Vintage Gretsch Drums (Help)

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
Heyooo,

So after picking up the Brooklyn Series and my older Renown - I've obviously picked up a taste for Gretsch! Paul and Andrew have been wonderful and I have really solid feel for everything that's going on NOW...

However - I'm really in the dark when it comes to vintage Gretsch drums. I've seen some beautiful kits coming up for sale...I'll link a few below on Reverb - but I don't know much about the history of their drums and what years and models are the sweet spot

Here's some examples of what I mean:

"Progressive Jazz"


"vintage Cadillac Green"


"Round Badge"



Is it one of those things where every older model was a quality drum -or are there certains good years and models?

Any vintage Gretsch drum folks care to chime in or point me in the right direction for info?
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
I'll bet Charlie Watts would be a good consultant for this thread.

Going by looks alone, I like the "Progressive Jazz" shells a lot. That blue swirl is eye-catching.
Yea finish is really cool and it comes with a really great set of cymbals - those photos don't do that finish justice.

I'll take the Cadillac Green and all the cymbals behind it.

The kit is kind of ugly but yet I'm really drawn to it.

I know nothing about Gretsch either.
Same - there's something about it that's super cool.

There's a ton of others - and a bunch on other sites that are beautiful - I just have no frame of reference for quality, etc.
 

IBitePrettyHard

Senior Member
Vintage drums are a double-edged sword. You get the vintage sound, the mystique, and a nod from the cool kids.

But you also get the quirks. Lots and lots of quirks. The most common being tuning irregularities and inferior hardware.

It's kinda like comparing a 57' Chevy to a 2020 Toyota Corolla. We all know which one is cooler...but which car would you rather take on a long road trip?

I love the few vintage drums that I have. There's no denying they have a mojo to them that you can't find in modern drums. But ultimately I believe vintage drums sound the way they do because they're imperfect. That's what gives them their charm.

An example of a 60s Gretsch. It's a flat boxy sound at lower tunings. The higher tuning sounds cleaner and quite good actually.

So on the one hand, I'd say stay away from vintage drums if you know what's best for you. And on the other hand, vintage drums are great and you should jump in head first, lol.

I'd love to have a vintage Gretsch. It would show how sophisticated I am and would be a good conversation starter at the gig. :unsure:
 

Chunkaway

Silver Member
Vintage drums are a double-edged sword. You get the vintage sound, the mystique, and a nod from the cool kids.

But you also get the quirks. Lots and lots of quirks. The most common being tuning irregularities and inferior hardware.

It's kinda like comparing a 57' Chevy to a 2020 Toyota Corolla. We all know which one is cooler...but which car would you rather take on a long road trip?

I love the few vintage drums that I have. There's no denying they have a mojo to them that you can't find in modern drums. But ultimately I believe vintage drums sound the way they do because they're imperfect. That's what gives them their charm.

An example of a 60s Gretsch. It's a flat boxy sound at lower tunings. The higher tuning sounds cleaner and quite good actually.

So on the one hand, I'd say stay away from vintage drums if you know what's best for you. And on the other hand, vintage drums are great and you should jump in head first, lol.

I'd love to have a vintage Gretsch. It would show how sophisticated I am and would be a good conversation starter at the gig. :unsure:

Generally, I would agree with this post. I have three vintage kits - Ludwigs and Rogers - and I LOVE all of them. Seriously, nothing sounds and plays like a vintage drum. However, there are considerable hassles and problems with vintage drums which you should be aware of before jumping into that water.

Heads/tuning/lug issues. - Vintage Gretsch drums are notorious for being oversized, which means heads don't always fit properly. This, of course, can affect tuning. Ludwigs are known for having terrible edges and slightly out of round shells. Again, this can affect tuning or drums staying in tune. Rogers had problems with lugs cracking and breaking, although they were generally regarded as the highest caliber drums at the time. All of these drums have terrible bass drum mounts/legs (as compared to modern drums) as well as flimsy hardware all the way around. If you compare vintage floor tom mounts/legs to modern ones, it isn't even close. Modern mounts are better made, last longer, and are much less prone to failing.

I have taken a vintage set of Ludwigs on a small tour of small clubs, so it can be done. However, I babied the drums the entire run of shows we played and was nervous about them the entire time. Ugh... Pros like Steve Jordan regularly gig with vintage drums, so it certainly can be done.

