Today lets look at a really interesting guitar; it’s not really a reissue of a classic Gretsch model, but rather a combination of features from several different incarnations of the original model 6119, also known as the Tennessean. Chet Atkins, who helped design the original Tennessean model, owned the name and took it with him when his contract with Gretsch expired, so Gretsch dubbed this guitar the Tennessee Special, even though all of the features on this guitar made their appearance on Tennesseans from about 1958 through 1966. So here’s a little history: In 1958, Gretsch introduced the Tennessean, a single-pickup version of its upscale Chet Atkins line, which included the 6120 (Nashville) and 6122 (Country Gentleman). This early incarnation featured a FilterTron pickup in the bridge position, real f-holes, an unbound ebony fingerboard with neo-classical “thumbnail” position markers, a Bigsby B-6 vibrato tailpiece, and a black Lucite pickguard. The 2.75-inch deep laminated maple body was finished in a cherry stain, which often faded over the years to a dark orange color guitarists often referred to as “Tomato Soup.”
Oddly enough, the Tennessean was the only one of the three Atkins models that retained the single cutaway design; the others moved to a dual cutaway configuration in 1962. Meanwhile, the Tennessean lost the single FilterTron pickup and gained a pair of robust single-coil pickups that Gretsch called HiLoTrons. The body was thinned to about 2.25 inches and a silver-gray pickguard was substituted for the black one (this matched the other Atkins models) and most notably, the f-holes were simply painted on.
Today’s Gretsch G6119SP Tennessee Special splits the difference and has a bound 2.5-inch deep laminated, arched maple body with a deep cherry stain and gloss urethane finish, a pair of high-sensitivity FilterTron pickups, a black pickguard, a B6 Bigsby vibrato, and even real f-holes. The 3-piece, 22-fret maple neck has an unbound ebony fingerboard with neo-classical position markers. If you think about it, this is really a Gretsch Nashville with a deep cherry stain instead of the Western Orange finish, and a black pickguard. This guitar has “all the right stuff” – the trademark Gretsch look, feel, and sound. It even comes with a deluxe, plush-lined hardshell case.