios, and imitated by drum companies, all over the world. They have, since Charlie Roy, generally upgraded the quality of their output and had hardware that didn't fall apart when you looked it it. The newer kits don't have the old growth wood, but the build quality is generally better. Even if you have to redo the edges - one of my late 70's /early 80's kits had different edges on almost every drum - they are worth buying, IMHO. When they are right, watch out!
 

hefty

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Sweet spot IMO is early 80's Gretsch with fewer quality issues, same Jasper shells, trad depth drums still available sometimes, and the advent of Techware hardware that actually works pretty well. Says the guy with a sweet set of early 80's Gretsches...
 

RIDDIM

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Sweet spot IMO is early 80's Gretsch with fewer quality issues, same Jasper shells, trad depth drums still available sometimes, and the advent of Techware hardware that actually works pretty well. Says the guy with a sweet set of early 80's Gretsches...
- I have 3 of them. Once they're right....
 

dsop

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Every era of Gretsch has gems and turds. If you get a good set, they're unbeatable. Too bad you can't go into a store and compare six or seven 12" Gretsch toms, and then nine 20" Gretsch bass drums... There are always duds (from every brand).
 

blikum

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I'm not sure what it is either, but they do have serious mojo going on. I'm happy to have a natural 13, 16, 20 70's SSB kit in my collection.
 

drummingbulldog

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I have a 20/14/12 ssb kit that had the edges done and rewrapped before I owned. Supposedly by Fork's in Nashville. Edges are 45 degree like Yamaha. They sound great. My favorite kit was an 80/81 era jasper kit. Jasper made fine shells and Gretsch made them even better with the diecast hoops. I think it's all a combination to get to sound. I also have a wood refinished round badge kit that sounds great too. My New Classic kit has wrap and it sounds just as good as the ssb/rb kits.
 
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Maybe it's because most of the 70's and 80's drums have been around long enough to have the hardware changed, lugs packed, and the edges and snare beds redone. (semi-sarcasm)

In my shell bank of Gretsch Black Nitron's (8" through 24") I have RB, SSB, Drop G, a little of everything (but nothing newer than 80's, and none that had that stupid ball mount for the toms.) I have gotten some REAL duds along the way. But EVERY Gretsch drum I have has had the edges redone (by Precision) and had MUCH better hardware installed (mostly by me.) Some original edges were "ok," some were dead flat, some were roller coasters, some were badly altered, none were GREAT!

I even have a snare that had flat edges that were still uneven, no snare beds, and a misaligned strainer (Hmmmn, I wonder why it sounds so boxy?) And I need not elaborate on the hardware.

But AFTER getting them ALL tweaked and redone, they are ALL amazing sounding drums. I think the age of the wood matters too. I've never noticed a noticeable difference in the shells of the different eras (all of mine are Jasper 6 ply) but I really haven't looked.

I think it's just a perfect recipe for that sound that comes down to: ZINC die cast rims (have you ever seen a cross section of one, pretty porous,) the shell layup of wood, and "remastered" edges. Add some aftermarket (in my case Yamaha) hardware, and you are in drumming heaven. Not too resonant, not too much sustain (they aren't tympani) yet not too "dead," just two contrasting woods within the shell, tamed by an evenly placed governor (if you will) DC rims, resulting in an almost sounding self eq'ed sounding drum.

I think it might also make a difference that every time I see a musician playing an older Gretsch kit, the guy can PLAY (!!!) and usually has a pretty good touch. Gretsch drums were usually not available as a walk in or impulse purchase. Therefore, the guys that had them, thought it out, committed to them, made a commitment to wait for them, waited (and waited,) often had the foresight to have better hardware installed, kept them in pretty good shape, and played the hell out of them.

I've said it before, and it's the truth. Owning Gretsch's is a commitment - relationship (take out the mufflers, pack the lugs, make sure the same crappy self tapping screws go back in the same holes.) It's like owning an English car (from what I've heard.) But man alive, when they are finally RIGHT, there is nothing like them, just PERFECTION!!!!

Face it, it just takes money and a phone call to buy a (fill in the brand of your choice.) Back then, (usually) getting a Gretsch kit called for some legwork, commitment, and patience. On the other hand this extended "process" pissed some people off, and I get that too.

That's my opinion,
MSG
 
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Buffalo_drummer

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I sat in on a friends gretsch kit at a jazz picnic yesterday. The set used to belong to a great drummer and mentor to many of us in Western New York (Buffalo region) who passed away a couple of years ago, Louis Marino. Apparently Louis had an endorsement deal with Gretsch and when it was coming to an end he got a complete set of toms (12,13,14,16 &18), a snare and two bass drums. When he passed one of his students bought the set. He brought a four piece to the picnic and we traded off playing them. They sounded wonderful! The snare was by far the best gretsch snare Ive played. The 20” bass drum was everything you could want and the toms, though I would have tuned them slightly different, were also great. I posted a picture on facebook and another drummer friend commented on how this era of gretsch sound so good. Why? What makes these drums so good? I have two round badge sets but they don't sound quite that awesome. Is it the wrap on the round badges restricting the shell and also causing the heads to fit too tight? Were the wood finish drums of the 70’s designed for plastic heads? Any thoughts why this era of gretsch are so incredible sounding?
View attachment 450906

John - I saw our post about these on FB, who wound up buying them? They look absolutely gorgeous.
 

Hemant

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I have two from late 70s - early 80s. Both have been refinished - 20/12/14 in Champagne and 24/12/13/16 in Tony Yellow. Great shells, lugs and hoops - but once you get past the die cast pieces the rest of their hardware from that era is rubbish. The 20" BD shell had Pearl legs and tom holder installed on it when I bought it. I had Precision fill in the old tom post holes on the 24" and extraneous tom mount holes. It is interesting to watch modern drum companies like Pearl and DW trying to copy this formula with maple/gum shells and die cast hoops. I think we had a couple of generational cycles where maximum resonance was some sort of holy grail. Nice for sure, but warmth and controlled sustain is a desired sound as well. No wonder so many drummers used Gretsch in the studio -- including Porcaro. Lars Ulrich admitted that the Metallica Black Album were recorded on Gretsch drums as well.
Gretsch.jpeg


Gretsch Yellow.jpg
 


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