Western Orange, Serial # 40749.
In 1954, the Fred Gretsch Company introduced its own artist endorsed guitar in response to the success of Gibson’s Les Paul Model. The virtuoso country artist Chet Atkins was chosen, and with his input, the model 6120 Chet Atkins Hollowbody was born.
The guitar included features requested by Atkins, such as a 24 and ¾” scale length, metal nut, and Bigsby Vibrato tailpiece, It also initially sported “kitschy” western designs intended to appeal to country music fans. Atkins disliked the extra cosmetic decorations and they were gradually removed as he and the guitar became more popular.
This early 1961 version has the typical characteristics of 6120 models produced for that year. These include: an ebony fingerboard with neoclassic inlays (1958), Filter’Tron Humbucking pickups (1958), zero fret (1959), V-style Gretsch by Bigsby tailpiece (1960), and a bar bridge (1957). By 1961, the body depth had thinned to just 2.25” thick (from 2.75” in ’54, to 2.5” in ’60). Possibly due to the thinner body, the neck joint changed from a dovetail to a mortise and tenon. The reinforcing dowel was moved from the back of the heel to the side located in the cutaway.
Later examples from ’61 would also be equipped with a standby switch before the model changed to a double cutaway in 1962.