Gretsch 6120, ’56
Western Orange, Serial # 18527.
By the early ‘50s guitar virtuoso Chet Atkins was a well known Nashville studio musician on his way to becoming a successful recording artist in his own right. The Gretsch Company, seeing his potential, asked him to work with them in creating a signature model. In the middle of 1954 Atkins received his first prototype, which was based on Gretsch’s already existing Streamliner model holowbody. He approved, but requested the addition of a Bigsby vibrato and a brass nut to improve sustain. After Chet received a second prototype with those revisions, Gretsch began producing the guitar in late 1954 to be ready to sell in early 1955.
The 1955 Model 6120 included those features requested by Atkins; including a 22 fret neck with a 24.5” scale length (a few early examples had only 21 frets). The body was 15.5” wide and 2.75” deep. The transparent amber red (orange) finish and “kitschy” western designs were intended to appeal to country music fans. Atkins disliked the extra cosmetic decorations and had them gradually removed as he and the guitar became more popular.
The 1956 Model Year 6120 pictured, has features common to the first two 100 unit batches of 6120s made for 1956 (actually built in late 1955). These include a new for ’56 large truss-rod cover (replacing the “bullet” cover), fixed arm aluminum Bigsby B6 (replacing the gold anodized version of ‘55), steer’s head headstock inlay, rosewood fingerboard with cows and cactus inlays, and a “G” brand near the bass f-hole.