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Gretsch Turns 125

Guitar and drum company Gretsch Company celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, with limited-edition-anniversary drums, guitars and other products being introduced throughout 2008. In addition, the company will host a major concert event in New York City featuring performances by “Gretsch Greats.”

“We view this—our 125th year—as the first year of our next 100 years,” says company president Fred Gretsch (pictured). “Over the next 100 years, we will continue to build upon the foundation that was started in 1883. It’s important to stretch the boundaries, not just be conservative and predictable. We need to keep looking to the future, not just the past. Our mental attitude reflects the altitude we can achieve.”

Based in Savannah, Ga., the Gretsch Company began in 1883 when Friedrich Gretsch, a German immigrant, started making banjos, tambourines and other instruments in a Brooklyn, N.Y. factory. At the time, the Brooklyn Bridge was celebrating its grand opening, making it easier for young Gretsch to get to and from Manhattan from his shop. With the arrival of rock ’n’ roll on the musical scene in the 1950s and 1960s, Gretsch attracted such famous endorsers as George Harrison, Bo Diddley and Charlie Watts.

Gretsch has been a family business for all but 18 years, starting when third-generation owner Fred Gretsch Jr. sold the company to Baldwin Music Company in 1967. By 1985, Fred W. Gretsch (the current company president) bought back the company and moved operations to its current Georgia locale.

As the 2007 recipient of Cox Family Enterprise Center’s Century Award for Family Business, the company is also known for its strong commitment to community service. Last year, Gretsch awarded four college scholarships and donated numerous guitars for school fund-raisers across the country. The Gretsch family was also an early major sponsor of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Ga.

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