Gretsch’s 1955 White Falcon was the pink Cadillac of guitars – quite possibly the most outlandish guitar ever produced. The latest Vintage Select Edition Falcon is all that and more.
Unveiled at the 1954 NAMM show, the White Falcon was billed as “The Guitar of the Future.” Indeed, it was a dream instrument even then; the company had no plans to produce such an extravagant, modernistic vision.
The new Vintage Select Edition was unveiled at NAMM ’16, and you can play one today.
Gretsch revised its model lines for 2016. The Electromatic and Streamliner collections are entry-level guitars offering stunning value at stunning prices. The Professional Collection includes Player’s versions of all the Gretsch faves – the 6120, Country Gentleman, Falcon, and more. And the Vintage Select Edition is the top-of-the-line line, the highest quality versions that you might not take to a gig but would reach for first and foremost at home – the connoisseur’s choice.
But the Vintage Select Edition models are not just craftsman-built faithful replicas of the originals. As Gretsch mastermind Jason Barnes describes the philosophy behind them, they’re “true to vintage where vintage makes sense.” This means that Gretsch luthiers have added refinements that Chet Atkins, Eddie Cochran, Duane Eddy, and George Harrison would never even have dreamed of.
Gretsch focused on just ten of its all-time most iconic guitars for the Select line. Simply put, these new models are designed to be better than the originals.
This Falcon is a prime example. It’s got all the outlandishness, but done better.
The back and sides are laminated maple while the top is solid spruce. The vintage white nitrocellulose lacquer finish has a subtly aged patina, accented by the trademark White Falcon gold-sparkle binding and white/black/white/black purfling. Even the f-holes are bound in gold. Just like the original, this White Falcon is made for the spotlight.
The maple neck is topped by that headstock with the fantastic winged Gretsch logo and gold Grover Imperials that are what every tuner wants to be.
Hardware follows suit. The pickguard is gold plexi, the control knobs gold-plated jewel arrows, and the tailpiece is the fabulous “Cadillac” unit. In all, fit and finish is superb.
So the looks would make Liberace drool. How does it sound?
Even better than it looks. The TV Jones T-Armond single-coils wired to Gretsch’s new “Squeezebox” paper-in-oil capacitors provide crystal-clear sound with grand hollow-body tone. You can make music ranging from White Falcon designer Jimmie Webster’s jazz to trebly rockabilly to Stephen Stills’ and Neil Young’s classic rock drive.
Compared to, say, a Gretsch 6120, the longer 25.5″ scale length and wider 17″ body add up to more depth, more twang, more richness. So even from the beginning, it wasn’t all about the outlandishness.
To add to that vintage vibe, we swapped the .011s for flatwound .012s. The TV Jones T-Armonds loved them.
The gold-plated Synchro-Sonic bridge provides pinpoint intonation and even locks in place with a thumbscrew. Given the nature of the Synchro-Sonic bridge, the ’55 Falcon is the only model without a pinned bridge, but Gretsch says that will likely change.
The exquisite craftsmanship makes the Select Edition play like a Cadillac, too. It’s fluid, smooth, and a wonder, making you sound better than you thought you ever would. Spoiler alert; it plays better than most originals from the era.
Most guitar fans have never even seen a real vintage ’55 White Falcon, which is no surprise as they’re as rare as hens’ teeth. Well, look no further.
This article originally appeared in VG September 2016 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.