Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why I ended up finally playing a Gretsch 6120SSU, Brian Setzer model guitar...


One day long before MTV, I came home from school was watching a video show I think called MV3 w Richard Blade and this new trio called the Straycats came on. They were "neo-rockabilly" and


 I was totally grabbed by it, and I'd grown up listening to Billy Haley, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Elvis, but to me that was my parents music. This was gonna be mine (as well as the Blasters) and Brian Setzer played a big old Gretsch and Blonde Fender amp!
 I knew I couldnt afford a real gretsch but I dreamed of having one someday,  and just kept playing my Dads Fender Coronado & peavey amp till college and eventually moved onto Strats, LPs, Teles, PRS, Hamer,etc.. 


Then a million lifetimes later in the early 90s I got to play in a lineup of bands w this group called The Violet Burning and the leader, Mike Pritzl had a G6120 running into a faun AC30, drive boxes,delay etc..
They werent rockabilly at all, totally alt rock and I couldnt believe how massive Pritzl's sound was w that gretsch. Later he moved onto a Vox AC50 head and marshall 4x12 and it got even better, oh man I couldnt stop drooling over what that guitar did. It was around that time too that I realized Brian Setzer had just reinvented himself w an orchestra and I picked up
the BSO's self titled album, Guitar Slinger album, and Dirty Boogie, and went apesheep over it, like obsessed out of my mind, crazy guitar fan. This was Gretsch w a freight train!


All these rockers w this elusive and expensive big hollowbody rock guitar, that played clean and dirty like tele and an es-335 in one guitar, but bigger and w more snarl. It was depressing to still not really get any closer to getting one after all those yrs of first paying attention to that big hollowbody guitwanger. Until a strange twist of fate, or divine circumstance happened to me...
One night while my wife and I were prayin together before bed about this and that, I just blurted out " Lord this sounds so selfish but I've wanted a Gretsch 6120 my whole life, if you can help me get an older beater I know
I can fix it up like new" ..the wife was kind of like uh..ok?  
It was sappy and one of those prayers you kinda keep to yourself, but I was feelin really low and frustrated and mean it.

A few months had passed, (this was 99') and I get an email from some guy responding to an add I'd placed in the recycler for a mesa boogie combo I'd picked up cheap, that I was selling and his response simply read "I dont know if youre open to trades, I'd really like this amp but I've just got a used gretsch hollowbody to trade. Let me know"..
    If you are one who believes in prayer or just one who believes in the universe aligning every so many decades in a persons life, you must at least know that for a guy like me at the time.. this was one crazy-ass, lucky moment or miracle about to unfold. I was in debt consolidation, my kid at that time was in and out of the hospital for childhood seizure disorder along w other things that were taxing our lives to the extreme.
Understand too that I was buying used gear at that time, fixing it up and selling it for my part of my income along w my weekly band gig. 

I needed to SELL the amp, not to trade it..but it seemed like something I needed to not let pass, my wife concurred.
So I packed up the amp to go meet this guy..

Interesting side note is that I had $300 cash in a safe box that was my last bit of working capital, all the rest was tied up in the amp. My M.O. was buy low, fix up as new, sell the product, invest in another used piece of gear, keep 20% of each sale.. So like I said, I actually needed to sell the amp not trade it. None the less out the door I headed, but there was this little voice in the back of my head that said "take that $300 with you, you never know what else someone might be selling or willing to sell".. So I did.    

     I get to the guys apartment, and he's covered in tats w a pompadour and tells me that he's tired of being in a rockabilly band and is joining a hard core band so he wants a mesa. I plug in the amp for him, set it up for humongous crunch  and he plays his tele through it and stops, goes: oh I want this!
Then he's like; "the guitar's in that case over there in the corner".   I fully expected to see some old beat to crap instrument that would take me a yr to restore but instead there is a 1999 G6120SSU in the case. It was a yr old, and all that was wrong w it if you can call it wrong, was that the truss cover wasnt on it, the pkguard was off, and no knobs. He goes; "I was embarassed about the setzer stuff so thats in a bag there too."   

I kept my game face on to show no excitement, but just straight foward said sure its a deal. I wanted to pick the guitar up and walk out as fast as I could, get in the car and high tale it out of OC back home.  I knew something crazy amazing had just occured.

