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 ¾" scale length, a metal nut, and a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. It also initially sported “kitschy” Western designs intended to appeal to country music fans, although Atkins disliked the extra cosmetic decorations. They were gradually removed as he and the guitar became more popular.
The early 1961 version featured this month has the typical characteristics of 6120 models produced that year. These include an ebony fretboard with neoclassical inlays (1958), Filter’Tron humbucking pickups (1958), a 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" (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 design in 1962.
Detailed, in-depth information on 6120s can be found in the new book Gretsch 6120—The History of a Legendary Guitar by Edward Ball. More information on Gretsch guitars can be found in The Gretsch Book by Tony Bacon and Paul Day, and in The Guitars of the Fred Gretsch Company by Jay Scott.
Dave’s Guitar Shop
Daves Rogers’ collection is tended to by
Laun Braithwaite and Tim Mullally
Photos and words by Tim Mullally
Dave’s collection is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601