Steve recently visited the Gretsch offices and toured the factory and as a result we wanted to recap the vist for you here.
The first stop was a meeting at the Gretsch offices. Fred Gretsch was gracious enough to show us his extensive collection of articles, instruments and other memorabilia that traces the history of the Gretsch business. The amount of material that Fred has accumulated is truly incredible, and it has become so vast that he has now hired a curator to assist in organizing the data and other items. This is an excellent step that will allow for the Gretsch history to be well documented and preserved for future generations. Fred and Dinah hosted dinner that evening and we had a wonderful time discussing the future. It is easy to see that Fred takes great pride in the accomplishments of the family business and his efforts to preserve the family heritage are astounding. Of all the great family-owned USA drum businesses Gretsch is the only one that is still family owned, which is no small accomplishment in this day and age. Hats off to Fred!
Dinah has always played a pivitol role in the business along with Fred, and in addition, she does a great deal of work in the community helping to promote music within schools and also supports these efforts with financial assistance. She performs this work with no fanfare, and does so truly for "the right reasons". I applaud her work.
The next day we toured the factory. Paul Cooper and his team (only 6 people in all) do a wonderful job of handcrafting the tremendous USA Custom Gretsch drums. Here's a litte overview of the degree of work that goes into each USA Custom drum:
- Shells are sanded inside and outside before any work is done. All done by hand.
- Lacquer finishes are applied in several coats (as many as six), with drying time and sanding required between each coat. All done by hand.
- Spray lacquer is applied to the drum, as well as the silver sealer for the inside of the shells
- Dry sanding and wet sanding processes are all done by hand
- Drilling is done by hand as well using the same equipment that built the great drums of the 60s in Brooklyn.
- Bearing edges are cut on the same equipment used in the 60s.
- Lacquer buffing is done by Paul himself on the majority of the shells
- Assembly is also done by hand.
The team is extremely talented and dedicated and they truly produce a world class product. Paul has been with Gretsch for 10 years now, and I know him from the days when he first started with Gretsch. He and I first met at the Chicago Vintage Drum Show when he had been on the job 2 weeks! Much has happened since then, and the efforts of this team are truly amazing. The product is superb, and the people building these drums truly desire to build the highest quality product possible. And, the fact that these drums are being built with the same machines that were used in the 60s makes it extra special. The "vibe" in the factory is incredible and I tip my hat to Paul and his team for their tremendous work, and to Fred for keeping the legacy alive.