The other day, I had about an hour to kill while I waited for my daughter to finish her appointment, and being near one of my favorite guitar shops (Guitar Showcase in San Jose, CA), I decided to swing by…
Being a Les Paul guy, I of course went to where they hung the LP historic models, and salivated over a gorgeous tea burst R8 (the burst was lighter than my own, and it had a subtle, but fantastic flame maple top). I picked it up, picked at it a bit, and smiled. What a guitar!
But then I thought about what I really “needed” – that’s a relative term, by the way – and thought that I’ve been after a bit heavier of an acoustic sound that bordered more along the lines of an electric; something that I could bring to my solo acoustic gigs in addition to my acoustic for those songs where I do a lot of chord comping (which I’ve been doing a lot of lately without really thinking about it).
So I asked myself, “Dawg, what about a Gretsch?” But I sold my last Gretsch, which was a thin body, 5120 Electromatic. Great guitar, but I just wasn’t playing it because it just didn’t have enough oomph for my solo gigs. Frankly, while I loved the guitar, it still sounded really electric, and would only work in my solo gigs at specific times.
So I figured that perhaps a thicker body Gretsch would give me a fuller tone. Now they had other hollow bodied guitars there, but for hollow bodies, I’ve always gravitated towards Gretsch. There’s a certain magic in the tone. So, perusing the Gretsch rack, I saw this orange guitar with dice knobs. I immediately knew that it was a Brian Setzer model.
Before I go on, one thing that kept me from getting a fuller sized Gretsch in the past was the weight. I almost sprung for a Country Gentleman a few years back, but it was heavier than my Les Paul, and I didn’t want a lot of weight; especially with my solo gigs. But all that changed when I picked up 6120SSLVO. It was amazingly light – apparently under 8 lbs. – and that put a smile on my face. I knew then that I had to take it out for a spin. So I asked the salesman for a strap and a cord, then hooked up to a PRS combo set to clean.
From the first chord I played, I thought to myself that I could do an entire solo gig with this guitar alone! It played like butter (the guys in the shop must’ve set it up). The neck was absolutely perfect, and the action was nice and low but not so low that there was a sting buzz.
And the sound? Wow! At first I was a bit concerned that the tone was controlled via a simple three-way switch. But I realized as I played that I didn’t need an analog sweep knob to set the tone. The three positions worked just fine, and I could get a brighter tone simply by switching pickups. Strumming the guitar with just the neck pickup produced a deep, gorgeous, natural, woody ringing tone that I felt was perfect for many of the folk-rock numbers that I do. And for the more contemporary tunes where I do a lot of chord comping, I could easily flip a couple of switches and twiddle the pickup balance in the middle selector to get that classic hollow body tone. Simply wonderful.
As for playability, I’ve seen online that there were concerns about the 9.5″ radius nut and the bridge saddles set up for 12″, which would make the outside strings a bit higher than the middle strings. Frankly, I had no idea about this issue when I played the guitar, and quite honestly, I didn’t notice any string height issues when I was playing. At least for me, there was no noticeable impediment for me to work my way up and down the fretboard.
To say I’ve got GAS is an understatement. I’ve been trying to figure out what I have to sell to get this guitar; certainly none of my Les Pauls. I probably should hold on to at least one Strat. Or… maybe I’ll just suffer the GAS and save my pennies until I have enough to buy it. But it’s definitely my next target.