View highlights from Randy Bachman’s extraordinary collection of Gretsch guitars on display at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

This Songbird 711 is from a very limited run of custom guitars made in 1967 for Sam Goody record stores. It’s identical to the Gretsch Rally, but has custom G-shaped soundholes and swaps the rally stripes for a metal plate on the headstock engraved with “711 Songbird.”

The Songbird has a 16"-wide double-cutaway body, two HiLo’Tron single-coils, a Gretsch V-cut Bigsby Vibrato with a roller bridge, a zero fret, and a Gretsch T-roof headstock logo.

And here’s something unusual: The fretboard has Neo Classic inlays to the 12th fret and offset dot markers from the 15th fret. What gives? This reveals the presence of a compensated intonation system developed by jazz guitarist Jimmie Webster. Dubbed the T-Zone Tempered Treble, the concept emerged from Webster’s experience as a professional piano tuner.

Gretsch shipped T-Zone guitars with a hangtag that described the system as providing “perfect high note intonation.” It went on to explain the scheme in greater detail: Just one degree makes a difference when it comes to clear bell tone trebles. Starting at the 12th position, you will notice that the frets are angled just one slight degree sharp. This is called stretching the octave. In doing so the treble is brought into proper relation with the human ear, which by nature anticipates a shade sharp in the extreme trebles. You will never notice the slight degree in your fingering, but you will notice a beautiful change in your treble range.

Introduced in 1964, Gretsch’s short-lived T-Zone was typically found on selected White Falcon and Viking models. Offset dot markers starting at the 15th fret indicate T-Zone-configured guitars.

In January, Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled the largest exhibition of stringed instruments ever mounted within its walls. American Sound and Beauty: Guitars from the Bachman-Gretsch Collection comprises 75 instruments collected by guitarist and songwriter Randy Bachman, a founding member of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Bachman acquired more than 300 historic and rare Gretsch guitars in the 1970s and ’80s, and in 2008 the Gretsch Foundation purchased his collection as a way to physically document the company’s long and colorful history.

“The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum are incredible stewards of over two million artifacts in their own collection,” says Fred W. Gretsch, current president of Gretsch Guitars and head of the Gretsch Foundation. “When thinking about where to debut this collection, they were the obvious choice to both tell the Gretsch story and showcase these beautiful works of art to the world.”

The instruments in this exhibition date from 1923 to the early 1980s. “This collection tells a story of American life,” says museum CEO Kyle Young. “From the Great Depression to the social unrest of the 1960s and 1970s, music has always evolved to reflect the important issues of the day, providing a soundtrack to history. Through sound and beauty these guitars reflect that evolution and tell our story.”

American Sound and Beauty runs through mid summer, so if you’ve been thinking about visiting Music City, here’s another reason to make the trek. In an interview with The Tennessean, the museum’s Curatorial Director Mick Buck said, “These are some of the most amazing guitars you’ll ever see.” And he’s not exaggerating.

Can’t visit in person? No worries: Here are some highlights from this unique exhibition. As Chet Atkins once remarked, “Crazy gadgetry. Cool beauty. Weird tone. Stylish glamour. That’s Gretsch for you.” Check out these photos and see if you agree.

Sources for this story include American Sound and Beauty exhibition literature, The Gretsch Electric Guitar Book: 60 Years of White Falcons, 6120s, Jets, Gents, and More by Tony Bacon, and The Gretsch Book: A Complete History of Gretsch Electric Guitars by Tony Bacon and Paul Day.

Special thanks to CMHOF’s Joseph Conner, Jack Clutter, John Reed, and Mick Buck for granting us access to this collection and providing crucial information about each instrument.

There’s way more than blues-rock fodder buried in the crevices of the most overused scale in music.



  • Explain how chords are generated from scales.
  • Create unusual harmonies, chord progressions, bass lines, and melodies using the blues scale.
  • Demonstrate how music theory and musical intuition can coalesce to create unique sounds from traditional materials.
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Last updated on May 21, 2022

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