Our columnist re-friends a classic American brand.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Gretsch guitars. On one hand, my first real guitar was a 1966 Gretsch Country Gentleman, George Harrison’s weapon of choice in the early Beatles days. On the other, all of the Gretsches I’ve owned—four or five—have been sold because I just couldn’t bond with them. But I always keep looking.
So, I was looking at Craigslist a few months ago and spotted this guitar. It’s a 2016 Gretsch Streamliner G2420, and the seller wanted $200. The seller only had one grainy picture of it and mentioned that it had a repaired neck break near the headstock. I knew that would scare off most buyers, but the seller also mentioned it had very low action with no other issues. The seller was out of town, but had a girlfriend who could show it to me, so I called her and set up a time to take a look at it.
Ouch! In this photo, we see the not-exactly-seamless neck repair. However, repairs like this rarely affect the playability or tone of a guitar.
Bottom Feeder Tip #2817: Craigslist is a great place to check out gear in your area. You have to make sure you have cash (no checks or credit cards), have a good knowledge of streets in your town, and be careful to go during daylight hours and take a friend along if you can.
I did my homework and knew what these sold for: $399 street. When I went to see the guitar, and the girlfriend opened the case, I was surprised at how good it looked. The grainy picture didn’t do it justice. After I strummed a few chords acoustically, she asked if I wanted to test it through an amp. She had a Fender Blues Junior sitting in the corner, and when I plugged in, the G2420 sounded much brighter than I’d expected. I wasn’t sure how I would like the Broad’Tron humbucking pickups that are standard on these guitars, but within 30 seconds I was sold.
Gretsch’s Broad’Tron humbucking pickups have a distinctive sound, blending mid warmth with some upper-end bite. It was magic to Will Ray’s ears.
I checked out the neck repair. Although it looked a little sloppy, it seemed like a pretty solid repair. Then I went string by string, fret by fret, going all the way up the neck to make sure there was no major buzzing or fretting out. It passed with flying colors. I also checked the neck relief and it was straight as an arrow, and the super-low action on it was testament to the neck’s integrity.
I asked if they would take $175, but after calling her boyfriend she said the price was firm. However, to my way of thinking, because the hardshell case was included, I figured I could sell the case easily for $50 and at that point I would only have $150 in the guitar—a much sweeter deal. So, I bought it and was giddy all the way home.
Die-cast nickel tuners come standard on this model. The controls are a bit more unusual: one master volume dial, two pickup volume dials, one master tone knob, and a 3-way toggle.
I played it for several weeks before declaring it a part of the family. Check out my MP3. The pickups sound somewhere between P-90s and classic old Gretsch Filter’Trons. It’s a keeper for now, plus I’ve made friends with Gretsch again.