So as I take the case in hand and bid him farewell he goes; "Wait a second, didnt you tell me you led worship w a rock band for a living" and I was ya, I do..
He goes; "well if you give me your amp, what are you gonna play through?"  I said; "well, I'll just go direct to PA clean for a while until I can find some amp to
borrow"..so he goes " dude if you can give me $300, you can have this amp over here in the other room, I'm not gonna need it and I dont really play it"
..and we go in the other room, its a mint Fender custom shop designed Vibrolux Reverb amp.  My eyes got big as dinner plates, but instantly I said "wooh this is a brand new amp, you could sell it at the drop of the hat for double" ..and he's like "hey if you can come up w that money its yours".. I start fighting back tears as I was already welled up inside because of this guitar I was holding in my hand and I pull out this money I'd taken w me and told him "for some reason man, I felt a leading to bring exactly $300 with me" ..he's like well, there YOU go man!!

I think am a pretty tough character but man I cried while laughing while crying while laughing, like a little kid, all the way to the car. All the way down the freeway, and all the way to the front door at home because I was convinced that prayer had been heard, and it custom made for me!
It was too perfect, too well orchestrated to be anything less than a miracle and you still cant tell me otherwise.  
I'd wanted a guitar like Brian Setzer as a kid in high school, I'd grown up playing rockabilly, taught to me by my father who loved Chet and his orange guitar. I'd wanted for years that orange Gretsch 6120 that Michael Pritz from the Violet Burning had.. and I prayed a lame, self centered prayer that I might find a beater gretsch to work on.. What do I end up with?
A 1 yr old Gretsch pro line Brian Setzer signature model guitar, a G6120SSU for what I had traded, a Mesa boogie amp I'd only paid $750 for. It was almost mint and they were going for a few thousand new ($4K list then?).
Also worth mentioning; the earlier model SSU's had a harder V shaped neck that I wouldnt be able to play because I was dealing w tennis elbow from the ovation acoustic I wrestled with for yrs, hated  that neck. haha.. BUT the '99 Setzer SSU has a very soft V and thinner profile, super easy on the hand for thumb over players like myself, like shaking an old friends hand!!  AND I HAD a new amp to boot for $300!.. a $1K mint Fender Custom Vibrolux!


A few yrs later in honor of that occasion, I had a tattoo (not the greatest looking, this one haha) put on my wrist w a scripture from the old testament bible book Isaiah 49:15,16  It was for me as a reminder, nothing more.



A once in a lifetime happenstance and therefore I am a made, Gretsch man! I use other guitars I've put together on stage now and then but the 99' SSU is the workhorse, my answer to a prayer guitar, that started a frienship later that yr w TvJones, then many yrs further down the road, inspired me to  start www.thenocturnebrain.com pedal/amp biz for roots rockers and even actually get to meet Mr Brian Setzer in person backstage (I've worn that crazy story out, I know) and play his 59'.. 



its wild man, just wild! I'm a Gretsch lifer #gretschmafia & thats my gretsch story.


gretsch deets: This is a 99' SSU but I've had it refretted by a pal at Fender custom shop with the same
6105 stainless steel frets and dressing that setzer has on all his guitars (a little off the top, and bulbous ends). I've also rebuilt the harness with mogami cable and tvjones.com Brian Setzer Signature filtertrons along with some stickers, a custom bigsby handle from voodooholly and inlaid bakelite pickguard from TK Smith. dumped the mud switch for a pushpull tone knob. when its down its out of the circuit like the hotrod models.. So technically while its still a G6120SSU, its really a Tavo model Gretsch! :)


One day long before MTV, I was watching a Video show w Richard Blade and this new trio called the Straycats came on.
[MEDIA=youtube]5hwsWhftfCg[/MEDIA]

I was totally grabbed by it, and I'd grown up with Chet Atkins as my dad was obsessed w him, but I wasnt. Just now starting to appreciating Chet.   I knew I couldnt afford a real gretsch but I dreamed of having one, just kept playing my Dads Fender Coronado till college
and moved onto Strats, LPs, Teles, PRS, Hamer,etc..

