Gretsch 6120, '58
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Western Orange, Serial # 26522.
The Gretsch Chet Atkins Hollowbody Model 6120 was introduced in 1954. Gretsch designed it with input from Chet Atkins to be his signature model guitar. The features changed over the years as Chet was continually striving to improve his sound, and Gretsch was always looking for new marketing ideas. One of the most significant upgrades to the model was the change from DeArmond single coil pickups to Filtertron humbuckers in 1958. Chet disliked the twangy sound caused by the strong magnetic pull of the DeArmonds, along with the annoying 60-cycle hum. He developed a relationship with amp builder Ray Butts who eventually designed some experimental humbuckers for Chet’s guitar. Chet approved of the sound, and the pickups were produced by Gretsch to be included on all their top end guitars.
This example from the collection is from one of the earliest batches of Filtertron equipped 6120s. The pickups have no “Pat. Applied For” stamped in the metal of the pickup cover as usually seen between 1958 and 1960. The pickguard is left over from those cut to accommodate DeArmonds. The guitar originally had metal nut as was standard at the time on Atkins Models. The previous owner had replaced it with a more conventional nut many years ago.
This Gretsch’s white cowboy case contains an interesting item of historical significance: it’s the previous owner’s original sales receipt. The already second hand 6120 was purchased in 1960 from Layton’s Music store in Oskaloosa Iowa. The guitar was tagged at $340. A trade in of $280 was accepted for a 1956 Fender Stratocaster, leaving a balance after tax of $71.63! At the time a fancy Chet Atkins Hollowbody was considered a much classier instrument than a Sci-Fi slab of wood Strat.