Gretsch Country Club, made in Booneville Arkansas in February of 1977. 17" maple laminate body, maple neck, ebony board. Hardware was gold many moons ago. Anyone that knows me well knows what a battle I've had with hollow bodies and arch tops. I've had arch tops all my life, Gibsons, Epiphones, Guilds, all that. I have never found one that worked for me. I was seeking something that didn't exist. I wanted the look of an arch top with the feel of a 335 and yet with a clear Fender like tone. I've spent thousands of dollars looking for the right one, usually with snob appeal attached to it (in the form of bragging rights of owning a 1940s or 50s Gibson or equivalent). Every one of those top end guitars was a disappointment in it's own way. If I liked the sound, I didn't like the neck.... you get the idea. These Holy Grail guitars always let me down. To pay for this Country Club I sold my '69 ES-150D, it just wasn't working for me. I have owned a '62 Tennesseean and a '68 Country Gentleman and neither set me on fire so I wasn't really looking to buy yet another Gretsch. This one showed up on ebay and I bid on it, but the reserve didn't get met. He relisted it, I bid again, and again the reserve didn't get met. Finally I contacted him and we agreed on a price of $1050 shipped. I was reluctant because I had heard some bad things about the Booneville Gretsches, but I bought it anyway. Before I bought it I tracked down Gene Haugh, who was the production manager at Gretsch in the 70s and we chatted about quality control, design, etc. I then had a little better feeling about what I was getting myself into. Well, I was quite happy when I opened the box. It was definitely a looker, the finish is great, the neck is slim but solid, no flex at all, and it sounded good. Now the tweaking phase. There was no truss rod wrench. Most Gretsches made during the Baldwin period had a unique gearbox mechanism to control the truss rod and took a special key. I contacted Duke Kramer who also worked at Gretsch for many years, and he had none. I finally made a key from 1/4" round stock and some artful (albeit crude) notching with a dremel tool. I tweaked the rod, straightened the neck, and then discovered just how bad the frets were. They look like they had been levelled with a belt sander by someone in the middle of an epileptic seizure. Over the next month I battled with it with a fret file, sandpaper, steel wool, a buffer, and came close to using a weed whacker in desparation. At last I think I've got them level and true. I tried Pyramid flatwounds on it, hated them, tried Elixir 11-49 roundwounds, they were boring, and ended up using D'Addario XL110s on it, which I've used on everything else for the last 20 years. The tuners didn't seem great, just worn I guess, and I replaced them with a new set of Grovers, which was a direct replacement with no new holes (yay!). There is a plastic insert in the tailpiece that reads "Country Club", and that piece was missing. I found one on ebay and ended up coughing up $56 for it, but I wanted it to be complete. Adjusting the pickups was another nightmare. In all my years of owning and repairing guitars, I've never found one that was so sensitive to a quarter turn of a polepiece screw. What a pain to get the output balanced! The bridge was dead, too, the soft saddles had worn over the years and didn't have a good break point. Some filing and shaping brought them back to life. I basically had to re-do any and all quality control and setup it had ever been subjected to. I've found that no matter how much you spend on a guitar, the best ones always sneak up on you, and they're not always the ones you pay the most for or hold in the highest esteem. The keepers are usually the ones that you don't expect. I'm a crappy player, but with this thing in my hands I find myself playing music I never thought I'd be able to play.
Notice the strap in the second photo. I don't get too excited about straps, if they're comfortable, fine, I don't care what they look like, but I spied this leather airbrushed mudflap girl one and had to have it.