News & Events

NAMM Show 2016–That’s a Wrap!

Every year at just about this time, the magnetic force of music draws folks from around the world into a single location in southern California.  The result? 100,000+ excited fans pack the Anaheim Convention Center!  For four glorious days each January, The NAMM Show comes to town and visitors and guests from around the world check out new products and spend time up close and personal with the best in the business. Its true that the almost certainty of sunny skies doesn’t hurt much, but it really is all about the music!  Perhaps the largest, most intense, and fun event of its kind anywhere on earth–nothing compares to NAMM!  2016 was no exception and previous attendance records were shattered! According to NAMM, the 2016 registration and attendance topped 101,000+ showcasing 6,000 brands!   Sincere gratitude and thanks to those that stopped by to visit and check out our full product line.  Seeing folks getting up close and being able to compare our different vibrato models in person is what makes this show so incredible from our perspective.  While our booth is the epicenter of Bigsby tailpieces at the show, it certainly wasn’t the only place they could be found.  All around the show, our vibratos were featured not only on the most well-known and established brands including Fender (loving the new B50’d Jazzmasters!), Gibson, Gretsch, and D’Angelico, but new companies and boutique builders including Veritas, James Trussart, Collings, and Saul Koll.  And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Dobrato–be sure to check it out HERE! Check out the photos below for a small taste of this great event; and you can check out NAMM’s gallery HERE! We always love the opportunity to see what luthiers are doing with our tailpieces, but this event was over the top! Be sure to stay tuned to our social media pages for many more photos and video!

 

News & Events

Getting’ Ready for the 2016 NAMM Show!

It’s that time of year again! The NAMM Show is just around the corner and it is sure to be another fantastic event! Showing off the best, newest, and most incredible products the music industry has to offer, the Anaheim California Convention Center is going to jumpin’ January 21-24.  We will, of course, be in attendance showcasing our full line of vibratos and gear. Be sure to make plans to stop by the booth and check out our wares and get all of your questions answered; the plan right now is to have a  couple of surprises hanging out so you’ll want to drop by…. We’ll be in our regular location of Hall D, booth 3540.   In addition to having almost EVERYTHING music related under the sun in the same building, NAMM boasts ample learning opportunities and seminars to learn about the industry. The Winter NAMM Show is always a great way to start the year, and we are certainly looking forward to it!

For more information on The NAMM Show, click HERE.

Check out photos from the 2015 show HERE.

See you in Anaheim!

News & Events

Celebrating 2015 Bigsby Birthdays

December 12th 2015 marks what would be the 116th birthday of Paul Adelbert Bigsby. When it comes to guitar history, names like Leo Fender, Adolph Rickenbacker, and Les Paul may be more widely known, but their work would not have been possible without the man who designed and built the first solidbody electric guitar.

Paul Bigsby

Paul Bigsby

A skilled motorcycle machinist—and also a music fan—Paul Bigsby got into the world of guitars in the mid-1940s when he designed a replacement vibrato mechanism for C&W artist Merle Travis’s Gibson L-10. Paul’s device set a new standard, and it rapidly became the vibrato of choice for most guitar manufacturers the world over—a reputation it still enjoys today.

In late 1946, Travis approached Bigsby with a concept for a new guitar. Travis’s rough sketch depicted a solidbody electric with all six tuning pegs on one side of the headstock. Bigsby, whose personal philosophy was “I can build anything,” immediately went to work to make the concept a reality. When the guitar was completed, Merle Travis played it on recordings, on radio, and on public performances. The revolutionary design caught the eyes and ears of guitar players and builders alike—and it changed the sound and look of guitars forever.

Paul Bigsby continued to hand-craft custom guitars and vibrato units for the next twenty years. But by 1965 health issues prompted him to sell the Bigsby name and inventory to his friend Ted McCarty. That sale that was effective on January 1, 1966. Paul Bigsby died on June 7, 1968, leaving a legacy of innovation and craftsmanship for which every guitarist today should be grateful.