Then in the early 90s I got to play in a lineup of bands w this group called
The Violet Burning and the leader had a G6120 running into a faun AC30, drive boxes,delay etc..
[MEDIA=youtube]aApPUWkKjhs[/MEDIA]

They werent rockabilly at all, totally alt rock and I couldnt believe how massive his sound was. Later he moved onto a Vox AC50 head and marshall 4x12 and it got even better, oh man I couldnt stop drooling over what that guitar did. It was around that time too that I realized Brian Setzer had just reinvented himself w an orchestra and I picked up
the BSO's self titled album, Guitar Slinger album, and Dirty Boogie, and went apesheep over it, like obsessed out of my mind, crazy guitar fan. :)


One night while my wife and I were prayin together before bed about this and that, I just blurted out
" Lord this sounds so selfish but I've wanted a Gretsch 6120 my whole life, if you can help me get an older beater I know
I can fix it up like new" ..the wife was kind of like uh..ok?  It was sappy and one of those prayers you
kinda keep to yourself, but I was feelin really low and frustrated and mean it.

A few months had passed, (this was 99') and I get an email from some guy responding to an add I'd placed in the recycler for a mesa boogie combo I'd picked up cheap, that I was selling and his response simply read "I dont know if youre open to trades, I'd really like this amp but I've just got a used gretsch hollowbody to trade. Let me know"..
    If you are one who believes in prayer or just one who believes in the universe aligning every so many decades in a persons life, you must at least know that for a guy
like me at the time.. this was one crazy ass lucky moment or miracle about to unfold. I was in debt consolidation, my oldest son at that time was in and out of the hospital for
childhood seizure disorder along w other things that were taxing our lives to the extreme.
Understand too that I was buying used gear at that time, fixing it up and selling it for my part of my income along w my weekly band gig. I
needed to SELL the amp, not to trade it..but it seemed like something I needed to not let pass, my wife concurred.
So I packed up the amp to go meet this guy..

Interesting side note is that I had $300 cash in a safe box that was my last bit of working capital, all the rest was tied up in the amp. My M.O. was buy low, fix up as new, sell the product, invest in another used piece of gear, keep 20% of each sale.. So like I said, I actually needed to sell the amp not trade it. None the less out the door I headed, but there was this little voice in the back of my head that said "take that $300 with you, you never know what else someone might be selling or willing to sell".. So
I did.

I get to the guys apartment, and he's covered in tats w a pompadour and tells me that he's tired of being in a rockabilly band and is joining a hard core band so he wants a mesa. I plug in the amp for him, set it up for humongous crunch  and he plays his tele through it and stops, goes: oh I want this!
Then he's like; "the guitar's in that case over there in the corner".. I fully expected to see some old beat to crap instrument that would take me a yr to restore but instead there is a 1999 G6120SSU in the case. It was a yr old, and all that was wrong w it if you can call it wrong, was that the truss cover wasnt on it, the pkguard was off, and no knobs. He goes "I was embarassed about the setzer stuff so thats in a bag."   I kept my game face on to show no excitement, but just straightfoward said sure its a deal. I wanted to pick the guitar up and walk out as fast as I could, get in the car and high tale it out of OC back home.  I knew something crazy amazing had just occured.

So as I take the case in hand and bid him farewell he goes "Wait a second, didnt you tell me you led worship w a rock band for a living" and I was ya, I do..
He goes; "well if you give me your amp, what are you gonna play through?"  I said "well, I'll just go direct to PA clean for a while until I can find some amp to
borrow"..so he goes " dude if you can give me $300, you can have this amp over here in the other room, I'm not gonna need it and I dont really play it"
..and we go in the other room, its a mint Fender custom shop designed Vibrolux Reverb amp.  My eyes go big as plates, but instantly I said "wooh this is a brand new amp, you could sell it at the drop of the hat for double" ..and he's like "hey if you can come up w that money its yours".. I start fighting back tears because I was already welled up inside because of this guitar I was holding in my hand and I pull out this $300 I'd taken w me w a "for some reason man, I felt a leading to bring exactly $300 with me" ..he's like well, there you go man!!

