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The second batch of Jets included the new Gretsch “T-roof” logo inlay. Courtesy of Matt Riz/Photo by Rachel Thoele
The ’54 Silver Jet above is serial number 12955—just six units into the batch—and it might just be the first example of the Silver Jet ever produced. It displays a model stamp on it’s interior label of 6128, with a hand-penciled “S” next to it, suggesting that the 6129 model stamps prevalent in later specimens of this model were not yet available. But the most exciting aspect of this amazing guitar is the fact that it retains the script-logo headstock motif thought to have been abandoned after the ’53 debut batch. But recent research confirms that Duo Jet number 12951 also displays the script-logo headstock, corroborating the fact that the first few specimens from this second Jet solidbody production batch apparently received the last of the script-logo headstocks. Research also shows that the switch to the new-for-’54 T-roof headstock motif was complete by serial number 12958, which means this holy grail Silver Jet is one of the last guitars to receive the script logo on its headstock.
So this Silver Jet, plausibly the first of its 6129 kind, might simultaneously be the last of its kind relative to the script-logo headstock. It remains to be seen if any of the other eight guitars from the beginning of that second batch (serial numbers 12950– 12957) were Silver Jets with the rare script-logo headstock. Regardless, this specimen is a unique and historically significant instrument coveted by many Gretsch aficionados.
This rare example of a 1957 Jet (serial number 25545) has all the characteristics of the fi rst Cadillac-green batch, including standard 6128 Duo Jet labels and August 1957 potentiometer codes. Photo courtesy of Billy Straus
Firebirds and Cadillacs
In the 1955 model year, Gretsch designers expanded the Jet solidbody options again with the introduction of the Jet Firebird model 6131. Sharing identical features and hardware with its siblings, this variation offered an Oriental red top finish and black back and sides. This model went on to be associated with the great Bo Diddley, who could be seen playing it on the cover of his 1959 album Go Bo Diddley.
Upon this third finish option’s inclusion in the Jet solidbody lineup, all subsequent Jet batches included all three models (6128, 6129, and 6131). These guitars would represent the Jet solidbody offering until sometime in late 1957, when Gretsch introduced two special limited-run mini batches with a new finish and a different hardware package. These mini batches began with serial numbers 255XX and 262XX, and they consisted of Jet solidbodies with a Cadillac-green finish that previously had been exclusive to the company’s Country Club model 6196 electric archtop. In addition to this new finish, the hardware on guitars in these mini batches was gold-plated—an upgrade option not available on the other three existing Jet models. These Cadillac green Jets have labels with the standard 6128 Duo Jet model stamp, and their potentiometer codes date from August 1957. Another unique feature on many (if not all) of these Cadillac-green Jets is a banjo-style armrest, an accoutrement only shared with the legendary White Penguin model 6134—which, perhaps not-so-coincidentally, was produced in batch 263XX immediately after the second mini batch of Cadillac-green Jets.
The Cadillac-green fi nish on certain 1957 Jets had previously only been available on Gretsch Country
Club 6196 models, while the armrest also appeared on White Penguin 6134 models that were produced
immediately after the batch this specimen came from. Photo courtesy of Billy Straus
Because of their relative rarity—only 50–75 specimens are believed to have been produced—and their elegant aesthetic, these green-and-gold Jets are also holy grail guitars to many Gretsch collectors. Other Jets with later serial numbers and model-year features have surfaced in this finish, but they are almost certainly one-off custom orders. These minibatch examples, with their classic ’57-model-year “humpblock” fretboard inlays are the original, and a greatly sought-after prize.
Ed Ball is an authority on vintage Gretsch guitars. His book Gretsch 6120: The History of a Legendary Guitar was published by Schiffer Books in 2010.