2013 Gretsch G5120 Electromatic

  • Body: Laminate
  • Neck: Set five-piece maple in “U” shape with 12″ rosewood fretboard, GraphTech nut
  • Hardware: Bigsby B60 Vibrato tailpiece, Compton stainless steel compensated bridge saddle on ebony base, Sperzel locking tuners
  • Pickups: GFS Retro’Tron “Liverpool”

For the past couple decades the Gretsch name has been plastered across a dizzying array of budget-priced, Korean-made guitars. Nobody, not even Gretsch, can keep track of all the overlapping models, but they do offer an opportunity to get a cool jazz/rockabilly box for 1/3 of the cost of a U.S.A. model, and are an excellent platform for retrofit upgrades.

I picked this up used on eBay for about $300. The stock “Dual Coil” p/ups were pretty naff, so I replaced them with GFS “Retro’Trons” — at $70 for the pair I figured if they turned out a plonker I could always resell ‘em and upgrade to TV Jones, but so far me likey.

Alnico V magnets, with a big, bright, warm sound, plenty of that Filter’Tron “kerrr-ang,” buttery neck tone, and you can even get the Beatles ’65 HiLo’Tron vibe.

I found a used set of Sperzel locking tuners (Brian Setzer uses them on all his Gretsches) on eBay, and had my tech shave about a pound of polyurethane off the back of the neck, wet-sanded, and sprayed it with nitro sealer for a smooth, matte feel.

The bridge is a solid stainless steel Compton which adds sustain and clarity, good intonation, and better matches the fret board radius. He also mounted “peel n stick” sandpaper to the top in the shape of the bridge footprint, which keeps the floating bridge from sliding around and insures proper intonation when changing strings. I also replaced the Bigsby spring with a 1″ which gives it a bit more resistance. Loaded with D’Addario XL .12-.52 “Jazz Light” half rounds.