When approaching certain styles of music the choice of gear can be overwhelming. If you want to rock out Scotty Moore's sultry licks, the kinetic styles of Eddie Cochran and Bill Flagg, or the more country-slanted flavours of Jim Horton, for example, what guitar or amp do you buy?
There’s only one choice of guitar, on paper at least: Gretsch.
Anyone interested in such styles will know that the rig to aspire to comprises a Gretsch G6120 Chet Atkins, a Space Echo and a vintage Fender amp, preferably a tweed Bassman. Sadly though, the cost of such a set-up is painful; you’re talking the thick end of £4000. And great though the equipment in question is, that’s a huge investment to undertake, especially if you’re snagged in the current financial whirlpool.
Rock ’n’ roll fire with hillbilly rhythms
One of the reasons that Gretsch became so closely associated with rockabilly, the combination of rock ’n’ roll fire with hillbilly rhythms, is simple: there really wasn’t much else available in 1955.
Of course, it’s possible to obtain a convincing fifties-style sound out of virtually any guitar and amp combination assuming you have the know how and chops, but even a Gibson ES isn’t close enough to the correct look: how much cooler would Marty McFly have been if he’d roasted Back To The Future’s Enchantment Under The Sea dance sporting a 6120 rather than the ES-345 he memorably touted?
Anything that’s too modern will set alarm bells ringing with gusto: you’ll have a hard job convincing the notoriously picky UK rockabilly fraternity of your validity if you front a Stray Cats tribute band while grasping an Ibanez JEM, irrespective of how good your licks might be.
Quiffs, blackjacks and soda fountains
To answer at least part of the problem, we’ve cast our net over the choppy commercial seas to ensnare a choice of four contemporary semis from varying price points that certainly tick all the right boxes in the looks department. One is a new addition to the Gretsch Electromatic line, but the remainder come from very familiar companies not so intimately linked with quiffs, blackjacks and soda fountains.