The Gretsch 140th Anniversary Celebration and Benefit Concert
An Historic Night That Will Help Introduce Music to Hundreds of K-12 Students Across The State of Georgia.
If you’ve ever wished of being totally surrounded by Gretsch history, Gretsch instruments, Gretsch lovers (including members of the Gretsch family), and lots and lots of great Gretsch-inspired live music, then the Gretsch Company’s 140th Anniversary Celebration would’ve made your wish come true. What a Great Gretsch night!
Held at the Georgia Southern University’s Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music Performance Stage (a state-of-the-art venue that’s part of the super-cool “That Great Gretsch Sound!” Gretsch Museum in Savannah, Georgia’s vibrant Plant Riverside entertainment district), it was, indeed, an historic night, 140 years in the making as Captain Obvious would say. But more importantly, it was also an evening that will go to help hundreds of future musicians, especially K-12 school children across the state of Georgia, experience the magical joy of making music.
“The Georgia Music Foundation is so close to my heart. I’ve been on their Board of Directors for more than 20 years,” said Dinah Gretsch, Executive Vice President and CFO of the Gretsch Company. “We give $5,000 grants to schools across the state of Georgia every year for music programs. We’re up to over $800,000 raised since 2015–that’s a lot of $5,000 grants! And this is what we do to raise money. We have music events every year and this year I’m so very proud that we get to celebrate the 140th for Gretsch in our museum, and that tonight’s show is benefiting the Georgia Music Foundation.”
The event was hosted by the beloved and always-smiling Joe Carducci, a longtime Gretsch enthusiast and Fender employee (47 years!), who retired three years ago as their Product Marketing Specialist of Gretsch Guitars. Joe introduced Dr. Kyle Marrero, president of Georgia Southern University, who spoke and shared how proud he was that the night’s benefit concert was being held in “That Great Gretsch Sound!” Gretsch Museum, a space Dr. Marrero described as not only showcasing hundreds of the Gretsch Company’s most storied instruments, but also honoring the Gretsch family’s commitment to music education and outreach and is a living testament to the partnership between Georgia Southern and Fred and Dinah Gretsch, whose names are on the university’s well-respected school of music.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP FROM THE FRED AND DINAH GRETSCH SCHOOL OF MUSIC RISES TO THE TOP AND KICKS OFF THE EVENING’S ENTERTAINMENT.
Before leaving the stage podium, Dr. Marrero introduced Dr. Ben Mathews, the recently-named Gretsch Distinguished Scholar of Guitar/Music Industry at Georgia Southern. Ben introduced the audience to the Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music Commercial Ensemble, a talented group of a dozen or more young musicians and singers who focus on music composed after 1970. Led upfront by four impressive female singers, the Ensemble’s polished 15-minute set included a seamless medley of popular 70s songs including Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke,” Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody,” and finished with a funky version of David Bowie’s “Fame.”
FRED AND DINAH WELCOME SPONSORS, DONORS, PERFORMERS, AND COUNT THEIR MANY BLESSINGS – INCLUDING 44 YEARS OF WORKING TOGETHER.
Fred and Dinah Gretsch were next to speak and welcomed everyone and thanked the many donors and sponsors including Georgia Southern University, Fender, Gretsch Guitars, Gretsch Drums, Roland Corporation, and others for making the night’s benefit concert possible. “Dinah and I count our blessings,” Fred stated. “Long years, good health, and family, including six children, 16 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren. We have truly been blessed.”
“And it’s been a blessing to work alongside Fred for so many years and to see the company and brand grow as much as they have,” added Dinah. “We’ve worked 44 years together in the music business,” Fred shared. “Along with daughter Lena’s 29 years and adding in my total of 58 years in the music business, that adds up to 130 years in the music business. And the business is only 140 years old. Go figure!” Dinah closed by thanking Georgia Southern University for partnering with them and said, “I’m so proud of the Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music. That’s one of the things Fred and I can leave as a legacy.”
SONGWRITING LEGEND TONY ARATA CAPTIVATES THE AUDIENCE AS ONLY A MASTER STORYTELLER CAN.
Next onstage was legendary songwriter Tony Arata, a master storyteller who only needed himself, a guitar, and a microphone to engage and captivate the audience. The Savannah native, who also attended Georgia Southern University, is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame who’s written #1 records for Garth Brooks, Patty Loveless, Lee Roy Parnell, and Clay Walker. Tony shared the improbable, made-for-TV-movie true story about his song that was rejected for three years in Nashville until his friend, and fellow struggling songwriter, Garth Brooks, recorded it on his 1989 debut album. Tony performed an extremely heartfelt version of his classic song, “The Dance,” which became Garth Brooks’ signature song and won CMA’s Song of the Year and many other awards. Another highlight of Tony’s set was hearing him sing “Otis, Johnny, James, and Joe,” a song he wrote honoring fellow Georgia musicians Otis Redding, Johnny Mercer, James Brown, and Joe South.
