1965 Gretsch Tennessean 6119

Part of Gretsch's Chet Atkins hollow body electrics series

1965 Gretsch Tennessean
Model: 1965 Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean
Pickups: Two single-coil Hi-Lo 'Tron
Scale: 24 1/2"
Body: Laminate body. 20 7/8" long, 15 3/4" wide, 1 15/16" thick.
Neck: Two-piece maple, with rosewood fretboard. Width at nut 1 11/16"
Hardware: Nickel plated
Weight: 3.22 kg

The Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean debuted in 1958, and was in production until 1980, but the middle 1960s were very much the peak years in terms of demand for this guitar. In fact the model was the best selling Gretsch of the 1960s. This example hails from 1965, and is a fairly typical example of a mid 60s Tennessean. Despite it's looks, it is in the Dark Cherry Red finish described in literature of the time. It is, of course, very, very faded: an effect of sunlight on the original nitrocellulose finish. A look at the images below show some hints of the original color, most obviously below the pickups . The US list price for this instrument (June 1965) was $350. Have a look at how the Tennessean was described on page 2 of the 1965 Gretsch catalog.

1965 Gretsch Tennessean body detail
1965 Gretsch Tennessean bridge and Bigsby tailpiece detail

The Tennessean body was maple, notionally 16" wide (though this example is closer to 15 3/4"), and with simulated 'bound' F-holes. Earlier examples had no binding; these were standard from 1962. The controls are as follows. Top bout: pickup selector switch, tone switch; Lower bout: master volume; below bridge: separate neck and bridge pickup volumes, and standby switch. As the least expensive guitar in the Chet Atkins range, it was not fitted with the mute of the 6120 Hollow Body or 6122 Country Gentleman.

1965 Gretsch Tennessean control details
Control details. The two knurled controls are the volume controls for the neck pickup (top) and bridge pickup (bottom). The three-way toggle is the standby switch. The central position stops cuts all output from the guitar; up and down allow the guitar to be played.
1965 Gretsch Tennessean
The upper switch is the pickup selector, allowing either the neck or bridge pickup, alone; or in the central position, both pickups together. The second switch is the Gretsch tone filter. Gretsch tended to avoid the rotary tone controls favored by Gibson and Fender. In the central position, the pickups are unfiltered: the natural sound of the guitar is output. In either up or down positions, the guitar is subject to different levels of treble cut.
1965 Gretsch Tennessean
The nickel-plated Gretsch Bigsby was a standard feature of the Tennessean.
1965 Gretsch Tennessean
The earliest Tennesseans were produced with an ebony fretboard, but by the early 1960s these were typically rosewood. Not the thumbnail fingerboard markers, or as Gretsch describes them 'Neo classic' inlays.
1965 Gretsch Tennessean heel detail
1965 Gretsch Tennessean reverse body detail

Gretsch guitars, unfortunately, seem to suffer (and more so than other brands), with binding disintegration. It typically crumbles and falls away as can be seen here. It is rather rare, in fact, to find older vintage Gretsch guitars with complete undamaged binding. The Tennessean was bound in single ply cream on the front and neck, including heel cap, though with a subtle single ply black binding on the back body edge. Note the black dot on the reverse of the guitar's heel. This covers a wood cap, which in turn covers a screw going down into the neck. Although the guitar has a set (glued in) neck, Gretsch tended to add a screw holding it all together. Whether this was to keep the neck in place during gluing, or to add additional strength to the joint throughout the guitar's life is unclear. In this instance this screw is located on the body reverse, but they may also be situated on the neck itself, travelling diagonally into the body.

The Tennessean does not have the padded back of the other Chet Atkins hollow body models.

1965 Gretsch Tennessean side view
This view of the Tennessean shows the volume controls, standby switch and output jack. Note the single-ply white binding on the top edge of this guitar.
1965 Gretsch Tennessean
The two pickups fitted to the Tennessean were both Hi-Lo 'Tron pick ups. These were single coil units, that certainly contribute to the 'twang' associated with this model.
1965 Gretsch Tennessean
1965 Gretsch Tennessean

With covers removed, the simplicity of these pickups are obvious. But note the original Dark Cherry Red finish on the body below the pickup. There has been some significant fading to this guitar!

1965 Gretsch Tennessean serial number
The serial number is stamped onto the top edge of the guitar's headstock. Prior to 1966, Gretsch serial numbers had no date embedded in them, and were simply issued sequentially. This five digit number, beginning 8, helps date this instrument firmly to 1965. Read more about Gretsch serial numbers here.
1965 Gretsch Tennessean side body detail
The knurled control knob on the lower bout is the master volume. Note the screwholes in the body by the neck pickup, and in the body edge itself. This guitar is, unfortunately, missing it's silver scratchplate.
1965 Gretsch Tennessean headstock detail
The headstock is inlaid with the Gretsch logo. Note two ply truss rod cover. This guitar has a great playable neck, width at nut 1 11/16".
1965 Gretsch Tennessean reverse headstock detail
You can clearly see the two piece construction of the neck, on the headstock reverse. Like the body, the neck is made from maple.
1965 Gretsch Tennessean

In it's original case.

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