Fred Gretsch Salutes Chet Atkins
Gretsch Company President Speaks at Opening of Country Music Hall of Fame’s Exhibit Honoring Guitar Great
This past August 10 saw the opening reception for the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s new exhibit, Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player. The star-studded gala hosted many luminaries from the guitar world, including Steve Wariner, Duane Eddy, and Paul Yandell.
An equally important figure in attendance was Fred Gretsch, fourth-generation Gretsch Company president. Along with his wife (and Gretsch CFO) Dinah, his son Fred Jr., and grandson Will. Fred was on hand to salute the museum’s unique tribute to one of America’s genuine musical giants. The Gretsch Company is the major sponsor of the exhibit, which opened to the public on August 12 and will run through June of 2012.
Fred’s remarks to the audience during the opening ceremonies offered a combination of personal history and heartfelt admiration. Speaking “on behalf of six generations of the Gretsch family, three generations of which are here this evening,” Fred expressed the family’s pleasure at being involved with the new exhibit. “We can think of no better way to honor Chet’s memory,” Fred continued, “than to illustrate his accomplishments in such an entertaining and educational fashion.”
In outlining Chet Atkins’ achievements, Fred stated, “Few musicians have single-handedly defined a musical genre by virtue of their unparalleled instrumental technique. Fewer still have gone on to transcend time, style, and genre to forever alter the course of popular music. Chet Atkins is one of those few. Along with his profound influence on the modern electric guitar and those who play it, Chet was the architect of ‘The Nashville Sound,’ a new and distinctive approach to country music that vastly expanded its appeal around the world.”
With an obvious sense of personal pride, Fred explained that the Gretsch Family shares a special connection to Chet. “My uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr, first signed Chet as a Gretsch guitar artist in 1954. Over his long association with the company, Chet was instrumental in the creation of the 6120 Nashville, Country Gentleman, and Tennessean signature guitars. All three are bestsellers still today, but the Country Gentleman is particularly revered by guitarists—ironically because of its use by another guitar great: George Harrison. The legendary Beatle was a tremendous admirer of Chet, of his music, and of the guitars he designed. Check out those famous clips of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show 1964, and you’ll see George playing his Chet Atkins Signature Country Gentleman guitar.”
Fred concluded by saying, “The Gretsch Company is proud of its long friendship with Chet Atkins, and our family cherishes the special relationship that we had with such a fine individual. Today, we are honored to be the title sponsor for this terrific exhibition. We share the Country Music Hall of Fame’s commitment to ensuring that Chet’s unrivaled legacy will continue to be celebrated for generations to come.”