Forty-odd years beyond when AC/DC first hit American airwaves, the band still inspires multitudes of guitarists with intoxicating riffs, mesmerizing grooves, and a head-banging blues-adjacent ethos.
Much of the power behind the original group was rhythm guitarist/co-founder Malcolm Young, who passed away in 2017. Gretsch is honoring him with its new G6131G-MY-RB Limited Edition Signature Jet. Nicknamed “The Red Beast,” it pays tribute to Malcolm, his rock-steady rhythm playing, and his trusty ’63 Gretsch Jet Firebird.
Designed in collaboration with Malcolm’s nephew, Stevie Young, the Red Beast reflects the earliest version of Malcolm’s guitar, used in the studio and onstage from 1973 to ’75, before he started modifying it (guitarhead fans know that eventually those mods gave a unique look).
Made in Japan, the Red Beast is a 2″-deep double-cut in Vintage Firebird Red with a mahogany body and maple top. Its set mahogany neck has a standard U shape with 12″ radius, 22 jumbo frets, bone nut, ebony fretboard, and 24.6″ scale length. It’s a beautiful reproduction that includes aged neck binding, body binding, and inlays. The pickups are TV Jones Ray Butts Ful-Fidelity near the bridge and neck positions, and a TV Jones Ray Butts Starwood Humbucker in the middle. There are individual Volume controls, a Master volume, three-position Standby switch, three-position pickup toggle, and a three-position Tone control. Touches include an Adjusto-Matic bridge, black pickguard, and gold hardware.
The Red Beast delivers the raw sound (and nuances) that AC/DC guitar aficionados appreciate when they drop the needle on High Voltage, ,Let There Be Rock and other early classics. It’s a lively, acoustically resonant instrument even without an amp, and sits comfortably seated or with a strap. The chambered body, in cahoots with the breathy sound of the TV Jones pickups, yields a rugged-yet-airy quality one cannot achieve with a PAF Les Paul or Strat. It’s also sonically in line with the classic Gretsch sound and feel; through a distorted amp, guitarists can easily achieve Malcolm’s prized rhythm tone. While sussing the Volume and Pickup controls might take a minute, plugging in will nail the guitar sound that launched a million bands. Power chords project unfettered, with meaty substance, grit, old-school flavor, and sustain, while single-note lines produce a retro ambiance, thickness, and attitude, perfect for everything from rockabilly, blues, jazz, or your local AC/DC tribute band.
This article originally appeared in VG’s January 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.