November 27, 2012
By Morgan Brunner
One of the most distinctively stylish features of Gretsch guitars past and present is the “G arrow” control knob. If you already own a Gretsch, you know what we’re referring to—the volume and tone knobs on your instrument, which are in most cases adorned with an engraved later “G” pierced by an arrow. This was an early but not original development.
Gretsch’s earliest electric guitars of the late 1940s and early 1950s—mostly Hawaiian lap steel and arch-top Electromatic models—had plain control knobs. When the original golden age of Gretsch electric guitars began in earnest in 1954, a much more distinctive control knob style was adopted, quite unlike that of contemporaries such as Fender and Gibson. 1954 saw the introduction of gold- and chrome-plated brass knobs with plain unadorned tops and a crosshatched pattern around the circumference.
An engraved arrow was added to the top of these knobs from 1955 to 1957. This “plain arrow” design was brief and transitional, however; preceding the best-known Gretsch control knob style—the classic original “G arrow” design of 1957-1967. These knobs, engraved with an arrow-pierced stylized letter “G,” were used on most Gretsch models during that ten-year period (White Falcon models used a jeweled version).
Under Baldwin Piano Company rule in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Gretsch switched to aluminum control knobs on which the “G” was silkscreened rather than embossed. That’s right—silkscreened.
In the 1990s, with Gretsch guitars once again under the control of the Gretsch family, control knobs were used that closely resembled the brass “G arrow” knobs of the 1950s and ’60s, although they weren’t exactly the same size and they had a coarser crosshatch pattern around their circumference.
When Fender entered the picture in the early 2000s, many improvements were made that brought Gretsch to its highest level of quality since the 1950s and ’60s (if not higher). Since then, modern-era Gretsch guitars and basses have control knobs that resemble the original classic G-arrow knobs even more closely. A very few current instruments have the “plain arrow” knobs of 1955-1957 (such as the G6120DSW Chet Atkins Hollow Body), jewel-only knobs (such as the G6134 White Penguin and several Falcon models) or other similar variations.
Gold G-arrow control knobs on a modern G6120-1959 Chet Atkins Hollow Body (left); jeweled gold G-arrow knobs on a G6136-LTV White Falcon (right).