For looks, pop-culture reference points and overall magic mojo, Gretsch has it going on. Yet, the traditional models often don’t cut it for the modern player seeking contemporary-minded versatility and performance. With this in mind, Grammy Award–winning singer/songwriter and top-tier Nashville collaborator Steve Wariner — with assistance from his son Ryan and Nashville-based guitar maker Jeff Senn — has spec’d out his “ultimate Gretsch,” and the results will likely suit other demanding players eager to rub up against that Gretsch swagger.
The platform of the Steve Wariner Signature lies in the 15 3/4–inch-wide body size of the Gretsch 6120, rendered in a fully hollow archtop made from maple ply with vintage-style trestle bracing. From there, just about every appointment makes a subtly thoughtful departure. The maple neck is carved to a rounded but relatively slim “C” profile and sports a bound ebony fingerboard with thumbnail inlays, done out to a longer 25 1/2–inch scale length for precise noting, firmer lows and more shimmer in the jangle. It’s finished in Magic Black Metallic, with gold-plated hardware, a gold back-painted and signed pickguard and truss-rod cover, and a gold model plate on the 6120-sized headstock. To help combat feedback, the f-holes are painted-on faux holes.
Just about every other thing bolted to this guitar falls comfortably under the “upgrade” header. The pinned-down ebony bridge base carries a high-quality Tru Arc bridge, the Gretsch V-cut Bigsby is modified for throughbar stringing, the tuners are locking Gotohs, and the pickups are from acclaimed Filter’Tron-style winder TV Jones: a Paul Yandell Duo-Tron in the neck position, and a Classic Plus in the bridge. Wariner went for a simple setup of master volume, master tone and three-way selector toggle, but there’s a push-pull on the tone knob to split both pickups. The guitar arrived superbly set up.
Amped alternately through a tweed Deluxe-style combo, a Friedman Small Box head and 2x12 cab, and a Mesa/Boogie Mark Five:35 head and 1x12 cab, the guitar quickly delivered on its “more versatile Gretsch” promise, while always retaining a feel, sound and overall character that remained resolutely Gretsch. The Classic Plus in the bridge position marries the Filter’Tron’s legendary meaty twang with a little bit of PAF-like girth. It’s still excellent for articulate jangle and chime, issuing some tasty rockabilly bite via the tweed combo, but it also holds together beautifully into the Friedman’s or Boogie’s lead channel, dishing out easy classic rock, grunge and alt-rock. The neck pickup combines a Super’Tron’s blade poles beneath the three unwound strings for a little more beef in the trebles and the Classic’s individual poles beneath the wound strings for enhanced articulation. As such, the guitar remains full and rich on this selection, making it great for anything from atmospheric ballads to solo chord-melody playing. While it ain’t cheap, it’s reasonably priced for a guitar with these specs, and designed and built with great consideration and care.
Steve Wariner Signature Nashville Gentleman
PRICE $3,600 street
NUT Brass, 1 11/16"
FRETBOARD Ebony, 12" radius, 25 1/2" scale length
FRETS 22 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Gotoh locking
BODY Hollow archtop made from laminated maple
BRIDGE Tru Arc bridge on pinned ebony base, and Bigsby vibrato with through-bar stringing
PICKUPS TV Jones Paul Yandell Duo-Tron neck, TV Jones Classic Plus bridge
CONTROLS Master volume, master tone (push-pull to split both pickups), three-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario .010–.049
WEIGHT 7.9 lbs
KUDOS A thoughtful reworking of classic Gretsch themes yielding great tone, feel, and looks