FENDER HONORS FRED AND DINAH FOR THEIR GRIT AND DETERMINATION OF SUCCESSFULLY RECLAIMING THE GRETSCH BRAND.
In 2002, Fender became the exclusive manufacturer and distributor of Gretsch guitars worldwide, and several Fender members flew in from Scottsdale, Arizona to be at the event. Jason Barnes, the Vice President of Fender’s Gretsch Division, was introduced next and shared that how, from his vantage point onstage, he could literally look around and see 140 years of Gretsch history and innovation hanging on the walls. Jason reminded the audience of the many historical events of the past 140 years and praised the generations of family members and dedicated employees who have driven the Gretsch brand with a simple and strong passion: to make great instruments that make great music.
“We also want to celebrate Fred and Dinah Gretsch for their immense vision, their fortitude, and their sheer grit to reclaim the brand,” said Jason. “And especially their promise and partnership with Fender to bring it back to what many people consider as Gretsch’s Second Golden Age.”
THE REVEREND HORTON HEAT TURNS UP THE TEMPERATURE WITH HIS BLISTERING SET.
Gretsch endorsed artist Jim Heath, who performs under the stage name of Reverend Horton Heat, has been called the Godfather of rockabilly, psychobilly, and swingabilly. And the Godfather’s talented trio gave the audience a musical offer that they simply couldn’t refuse. Decked out in a bright orange suit adorned with classic Gretsch “Steer Head and Cactus” embroidery (which complimented his orange 6120 guitar perfectly), the Reverend treated the crowd to a spirited, rollicking 30-minute set that featured two of his more known songs, “Big Little Baby,” and “It’s Martini Time.” Jim also paid homage to several famous Gretsch artists from the 1950s by performing Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock,” Gene Vincent And His Blue Caps’ “Race With The Devil,” which featured Duo Jet legend Cliff Gallup, and closed with a downright righteous, twangy version of Duane Eddy’s classic instrumental, “Rebel Rouser.”
GEORGIA MUSIC FOUNDATION DIRECTOR REMINDS ALL OF US WHY MUSIC IS SO IMPORTANT IN A CHILD’S LIFE.
As the last musical act was setting up, Georgia Music Foundation Director (and organizer of the evening’s benefit concert), Lisa Love, thanked the presenting sponsors and donors again and reminded the audience of the importance of music in a child’s life. “Research shows the academic, the cognitive, the social, and even the emotional benefits music brings to children,” added Lisa. “It also gives these students critical social skills that they can use later in life and in the work force, no matter what industry they’re in.” Lisa was all smiles in sharing that the Foundation had broken a record earlier in the year by giving schools across Georgia $230,000 in grants to sponsor K-12 music programs, after school programs, and summer camps. The money was raised from last year’s benefit show, a grant from the Georgia Educational Relief Fund, and money from Dinah Gretsch’s Mrs. G’s Music Foundation, as well as individual donations.
ANDERSON EAST TRAVELS SOUTH AND IMPRESSES WITH HIS SMOOTH BLEND OF R&B, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, AND BLUE-EYED SOUL.
Closing the show was singer/songwriter Anderson East, a Grammy nominee who was named the “Emerging Artist of the Year” by the Americana Music Awards in 2018. Anderson, an Alabama native, and his tight seven-piece band (which included trumpet and saxophone players) played a memorable and moving 30-minute set that included “Devil In Me,” “Satisfy Me,” and the powerful, heartfelt “If You Keep Leaving Me.” East has an amazing voice that channels hints of Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, and Otis Redding among others. And, for some of his songs, Anderson strapped on a beautiful, limited-edition 140th Anniversary Gretsch Double Platinum Penguin electric guitar.
A FITTING ENDING TO A VERY SPECIAL EVENING FOR A VERY SPECIAL CAUSE.
The evening’s entertainment and fund-raising event closed in appropriate fashion when several Savannah-area musicians that included vocalist Trae Gurley, keyboardist Eric Jones, and violinist Isaac Smith took the stage and performed a smooth, soulful rendition of “Georgia On My Mind,” the official state song of Georgia since 1979. What a classy way to close out a classy and memorable musical evening! Hundreds of K-12 students across the state of Georgia couldn’t agree more.