I think am a pretty tough character but man I cried while laughing while crying while laughing, like a little kid, all the way to the car. All the way down the freeway, to the front door home because I was convinced that prayer had been heard, and it custom made for me!
It was too perfect, too well orchestrated to be anything less than a miracle and you still cant tell me otherwise.  
I'd wanted a guitar like Brian Setzer as a kid in high school, I'd grown up playing rockabilly, taught to me by my father who loved Chet and his orange guitar. I'd wanted for years an orange Gretsch 6120 that Michael Pritz from the Violet Burning had.. and I prayed a lame, self centered prayer that I might find a beater gretsch to work on.. What do I end up with?
A 1 yr old Gretsch pro line Brian Setzer signature model guitar, a G6120SSU for what I had traded, a Mesa boogie amp I'd only paid
$750 f0r. It was almost mint and they were going for a few thousand new ($4K list then?).
Also worth mentioning; the earlier model SSU's had a harder V shaped neck that I wouldnt be able to play because I was dealing w tennis elbow from the ovation acoustic I wrestled with for yrs, hated  that neck. haha.. BUT the '99 Setzer SSU has a very soft V and thinner profile, super easy on the hand for thumb over players like myself, like shaking an old friends hand!!  AND I HAD a new amp to boot for $300!.. a $1K mint Fender Custom Vibrolux!

A few yrs later in honor of that occasion, I had a tattoo (not the greatest lookin, this one haha) put on my wrist w a scripture from the old testament bible book Isaiah 49:15,16  It was for me as a reminder, nothing more.

A once in a lifetime happenstance and therefore I am a made, Gretsch man! I use other guitars I've put together on stage now and then but the 99' SSU is the workhorse, my answer to a prayer guitar, that started a frienship later that yr w TvJones, then many yrs further down the road, inspired me to  start the pedal/amp biz for roots rock and actually get to meet Mr Brian Setzer in person backstage.. its wild! #gretschmafia   thats my gretsch story.
One day long before MTV, I was watching a Video show w Richard Blade and this new trio called the Straycats came on.
[MEDIA=youtube]5hwsWhftfCg[/MEDIA]

I was totally grabbed by it, and I'd grown up with Chet Atkins as my dad was obsessed w him, but I wasnt. Just now starting to appreciating Chet.   I knew I couldnt afford a real gretsch but I dreamed of having one, just kept playing my Dads Fender Coronado till college
and moved onto Strats, LPs, Teles, PRS, Hamer,etc..

Then in the early 90s I got to play in a lineup of bands w this group called
The Violet Burning and the leader had a G6120 running into a faun AC30, drive boxes,delay etc..
[MEDIA=youtube]aApPUWkKjhs[/MEDIA]

They werent rockabilly at all, totally alt rock and I couldnt believe how massive his sound was. Later he moved onto a Vox AC50 head and marshall 4x12 and it got even better, oh man I couldnt stop drooling over what that guitar did. It was around that time too that I realized Brian Setzer had just reinvented himself w an orchestra and I picked up
the BSO's self titled album, Guitar Slinger album, and Dirty Boogie, and went apesheep over it, like obsessed out of my mind, crazy guitar fan. :)


One night while my wife and I were prayin together before bed about this and that, I just blurted out
" Lord this sounds so selfish but I've wanted a Gretsch 6120 my whole life, if you can help me get an older beater I know
I can fix it up like new" ..the wife was kind of like uh..ok?  It was sappy and one of those prayers you
kinda keep to yourself, but I was feelin really low and frustrated and mean it.

A few months had passed, (this was 99') and I get an email from some guy responding to an add I'd placed in the recycler for a mesa boogie combo I'd picked up cheap, that I was selling and his response simply read "I dont know if youre open to trades, I'd really like this amp but I've just got a used gretsch hollowbody to trade. Let me know"..
    If you are one who believes in prayer or just one who believes in the universe aligning every so many decades in a persons life, you must at least know that for a guy
like me at the time.. this was one crazy ass lucky moment or miracle about to unfold. I was in debt consolidation, my oldest son at that time was in and out of the hospital for
childhood seizure disorder along w other things that were taxing our lives to the extreme.
Understand too that I was buying used gear at that time, fixing it up and selling it for my part of my income along w my weekly band gig. I
needed to SELL the amp, not to trade it..but it seemed like something I needed to not let pass, my wife concurred.
So I packed up the amp to go meet this guy..