Speaking of Ted McCarty, his is the other Bigsby birthday to be celebrated (what would be his 106th, as of October 10th of this year). Ted was no stranger to the guitar business when he purchased the Bigsby Company. As many know, he’d been president of Gibson Guitars since 1948, having led that company through its one of its most successful periods, often referred as the ‘Golden Era’.

Ted McCarty

Ted McCarty

When Ted McCarty took over Bigsby, he retired from Gibson. He focused on filling the demand for Bigsby’s True Vibrato, which was being ordered by virtually all major US guitar manufacturers. Of all Bigsby customers, Gretsch Guitars was the single largest, establishing a strong relationship between the two companies. That relationship led to Bigsby’s purchase by Gretsch in 1999 when Ted McCarty retired after sixty successful years in the music business. Ted died in April of 2001.

Fred Gretsch describes the care that has been taken to preserve the Bigsby heritage, saying, “Gretsch guitars have featured Bigsby vibrato tailpieces for sixty years. Gretsch and Bigsby are often thought of together, and now we’re one company. We’re continuing to manufacture vintage-style Bigsby vibratos and bridges using the same hand-made methods prescribed by Paul Bigsby more than half a century ago.”

News & Events

Remembering the 50th Anniversary of Ted McCarty buying Bigsby Accessories

Remembering the 50th Anniversary of Ted McCarty Buying Bigsby Accessories and Leaving the Gibson Company

The Gretsch-McCarty-Bigsby family legacy still going strong today.

By Fred W. Gretsch

I was thinking recently about how three well-timed telephone calls forever linked three families and changed the history of Gibson Guitars, Bigsby Accessories, and the Gretsch Company.

The first call was placed in 1948 from my father, Bill Gretsch, to Maurice Berlin, the Chairman of the Board of Chicago Musical Instruments, the company that purchased Gibson Guitars in 1944. My father called Mr. Berlin because his good friend, Ted McCarty, who was visiting in my father’s office, had shared that he was resigning from the Wurlitzer Company, getting out of the music business, and waiting on a job offer from the Brach Candy Company.

Bill-Gretsch-on-Phone-350x241

Bill Gretsch

My father told Ted he was too well known and respected, and that the music business couldn’t afford to lose him. Before Ted could leave my father’s office, my father called Mr. Berlin and arranged a meeting between Ted and Mr. Berlin. As you know, that meeting lead to Ted being offered the position of President at Gibson Guitars. His leadership and keen business and engineering skills turned Gibson around and guided them through their golden years of innovation and production in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The second call was placed a little over 50 years ago in 1965 (the year I started to work at the Gretsch Company) by Paul Bigsby from his small factory in Downey, California to his good friend, Ted McCarty, who was in his 17th year as President of Gibson Guitars. Paul had been manufacturing his innovative guitar vibratos since 1952, but he was 65, having health issues, and looking to retire and sell his business.

Ted had helped Bigsby grow in the 1950s by being the first company to put Bigsby vibratos on Gibson’s factory-built guitars. Ted even used his engineering skills to design the swing away handle to replace Bigsby’s original fixed-handle design. When Paul Bigsby called that day, he was calling to offer his business to Ted, not to the Gibson Company. Bigsby felt his business would be in better hands with his friend Ted McCarty and wasn’t interested in selling it to a company.

In 1965, Ted was 57 and very unhappy with recent management changes at Gibson’s parent company.

Ted McCarty

Ted McCarty

He also probably sensed more changes coming to the guitar industry. Fender had been purchased by CBS Corporation for $13 million in January and Ted knew the guitar boom years couldn’t continue forever.

So, in November 1965, Ted flew out to California, met with Paul Bigsby and bought his company the same day. On New Year’s Day 1966, a truck loaded everything from Bigsby’s shop and drove back to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Ted resigned from Gibson in March and became owner of Bigsby Accessories for more than 30 years.

I was more than happy to contact Ted in 1989 (he was a longtime friend of the family and even attended my baptism) after I bought the family business back from Baldwin and was ready to roll out the new lineup of Gretsch guitars. Even at 80 years old, Ted had a razor-sharp memory and was the world’s leading authority on Bigsby vibratos.

