By Chris Gill | Photo by Massimo Gammacurta
The White Falcon was Gretsch’s flagship model from its introduction in 1954 until 1980, when the company temporarily went out of business. Over the years, dozens of well-known guitarists—including Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Sylvain Sylvain, Malcolm Young, Joe Strummer, The Edge, James Hetfield, and John Frusciante—have played White Falcons, but for most of these players the model was a temporary diversion.
Only the Cult’s Billy Duffy has embraced the White Falcon as his main instrument of choice. Duffy has played a White Falcon since the early Eighties, when he used a Seventies 7595 double-cutaway stereo model with Theatre of Hate. Just before Duffy and Ian Astbury formed Death Cult (later known as the Cult), he traded the 7595 for a 1975 single-cutaway 7593, which has remained his main White Falcon ever since and can be heard on Cult classics like “Spiritwalker,” “She Sells Sanctuary,” and “Love Removal Machine.”
The Gretsch G7593T Billy Duffy White Falcon is based on this guitar, although it has a few notable modifications and improvements designed with Duffy’s input. White Falcon enthusiasts will immediately note the change from gold-sparkle binding and gold-plated hardware to silver binding and chrome plating. Other changes include custom-wound Filter’Tron humbucking pickups with higher output than Seventies Filter’Trons, an Adjusto-Matic bridge that is securely pinned in place to the body, and traditional truss-rod adjustment accessible via the headstock, instead of at the heel on the back of the guitar like on the original 7593. Duffy also eliminated the floating pickguard, as he has done with his White Falcons, and the unwieldy belt-buckle protector pad from the back.
But perhaps even more notable are the changes that weren’t made, which preserve the vibe and feel of the most underrated Gretsch model of Baldwin era. Like the original 7593, the 25 1/2–inch-scale neck has a zero fret, an ebony fingerboard, and low-profile medium frets that make playing effortless, with a “fretless” feel that’s comparable to the best Fifties Les Paul Custom. The 17-inch maple body features an arched top and back, a 2 3/4–inch depth, small f-holes, parallel spruce tone bars and internal sound-post bracing, and a gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish. Also faithful to the original model are the “wire”-handle Bigsby B6CW vibrato, Grover Imperial tuners with “butter bean” buttons, master/neck/bridge volume controls with aluminum “arrow G” knobs, three-position pickup selector, and three-position tone switch.
As the proud owner of a 1976 Gretsch 7593 White Falcon, I can attest that the G7593T Billy Duffy White Falcon is nearly identical when it comes to feel and playability. The Duffy model has the advantage of being slightly lighter and more comfortable, but the slim neck profile and the incredibly fast-playing fingerboard are one and the same. And even though the White Falcon—with its 17-inch body width and 25 1/2–inch scale—is huge, it doesn’t feel unwieldy. The longer scale length provides greater string tension to drive the top, producing bright, assertive tones with aggressive attack.
The custom-wound pickups sound incredible through overdriven Marshall and Fender tweed amps, providing the distinctive midrange snarl that has made Filter’Trons one of the best choices for hard-rock rhythm playing, but without the feedback problems that afflict lower-output pickups. Like other Gretsch archtop hollowbody models, the Billy Duffy White Falcon can deliver outstanding rockabilly, country, and blues tones, but its stiffer top (thanks to its sound-post bracing) and small f-holes give high-gain rockers an advantage when they want hollowbody honk without uncontrollable feedback. And should you want even more feedback suppression, the guitar ships with a special Billy Duffy White Falcon towel that you can stuff inside the guitar.
For fans of Duffy’s playing with the Cult, the G7593T Billy Duffy White Falcon is a must-have, but White Falcon and Gretsch fans alike should also take a look at this impressive lil’ devil.
LIST PRICE $5,050
Gretsch Guitars, gretschguitars.com
Hollowbody Man: Billy Duffy discusses the G7593T Billy Duffy White Falcon
The new guitar is pretty faithful to the original, with the exception of a few essential modifications that improve its performance.
One of the biggest changes was aesthetic—going with the silver binding. Most of the gold plating on my original Seventies Falcon has worn off, so I decided to make it silver. We also decided upon a lacquer finish, and they asked me if I wanted it to look aged. I wanted it to look like a new guitar so people who own one could feel the same way as I did when I got the guitar in 1982.
The neck feels identical to that of an original Seventies White Falcon.
I was fortunate that the Seventies White Falcons were actually rather good. I loved the way the necks felt, and they stayed in tune. I play them live every day, and they sound great once you put hotter pickups in them.
Seventies single-cutaway Falcons were and are hard to find in the U.S. How did you find one in England?
In the Eighties, I bought whatever guitars I could get my hands on. American guitars were still rare in London then, and they were all imported used from the States. The White Falcon was very rare and special. Forgive the pun, but it was a cult guitar.