1959 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins, Western OrangeSold Out
Wonderful and instantly recognisable Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins Hollow Body in excellent condition with it’s original Gretsch Cowboy case. Popularised by Chet, the 6120 was quickly adopted by Eddie Cochran, Duane Eddy, Buffalo Springfield era Neil Young and latterly, famously by Brian Setzer.
Debuting in 1954 the Gretsch 6120 was the first of many Signature Models for Gretsch endorsee Chet Atkins, in an incredibly fruitful relationship that would see the legendary recording artist working with Gretsch until 1980. First displayed in the 1955 Gretsch Catalog, the 6120 initially came in full Western trim with synonymous ‘G’ brand to the upper bout, Cow and Cactus fretboard markers, Steers head headstock inlay. These early instruments came with Dearmond Dynasonic pickups, a fixed arm B6 Bigsby Vibrato, Rosewood fingerboard, gold hardware and four knob control layout. Although popular on release, Gretsch would over the subsequent years lessen the Western themed appointments as tastes shifted, whilst ensuring the 6120's iconic looks were not compromised. By 1959 the 6120 had evolved as innovation and players needs dictated to what many would argue is the definitive 6120 and pinnacle of the models evolution.
The serial number- 31674 dates this instrument to 1959, the serial number is clearly displayed in the correct Gretsch "The Fred Gretsch Mfg. Co." label used from ’57 to ’64. The 16” Wide 2 3/4” deep Maple body has two open, bound F-holes, a fully bound top and back with the improved, lightened Trestle bracing Gretsch started using in ’59. The three piece Maple-Ebony-Maple neck is secured to the body with the Gretsch doweled heel method, a technique adopted by Gretsch in ’58 to conceal a wood screw used to secure the heel joint. The fingerboard and inlays changed from Rosewood to Ebony in 1958, the fingerboard is adorned with Neo-classic Thumb inlays and bound with white binding, side position dots are red. The headstock features the Gretsch logo and Horseshoe inlay used from ’56 onwards and has a stained Mahogany finish. The tuners are gold plated Grover Sta-tite, open backed with kidney bean buttons. 1959 would be the first year Gretsch would feature the “Action-Flo” Zero fret and bone nut, replacing the brass bridge used prior. Electronics comprise of the two Filter’Tron humbucker pickups. Developed by engineer and innovator Ray Butts at the behest of Gretsch and Atkins, the Filter’Tron was developed independently of Gibson who with Seth Lover had released their own humbucking pickup in ’57. Early Filter’Tron pickups had no Patent granted and are known as Pre-Patent Filter’Trons but by later in ’58 “PAF” Filter’Trons appear with “PATENT APPLIED FOR” embossed in the pickup cover. Also at this point the configuration of the electronics changed with the Master Volume moving to the upper treble bout and the Master tone control replaced by a three position switch. The PAF Filter’Tron pickups have their original gold plated covers and etched plastic mounting rings correct for ’59. The hardware comprises of the same Gold Lucite pickguard used from the 6120’s introduction with Gretsch logo and Chet Atkins “Signpost” pickguard, the Gretsch Bar bridge replaces the earlier compensated Bigsby bridge on floating ebony foot in 1958 and by 1959 the Bigsby B6 is Nickel plated. The control knobs are the knurled gold plated G indent variety used from 1957. Factory list price for the Chet Atkins 6120 in 1959 was $425.00 with the matching White 6220 case an additional $58.00
The guitar is in great overall condition, the Western Orange finish shows very little wear and backlights impeccably. The top has a pleasant amount of Birdseye figuring to the Maple, the guitar must have previously spent some time in the sun with the Western Orange finish to the front having faded in comparison to the back. At some point the guitar has been stored with the bridge taped in the wrong position leaving an area of slightly darker lacquer showing. The tape has subsequently been removed leaving no damage to the finish. The Western Orange of the later fifties 6120’s is lighter and less brown than the mid-fifties examples so the overall fading is less apparent and very attractive.
The guitar has been refretted (original frets retained in case) and is sporting a new nut, the frets are a good height and play well. There is also a small piece of binding replaced inside the cutaway. All work has been done prior to the guitar coming to us and has been completed to a high standard. The guitars hardware is in good overall condition with some, to be expected, dulling of the thinly plated Gold plated parts. Likewise the plastic pickup rings both have small cracks but cause no issue. The Pickguard is excellent with none of the often seen cracks to the screw holes. The P.A.F Filtertron pickups are strong with the bridge and neck measuring 4.04K and 4.06K respectively. Right in the sweet spot for these early examples. The electronics are good with one dateable IRC pot bearing the code 615 7605 903 for the third week of 1959, the electronics all appear original and unmolested. In use the Master Volume does not cut the signal completely when at 0. This is likely caused by the pot but we have decided in the interest of originality to leave the parts alone given how relatively minor an issue this is. The Individual Volume controls, Pickup selector and tone-switch all function correctly.
The guitar comes with its original, impressive Gretsch 'Cowboy' Case in White Tolex with tooled leather trim and Gretsch sash intact. The case contains the original tags, QC Packing Slip and polish cloth.