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

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

News & Events

GuitArlington 2015!






















It’s hard to believe, and we know we say that each year, but its already time for GuitArlington! Where does the year go? Whew! We’ll be heading back to the Lone Star state to take part in this unbelievably cool event.  The dates for 2105 are October 17-18, and we couldn’t be more excited.  Make plans to be at the Arlington Convention Center that weekend, located at 1200 Ballpark Way, Arlington, TX 76011. As has become tradition over the past few years, we are going to with our pals from TV Jones! We’ll have our full line of products on display as will TV Jones (make plans to check out their fabulous pickup tester guitar!).  Also, we plan to take and offer demo instruments that we’ve used in videos and at other events that are ready for a new home–which could be yours! Last, but certainly not least, we’ll be offering FREE installations throughout the show! Check out this FLYER and email tech Adam Seutter at for more details and to reserve your time slot.  If your guitar is already equipped with a Bigsby, feel free to bring it by for a FREE 8-point Pit Stop check up! A brief visit that is sure to get your Bigsby working in tip top shape! We look forward to seeing YOU soon!

Check out photos from last year HERE.

More information from the promoter HERE.

News & Events

New Joe Bonamassa LTD. From Epiphone!


Continuing the streak (this makes 3!), Epiphone is releasing a new Joe Bonamassa Les Paul! Following the success of the previous Signature series instruments, this Limited Edition model features a number of exciting new features including a B700 vibrato! A modern master of the guitar, Bonamassa’s playing utilizes the subtlety and finesse that makes a Bigsby instantly recognizable. Epiphone has a great interview with Joe on their website along with all of the drool-worthy specs of the new guitar. We’re sure this will need to be added to the collection…

Check out the details from Epiphone HERE.

And read the interview HERE.

JoeB*All photos property of Epiphone.


News & Events

Bay Area World Show 2015 wrap up

Our first time back to the Bay since 2009, and boy was it a great time! Its always a treat to see the cool great that this area has to offer.  Vintage Fenders, Gibsons, Guilds, Martins, and many others graced the floor of the Marin County Civic Center (we love that the complex was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright!).  Some very cool Bigsby-equipped instruments were certainly represented, and you can check out photos of some below (and more HERE).  You’ve heard us say it before,  but we really love hearing personal stories about meeting Paul Bigsby, your favorite Bigsby equipped guitar or even the one that got away….)!  As you may have heard us say, this is our last show for the summer, but not to worry as we will be at GuitArlington this October!  If you weren’t able to take us up on our FREE Installation or Pit-Stop offer, make plans to join us in Texas this fall.   Kind thanks to everyone that came out and we’ll see you down the road!

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