Sound/vibe - There are NO DRUMS currently made that capture the exact sound and feel of vintage drums. Some certainly come close - C&C, Ludwig Legacy, etc... but they all sound just a bit different. A vintage set has a warmth and presence that is hard to find in modern drums. You can dig into vintage drums, and they react differently than modern drums. They also have a vibe that always draws attention to them. As a performer, this is what you want. They add interest and mystique (possibly) to you and your band.

If I were to be gigging/touring regularly, I would consider taking out a vintage kit. I would have to modify it to make sure it was worthy of being on the road though. Having said that, it would be much easier and much less hassle for me to take a C&C or a Ludwig Legacy, etc... on the road if I wanted close to that sound/vibe.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
However - I'm really in the dark when it comes to vintage Gretsch drums. I've seen some beautiful kits coming up for sale...I'll link a few below on Reverb - but I don't know much about the history of their drums and what years and models are the sweet spot
Well .... the "sweet spot" is kinda determined by what you think sounds good. The 3 ply to 6 ply switch was in 1958, I think. The Progressive Jazz kit is 6 ply. The Green kit is a mix of 3 ply (bass, rack) and 6 ply (floor tom). The Starlight Sparkle is a 3 ply kit. ...... some people are very particular as to what shell they want ...... others not so much.

Next ..... rims. Stickchopper (302) vs Die Cast.

And finally ..... how much do you want to spend? And are you looking for a player grade kit, or a collectors kit?

My 6 ply Round Badge kit. 20, 13, 16. Name Band, they called that config. Love how they've ambered over the years.
 

Attachments

bongoman

Junior Member
Agreed with the others who said there’s a lot to love about vintage but they come with serious drawbacks and risks. Best case IMO is to get vintage that are in very good shape but NOT pristine collectibles, and have the bearing edges professionally trued up, and replace any janky hardware with better new versions. A big part of the selling points for vintage gear is how original all the parts are, so you have to ride that line between good condition and not worrying about whether mods affect resale. It’s often possible to find new parts that fit without drilling new holes—I have a bunch of Inde hardware on my vintage Gretsches but I could convert them back to the old hardware if I ever wanted to sell.
 

incrementalg

Gold Member
Vintage drums are like classic cars. Prepare to spend as much time getting them to work as you do playing. That being said, I have a vintage Gretsch set that I love. It really does have something I haven’t heard or felt with any of the modern drums I’ve owned or played. The tone of the toms and the low end grunt of the kick gets me every time.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
.....replace any janky hardware with better new versions ..... It’s often possible to find new parts that fit without drilling new holes—I have a bunch of Inde hardware on my vintage Gretsches but I could convert them back to the old hardware if I ever wanted to sell.
Yes. And brand new Gretsch floor tom leg mounts use the same hole pattern as the old Round Badge diamond plate. A buddy of mine replaced his RB mounts, and they're perfect. I've never had a problem with the bass drum spurs, so they're original. And the rack tom goes on a snare stand (seems to work for Uncle Charlie).
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
Really great input - So I guess really if I see a set I really like that are in sizes I dig...just got for it and expect to baby it a bit.

Or drop $28k on this and never touch it haha:

 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
I've owned a 6-ply Progressive Jazz round badge kit that I restored. It sounded cool, very much like the kits played by Philly Jo Jones and Max Roach from the 60s. But, with the oversized shells, the hardware that was starting to wear out, and the culmination of all the "quirks" I was constantly dealing with, I decided the sound wasn't worth the hassle.

My buddy had a 3-ply kit. I REALLY want to get one of these, because they just sound unreal. Very cool, but also have the quirks, I hear.

Some people dig the Stop Sign badge era Gretschs. Make sure to check those out, too! I have never played a Stop Sign badge kit I haven't liked.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
Really great input - So I guess really if I see a set I really like that are in sizes I dig...just got for it and expect to baby it a bit.
Pretty much. I'd wanted a RB kit, for a long time. Mine had been de-wrapped and referb'd, so it wasn't quite as pricey and a "stock" kit. From what I've experienced (myself and my Gretsch-lovin' buddy) .... drum heads fit fine on these once you take the wrap off. And being I love the blonde wood look ..... that was fine with me. I'm pretty sure Uncle Charlie's kit was de-wrapped as well. Not very many of these older drums ever left the factory "natural". That was not the "popular" look of the 50's and 60's.
 

bongoman

Junior Member
Just a side note about how tightly heads fit on many Gretsch shells—it’s true, and I’ve had that trouble with both round badge and stop sign eras, AND they sound amazing. So it’s a pain in the butt when you go to change heads, but it’s not a problem for sound or tuning.
 
Top