Western Orange, Serial # 23405.
By 1953, The Fred Grestch Manufacturing Company had been building drums banjos and guitars for 70 years. The traditional instrument maker made what seemed like a radical move by following the lead of Fender and Gibson in producing its own solid body guitar: the Duo Jet. While the Fender Telecaster’s ash body and the Gibson Les Paul’s mahogany/maple body were solid, the Gretsch Duo Jet’s mahogany body was nearly hollow to accommodate the electronics and wiring. The hollowed-out body was then covered with a pressed arched top. The black Duo-Jet was soon followed by a family of similar guitars with the main difference being the finish, as stated in the 1955 Gretsch catalog: “Offered in four models, each one a triumph of modernistic beauty and musical performance”. These guitars were (including the Duo Jet) the Silver Jet (silver sparkle), the Jet Fire Bird (red), and the Round-Up (western orange).
The Round-Up was devised in 1953 while Country & Western music was gaining recognition on the pop charts. It was aimed at enticing aspiring country guitarists with over-the-top cowboy style decorations. The 1955 catalog described the guitar as having “Masculine beauty in real Western finish. Tooled leather shoulder strap and body binding; gold plated metal parts.” The fingerboard inlays were etched with the same steer head and cacti that appeared in the leather trim and strap. A pearloid steer head was also inlayed under the Gretsch logo on the headstock. A dramatic “G” brand embellished the top (often knotty pine). These decorations were re-used the next year on the Chet Atkins signature models and the acoustic Rancher.
The 1957 Round-Up pictured shows the typical characteristics identifying most 1957 model year Gretsches, which include: Humptop block fingerboard inlays(no etching), knobs indented with a “G” bisected by an arrow, and a long trussrod cover (1956). The Round-Up features that remained unchanged from the original version were the studded leather side trim, western belt buckle tailpiece, tortoiseshell pickguard decorated with a steer head (the steer head on the headstock had been replaced by a horseshoe), DeArmond single coil pickups, and Melita adjustable bridge. The original “G” brand had disappeared from the deep orange stained maple top by this time.