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more... Gear PornSeptember 2011

Gretsch Holy Grail Duo Jets

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Gretsch Holy Grail Duo Jets

A close-up of the DeArmond Dynasonic-equipped 1954 Silver Jet. Courtesy of Matt Riz/Photo by Rachel Thoele

In the summer of 1953, the Gretsch Company responded to the new threat of solidbody electric guitars from both Gibson and Fender with its own offering—the Gretsch Duo Jet model 6128. With its dual DeArmond Dynasonic pickups, the 6128 possessed contours that were clearly inspired by the Gibson’s highly successful Les Paul model introduced in 1952. The Duo Jet was also the first Gretsch electric model to facilitate truss-rod adjustments via a headstock mechanism concealed by a bullet-shaped cover. Unlike the Les Paul’s metallic “goldtop” finish, the Gretsch Duo Jet featured a black top made of Nitron plastic. And although it was considered a solidbody instrument, it in fact employed a chambered body that reduced weight and contributed to the model’s signature tone.

Upon returning to production after World War II, the Gretsch factory in Brooklyn, New York, initiated a sequential serial-numbering system that marked instruments with stamped paper labels that were applied inside the guitars. Jet solidbodies’ labels were inside the large control cavity in the back of the guitar. A unique feature not shared by other Gretsch models is the fact that the Duo Jet also had its serial number handwritten on the outside edge of the black plate covering the large control cavity. This was done to relieve the retailer from having to remove the plate to document the number.


A rare example of an early 1954 Gretsch Silver Jet from the fi rst production batch to include the
sparkly variation on the Duo Jet design. Guitar Courtesy of Matt Riz/Photo by Rachel Thoele

Birth and a Sparkly Evolution
The Gretsch factory was known to have produced guitars in batches, typically 50 or 100 units of a particular model at a time. However, the debut 6128 batch consisted of 150 units with serial numbers from 11900 to 12049. These are considered the sole examples of 1953-model-year Duo Jets. The identifying feature of these debut-batch Duo Jets is the “script”-style logo inlaid on their headstocks—a carryover from the company’s Synchromatic guitar line, which had a similar type style in its headstock logos. The limited production of these 1953 script-logo Duo Jets makes them quite popular with collectors.

The second batch of Duo Jets also had 150 units (serial numbers 12950–13099). These are considered the first of the 1954 model year. These ’54 Jets featured a new inlaid headstock logo commonly referred to as the Gretsch “T-roof ” logo. Included in this batch was a new iteration of the Jet solidbody known as the Silver Jet model 6129. This variation on the Duo Jet theme featured a lustrous silver-sparkle top made from the same material that the Gretsch factory used to cover drum shells. This model represents the first example of the Jet solidbody format expanded with new finish options. Subsequent Jet solidbody batches would be produced with a mix of both model 6128 Duo Jets and model 6129 Silver Jets.
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