I always felt Ted McCarty didn’t get the proper recognition for all the contributions he made to the guitar industry. With the Gretsch-Bigsby relationship reestablished, Dinah and I were pleased to host a gala dinner to honor Ted (as well as our friend, Duane Eddy) at the 1997 Summer NAMM Show in Nashville. Hundreds of Gretsch retailers, distributors, and guests attended this special tribute to an unsung giant of the guitar business. It was a night all who attended will never forget.

The third call is special to me because it continued the McCarty-Gretsch family friendship started by my father more than 70 years ago in Chicago. In 1999, I was delighted to get Ted’s phone call offering to sell Bigsby Accessories to me. It was a great opportunity since Gretsch guitars and Bigsby vibratos had been inseparable since the 1950s. We were more than happy to purchase Ted’s company on May 10, 1999, and in October 1999, Ted retired at the age of 89 after a long, successful 63-year career in the music industry.

There have only been three keepers of the Bigsby brand the past 60 years and Dinah and I are proud to be the current keepers. Hopefully both Paul Bigsby and Ted McCarty are looking down and smiling at how the Gretsch family has grown the business and preserved the Bigsby heritage. We’re continuing to follow the successful formula established more than 60 years ago, using the same hand-made processes and as many of the original machines and suppliers as possible. There is no better way I can think of to honor friends of the family and keep their legacy alive. I think the previous three generations of Gretsch Company Presidents – my father, uncle, grandfather, and great-grandfather – would agree.

 

News & Events

GuitArlington 2015 Wrap-up

During an exceptionally warm and sunny weekend in Texas, one of–nay–the BIGGEST vintage guitar event of the year happened! GuitArlington 2015 took place at the Arlington, TX Convention Center October 17-18, and if anything was going to be able to draw people inside, it was a this amazing collection of vintage gear! 200+ exhibitors attended showcasing a huge variety of vintage and new gear.  Highlights included some amazing ‘bursts, some of the cleanest ’50s Gretsch 6120s we’ve ever seen, and 2 Paul Bigsby guitars! Two! The first was brought by McKenzie River from Eugene, OR and was the Jack Parsons (on page 102-103 of the Paul Bigsby book) and the second was ‘Luke’. Heritage Auctions had an entire room displaying items that are coming up for sale later this month. As the expected sale price of ‘Luke’ will likely be in the hundreds of thousands, it had its own guarded case.  Below are a few photos we snapped as well as the cover show of the auction bill.

You can check out all of the lots for the Heritage Auction HERE and check out our other photos from the show HERE.

If you haven’t been to this event, its difficult to describe other than to say that overwhelming in a fantastic way. The good folks at from Vintage Guitar Magazine put together a video to give an idea what the show was like; check it out on their Facebook page HERE.

Our kind thanks to everyone that came out and stopped by to visit! Being with our pals from TV Jones always make the events special, and this was no exception.  We look forward to seeing you all in the new year! Stay tuned for a list of all of our 2016 events!

News & Events

Vintage Bigsby guitar about to be auctioned off!

Hold on to your hats and be prepared to open your wallets if you’d like to be the new owner of a 1956 Paul Bigsby-made guitar.  On October 24, 2015, Heritage Auctions will be offering this outstanding example of Paul Bigsby’s work.  The auction will take place in their Beverly Hills, CA showroom and will also feature other incredible instruments including 1950s Gibson Les Pauls and Danny Gatton’s 1953 Telecaster! The Bigsby guitar was originally built for Luke Charpentier, Jr and features the instantly recognizable figured maple top, B3 vibrato, and trademark style. As noted in Andy Babiuk’s The Story of Paul Bigsby (page 133), this instrument was the last (known) Standard guitar.  Featuring serial number 121556, it was completed on December 15, 1956. Lot 85044 is sure to ignite the bidding crowd-will you be there?  The opening bid will be $200k, while the estimated sale total is $400k+! You can check out the entire list of items to be auctioned HERE, or go straight to the Bigsby HERE. we’re excited to see what and where this incredible piece of history ends up!

Bigsby guitar-Luke

Bigsby 2

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