Brian Setzer: “I have a bit of a fascination with Stratocasters, but every time I pick one up, I go, 'I can’t play it!'”

The longtime Gretsch man on why you won't see him playing Fender
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Stray Cats frontman Brian Setzer has long been associated with the Gretsch electric guitar, but in a recent interview with Guitar World, Setzer admitted that it’s not the only brand that piques his interest.

“I have a bit of a fascination with Stratocasters,” he said, adding that the problem is that “every time I pick one up, I go, 'I can’t play it.' The middle pickup gets in the way, I don’t like the scale, the volume control is right in the way there, the screws on the bridge dig into my palm.”

Nevertheless, Setzer acknowledged that even if it’s not for him, the Strat is an iconic design: “I think it’s like a mid-century piece of modern art.”

While Setzer has been a Gretsch endorser for decades, his first signature model, in the mid 1980s, was actually a Guild Bluesbird. The reason?

"Gretsch wasn’t coming to the plate,” he explained. “I don’t think they were really making guitars. Guild did come up to the plate and said, 'We’ll make you a guitar.' When Gretsch got wind of it they said, 'Hey, we’ll make you a guitar.' ”

This past July, Gretsch introduced three new Brian Setzer Professional Collection Hollow Body models — the Hot Rod, the Nashville and the Nashville ’59 “Smoke.”

As for what Setzer loves about the brand?

“Nothing feels right after a Gretsch,” he said. “It has to be an archtop, though, with the air moving in and out and you can play with the sound coming out of the amp."