Initially, Gretsch offered acoustic archtops aimed at jazz musicians, and a handful of flat-tops for country-western performers.
Meanwhile, 1935 marked an important year for Gretsch — Duke Kramer joined the team.
"That distinctive sound was our product, the sound that energized the market for decades," Kramer said.
Fred Gretsch, Sr. retired from the company in 1942, leaving the day-to-day operations to his sons Fred, Jr. and William.
Fred Gretsch, Jr. managed the company briefly, then left the company to serve with distinction as a commander in the Navy, and Bill Gretsch became president. Kramer recalls, "Bill was a man with a subtle talent for inspiring people to do their best and a genius for constructive counsel. His sense of humor was irresistible. When he passed away in 1948, a legion of individuals felt they lost their best friend."
Command was again passed to Fred Gretsch, Jr. and the Navy veteran led the company into a new age of prosperity in the "atomic age" '50s. Gretsch, being the first to use custom color finishes, and offering a wide variety of space age gizmos and gimmickry, was uniquely positioned to succeed in the era. Through the 50s, they even outsold Leo Fender's wonderful new creations. High-profile artists and endorsers like Chet Atkins, Eddie Cochran and Duane Eddy didn't hurt, either.
The '60s brought a further boost to Gretsch when George Harrison played a succession of Gretsch models.
In the late '60s, Fred Gretsch retired and sold the company to Baldwin Manufacturing. Baldwin had difficulty understanding Gretsch's position in the market and failed to make a transition through the psychedelic '60s and hard-rock '70s. Kids inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton turned to Fender. To make matters worse, Baldwin mo240-1406ved production to Arkansas, and Gretsch suffered through two disastrous fires.
The Baldwin marriage was always an unhappy one. With sales down and the head office increasingly disinterested, Gretsch limped through the 70s and finally shut down production in the early 80s.
But ever since the company had left the family, Fred Gretsch III had vowed it would return. In 1985 his dream came true, and through the 90s he brought Gretsch back into the limelight with a series of successful re-issues and new models.