Solid-Bodied Gretsch Corvette Guitar
By Allen Chiles
The Solid-bodied Corvette (not to be confused with the Corvette hollow-body arch-top electric, produced from 1955-1959) was Gretsch’s answer to the Les Paul Jr. by Gibson. Introduced in 1961, the Corvette Solid-body was a small, light-weight, comfortable electric guitar that was just right for the budding musician.
This killer guitar, with a solid mahogany body, solid mahogany set neck, and a rosewood fret board with pearl dots, originally came with a single HI-Lo ‘Tron pickup. The earliest examples had a trapeze tailpiece. By 1963, the Corvette was sporting a Burns’ flat-arm vibrato tailpiece. (Yes! That Burns! Good old Jim Burns from England), and came with a choice of either one or two of those Hi-Lo ‘Tron pickups. By mid-1963 to 1964, Gretsch changed the standard 3/3 headstock (3 tuners on each side) to a scooby-rific 4/2 headstock design (4 tuning keys on one side, two on the other). Most Corvettes were finished in “cherry” red mahogany and had black pick guards. Some came with red and white striped pick guards and a more opaque red finish to the body. This version is known as the “Twist” model. Early Corvettes were also available in platinum gray finish with black pick guards, but this color was officially discontinued in 1963. Also in 1963, Gretsch started beveling the edges of the guitar’s body and sharpened the cutaway points.
Variations of the Gretsch Corvette were the Silver Duke (1964-66) which was sparkle silver, the Gold Duke (1964-66) – you got it – in sparkle gold, and lest we forget, the Princess (1963-64 – made for the ladies) which was available in many color combinations such as white with purple sparkles, blue with white sparkles, pink with white sparkles, and white with gold sparkles – phew! The Princess also differed from the others in that it had a Palm vibrato tailpiece rather than the Burns’, gold-plated hardware in lieu of the standard nickel/chrome hardware, and a shiny belly-pad on the back.
By 1968, you could no longer get single pickups on the Corvettes, the Burn’s vibrato was replaced with a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece, and the HI-Lo ‘Tron pickups were replaced with Super ‘Tron pickups. Production of the Gretsch Corvette wound down in the early 70′s. (The Corvette did make a brief reappearance from 1976 to 1978 with different specs – humbuckers, etc. It was not the same.)
The Gretsch Corvette (1961-early 70′s) can still give you some bang for your buck in today’s vintage market. You get the vintage sound and vibe, with great playability for less than you’d pay for a Paul, Jr.
Allen has 25 years of experience working with guitars and is the Vintage Guitar Pro in residence at http://www.VintageGuitarPro.com – a website for the vintage guitar enthusiast specializing in online vintage guitar appraisal. Find out more about Allen and Vintage Guitars at http://www.VintageGuitarPro.com
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