As far as bright colors and fancy appointments, the Fred Gretsch Company led the way. Gretsch achieved the pinnacle of luxury and style with its pièce de résistance, the White Falcon.
A stunning 1958 Gretsch 6136 White Falcon, serial #26356.
The exciting changes in the popular music of the 1950s also called for electrifying transformations in musical instruments. As the electric guitar became increasingly prominent, the top guitar companies battled to come up with the most innovative and attractive designs.
As far as bright colors and fancy appointments, the Fred Gretsch Company led the way. Gretsch achieved the pinnacle of luxury and style with its pièce de résistance, the White Falcon. The 1955 Gretsch catalog announced that “Cost was never considered in the planning of this guitar. We were building an instrument for the artist-player whose caliber justifies and demands the utmost in striking beauty, luxurious styling, and peak tonal performance and who is willing to pay the price.”
Gretsch’s special representative—the guitar promoter and demonstrator Jimmie Webster—designed the White Falcon. Webster drew ideas from a variety of sources including the gaudy Bacon and Day banjos of the Jazz Age. The 17"-wide body was finished in luminous white with gold sparkle binding. The gold-plated hardware included fancy jeweled knobs, Grover Imperial tuners, and a striking new tailpiece with a V-shape similar to the one used in the ’50s Cadillac logo. The gold pickguard was engraved with a flying Falcon.
LEFT: Designed by Jimmie Webster, the White Falcon represented the apex of the Gretsch line. With its six wheel saddles and threaded mounting bar, Webster’s Space Control bridge allowed a player to adjust string-to-string spacing to accommodate fingerstyle or plectrum technique. MIDDLE: The White Falcon’s tailpiece bore more than a passing resemblance to a ’50s Cadillac logo. RIGHT: In 1958, a horizontal Gretsch logo replaced the original vertical one.
This 1958 White Falcon has features typical of that year’s model—a gold sparkle horizontal headstock logo inlaid in the white Nitron plastic veneer (changed from the original vertical logo in ’58), Neo Classic thumbprint inlays in an ebony fretboard (changed from the original feather engraved hump-block inlays in ’58), Patent Applied For Filter’Tron humbucking pickups (replacing DeArmond single-coils), and a gold Space Control bridge (replacing the original Melita).
A new White Falcon sold for $675 in 1958. This guitar’s current value is about $20,000.
You’ll find lots of compelling photos and lore in 50 Years of Gretsch Electrics: Half a Century of White Falcons, Gents, Jets, and Other Great Guitars by Tony Bacon, The Guitars of the Fred Gretsch Company by Jay Scott, and The Gretsch Book—A Complete History of Gretsch Electric Guitars by Tony Bacon and Paul Day.
Original price: $675 in 1958
Current estimated market value: $20,000
Dave ’s Guitar Shop
Dave Rogers’ collection is tended by Laun Braithwaite and Tim Mullally and is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
Photos by Mullally and text by Braithwaite.