Country guitarist Chet Atkins was a huge star in the 1950s country music scene. He was known for modifying his instruments, which lead Gretsch to develop a series of guitars built to his specifications. The first, the Chet Atkins Hollow Body, or model 6120 appeared in 1954, with the Chet Atkins Solid Body 6121 following in 1955. Over the next few years the range expanded further, with two more hollow body models added (Country Gentleman and Tennessean).
1959 Gretsch Solid Body 6121 Image Heritage auctions
The Solid Body was, in many ways, an upgraded version of the Gretsch Duo Jet, and likewise was produced as direct competition for Gibson's Les Paul. It had several similarities, both in terms of design and construction, but also differences, most notably in terms of electronics and controls. Like the Les Paul, the 6121 had a mahogany body and neck, with a maple top and rosewood fretboard. One significant difference was the chambered body of the 6121, reducing the guitars weight. It also had it's own country-themed ornamentation, including cactus, steer head and horseshoe motifs; both on the leather body edge, and on headstock and neck inlays. At launch, the 6121 Solid Body was priced at $385; actually the same price as the 6120 Hollow Body.
This is how the model was described in the 1955 Gretsch catalog:
Like the majority of Gretsch guitar models at this time, there was significant variation in appointments, even over the relatively short production period. Differing inlays, Branded Gretsch G and body style. So much so, in fact, that it is hard to settle on a 'typical' example.
All Chet Atkins models were successful in the 1950s, but the hollow body models were more successful than the solid. The 6121 was deleted as early as 1963, whilst the other models remained in the Gretsch line into the 1980s.
Other notable users of the 6121, excluding Chet himself include Steve Marriott of the Small Faces / Humble Pie, who had a repainted white example.
Electric guitar advertisements originally published from 1955 onwards. Click on the images for larger copies. Check out other vintage Gretsch advertisements
Gretsch Chet Atkins Solid Body 6121 - Your Favorites Play Gretsch (1955)
Gretsch advertisement from late 1955, featuring three Gretsch endorsing Country artists: Chet Atkins, with his then brand new Chet Atkins 6121 solid body; "Thumbs" Carlille with another solid body,...
Gretsch Chet Atkins Solid Body 6121 - "My Favorite Star is Gretsch" says Chet Atkins (1956)
At least three different variations of this advertisement were printed in 1956 and 1957, all with the same title and image, but different accompanying text. In it, Chet Atkins plays the second mode...