On May 10, 1999 the Gretsch Guitar Company purchased Bigsby Accessories from Ted McCarty, a long-time friend of our family, especially of my father William Gretsch. My father and Mr. McCarty knew each other long ago in Chicago – Mr. McCarty even attended my baptism when I was a child. In October 1999, after a long and successful career spanning over 60 years, Ted McCarty retired from the music industry. Sadly, on April 1, 2001 at the age of 91, Ted McCarty passed away.
Early in 1999 when we announced the sale together, Mr. McCarty made these comments: “Fred is the obvious person to take over Bigsby. When Paul Bigsby wanted to sell his company in 1966, he came to me. When I wanted to sell Bigsby and retire, I approached Gretsch Guitars. It’s a very natural progression.”
Gretsch guitars have featured Bigsby vibrato tailpieces for more than 45 years. Gretsch and Bigsby are often thought of together, and now we are one company.
We are continuing to manufacture vintage-style Bigsby vibratos and bridges using the same hand-made methods prescribed by founder Paul Bigsby half a century ago. Six hand assembled vibrato models are available with the Bigsby name. The tailpieces continue to be used as original equipment on guitars by Fender, Gibson, Guild, Rickenbacker, Ibanez, Yamaha and many more. In addition to the original and hand-made Bigsby products, we are manufacturing an additional line, Bigsby Licensed. The Bigsby Licensed vibratos use the same designs as the hand-made models in a smooth metal die cast format. Three tailpiece models are available. In the future, other products with the historically rich Bigsby name will be introduced.
Ted McCarty Interview
Fred’s sister, Gretchen, interviewed Ted McCarty on June 8, 1999. This was shortly after he sold the Bigsby Vibrato business to Fred. He told her at that time “it was your father’s fault that I got to be president of Gibson”.
This is how he explained it to Gretchen:
In early 1948, Ted, had decided to leave his job at Rudolf Wurlitzer in Chicago, had just interviewed at Brach Candy Company and was waiting to hear from them. Brach had told him that they had narrowed the job down to two people.
Ted and Bill Gretsch had known each other for a long time from the music business scene in Chicago and were good friends. Their offices were near each other in the Chicago loop on the opposite sides of Wabash Avenue and they would often meet at the Berghoff Restaurant for lunch or drinks. At this same time, Maurice Berlin owned a controlling interest in Chicago Music Instruments (CMI), which owned Gibson as one of their many musical instrument companies.
“Your dad knew about the production problems that Gibson was having and he told me, ‘Maurice Berlin knows you, give him a call’. I was waiting to hear about that candy job and wasn’t interested in getting back into the music business. Your Dad called Maurice and sent me over anyway. Maurice told me, ‘If you go over there (Kalamazoo) and turn that place around and make a profit, I’ll make you president at the next board meeting’.” Ted told me in 1999, “I really didn’t want to get back into the music business; my wife loved the home in Winnetka. Finally, Eleanor said, ‘Ted I think you really want that job’.”
“I went to Kalamazoo in March 1948 and made a profit in May and then never lost a penny.”
“[Gretchen] It was your father’s fault that I got to be president of Gibson.”