By the mid-1930s, Gretsch's New York production line included a full range of instruments. At the time, the company was in a state of exploration, so a lot of Gretsch designs were strange and inventive. Interestingly, some of their ideas—such as an X-braced, mini-jumbo flattop guitar—were ahead of their time.
This Gretsch flattop was made in Brooklyn, New York in the mid-'30s. It was originally constructed with normal flattop X-bracing, but it had an archtop-style trapeze tailpiece and an adjustable archtop bridge on threaded studs set into the top. Whacky! But when you think about it, Gretsch was really the only factory making mini-jumbo, x-braced guitars in the '30s (the Gibson J-185 didn't come out until 1951). Most of these Gretsch creations were 12-fret guitars intended for Hawaiian playing, but the headplate on this mini-jumbo reads "Gretsch American." In the decades after it was made, a guitar like this would be practical for any genre of American music.
In 2018, this guitar arrived in Rochester, Vermont, in the care of our friend Jake Wildwood. Jake was given the task of turning this old Gretsch into a "poor man's J-185." When it arrived in Jake's hands, it had been refretted but was otherwise original. According to Jake, "I reset the neck (thus incurring the wrath of bad-old-glue-jobs at the 15th fret), gave it a fret level/dress, removed the tailpiece, and fit a Martin-style rosewood pin bridge to the (virgin) top. To that I added a nice, tall, compensated bone saddle, set it up, and hey presto! -- a loud, punchy-as-all-heck, great-playing guitar was born." Read Jake's full blog post here.
This 1930s Gretsch Mini-Jumbo may be one of the coolest guitars in the shop. It has a 24-3/4" scale length, and thanks to a chunky v-neck profile, the narrow 1-5/8" nut feels right at home. It has a clear, dry sound that thumps with tons of mid-range and detail in the trebles.
There are two repaired top cracks—one at the center seam and one along the edge of the fingerboard extension. Thanks to Jake's expert work, it plays and sounds like a dream. It includes a modern hardshell case that has a sticker from Lavalanche, a local band in Telluride.