Interesting side note is that I had $300 cash in a safe box that was my last bit of working capital, all the rest was tied up in the amp. My M.O. was buy low, fix up as new, sell the product, invest in another used piece of gear, keep 20% of each sale.. So like I said, I actually needed to sell the amp not trade it. None the less out the door I headed, but there was this little voice in the back of my head that said "take that $300 with you, you never know what else someone might be selling or willing to sell".. So
I did.

I get to the guys apartment, and he's covered in tats w a pompadour and tells me that he's tired of being in a rockabilly band and is joining a hard core band so he wants a mesa. I plug in the amp for him, set it up for humongous crunch  and he plays his tele through it and stops, goes: oh I want this!
Then he's like; "the guitar's in that case over there in the corner".. I fully expected to see some old beat to crap instrument that would take me a yr to restore but instead there is a 1999 G6120SSU in the case. It was a yr old, and all that was wrong w it if you can call it wrong, was that the truss cover wasnt on it, the pkguard was off, and no knobs. He goes "I was embarassed about the setzer stuff so thats in a bag."   I kept my game face on to show no excitement, but just straightfoward said sure its a deal. I wanted to pick the guitar up and walk out as fast as I could, get in the car and high tale it out of OC back home.  I knew something crazy amazing had just occured.

So as I take the case in hand and bid him farewell he goes "Wait a second, didnt you tell me you led worship w a rock band for a living" and I was ya, I do..
He goes; "well if you give me your amp, what are you gonna play through?"  I said "well, I'll just go direct to PA clean for a while until I can find some amp to
borrow"..so he goes " dude if you can give me $300, you can have this amp over here in the other room, I'm not gonna need it and I dont really play it"
..and we go in the other room, its a mint Fender custom shop designed Vibrolux Reverb amp.  My eyes go big as plates, but instantly I said "wooh this is a brand new amp, you could sell it at the drop of the hat for double" ..and he's like "hey if you can come up w that money its yours".. I start fighting back tears because I was already welled up inside because of this guitar I was holding in my hand and I pull out this $300 I'd taken w me w a "for some reason man, I felt a leading to bring exactly $300 with me" ..he's like well, there you go man!!

I think am a pretty tough character but man I cried while laughing while crying while laughing, like a little kid, all the way to the car. All the way down the freeway, to the front door home because I was convinced that prayer had been heard, and it custom made for me!
It was too perfect, too well orchestrated to be anything less than a miracle and you still cant tell me otherwise.  
I'd wanted a guitar like Brian Setzer as a kid in high school, I'd grown up playing rockabilly, taught to me by my father who loved Chet and his orange guitar. I'd wanted for years an orange Gretsch 6120 that Michael Pritz from the Violet Burning had.. and I prayed a lame, self centered prayer that I might find a beater gretsch to work on.. What do I end up with?
A 1 yr old Gretsch pro line Brian Setzer signature model guitar, a G6120SSU for what I had traded, a Mesa boogie amp I'd only paid
$750 f0r. It was almost mint and they were going for a few thousand new ($4K list then?).
Also worth mentioning; the earlier model SSU's had a harder V shaped neck that I wouldnt be able to play because I was dealing w tennis elbow from the ovation acoustic I wrestled with for yrs, hated  that neck. haha.. BUT the '99 Setzer SSU has a very soft V and thinner profile, super easy on the hand for thumb over players like myself, like shaking an old friends hand!!  AND I HAD a new amp to boot for $300!.. a $1K mint Fender Custom Vibrolux!

A few yrs later in honor of that occasion, I had a tattoo (not the greatest lookin, this one haha) put on my wrist w a scripture from the old testament bible book Isaiah 49:15,16  It was for me as a reminder, nothing more.

A once in a lifetime happenstance and therefore I am a made, Gretsch man! I use other guitars I've put together on stage now and then but the 99' SSU is the workhorse, my answer to a prayer guitar, that started a frienship later that yr w TvJones, then many yrs further down the road, inspired me to  start the pedal/amp biz for roots rock and actually get to meet Mr Brian Setzer in person backstage.. its wild! #gretschmafia   thats my gretsch story.

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