What is it?
We all think we know what we’re in for when we pick up an electric guitar made by Gretsch but that doesn’t preclude the possibility of a surprise. Indeed, in recent times, the brand has been offering a few subtle twists on its classic recipes, the inclusion of soapbar P-90 pickups one of the most thrilling.
Purists might not dig this Junior Jet Club from the entry-level Streamliner series but that’s just fine – the rest of us will recognise that a little iconoclasm can go a long way when it comes to guitar design. Fundamentally, what we have here is a primitive solid-bodied singlecut, a good ol’ slab of nato (aka eastern mahogany) with a matching bolt-on neck.
The body is bound while the neck is left unbound, and carved into what Gretsch describes as a ‘Thin U’ profile but whether that is much different from a regular C-shaped neck is up for debate.
A bolt-on Gretsch stands out in a lineup mostly comprised of set necks but don’t let that put you off. It helps keep the price down for a start, but it also gives the Junior Jet Club a throw-and-go workhorse vibe. Originally produced as a riposte to Gibson’s Les Paul Junior, the stripped-down quality is a big part of the appeal.
Like the more famous Junior, this puppy has a 24.75” scale length and is fitted with an off-brand wraparound bridge and an angled neck pocket to make the physics work with the bridge height. The bridge has pre-set intonation ridge.
The pickups is where things get really interesting with Gretsch mixing and matching a BT-2S humbucker at the bridge position with a soapbar P-90 at the neck. The BT-2S is a revoiced Broad’Tron that was designed especially for the Streamliner series.
The control set-up is a little strange, with a shoulder-mounted three-way pickup selector switch complemented by a volume control on the treble horn and a tone control positioned down by the bridge close to your picking hand.
Typically, Gretsch mount a master volume on the treble horn, with individual volume controls nested close by the bridge for easy access. But whatever works! We like the use of the amber plastic barrel knobs, which references an era of Gretsch before the metal ‘G-with-arrow’ logo controls became standard.
Our review model arrives in a deep bourbon-coloured Single Barrel Stain but there are solid Mint Metallic and Sahara Metallic finishes in the series. All of which look pretty sweet. Indeed, this is one handsome guitar. And while we introduced it by talking about the ways in which it deviates from the Gretsch template, with its thumbnail inlays, classic narrow headstock and that distinctive Jet body shape, there's no mistaking this for any other brand's guitar.
Performance and verdict
A solid slab of wood might not sound like the most manageable proposition. There are no player-friendly belly cuts here and no chambering as with some other Jets, and yet when shouldered on a strap the Junior Jet Club is no heavyweight, coming in just below the 8lb mark. It sits nice, too.
The neck is described as thin, but measuring 21.2mm at the first fret and deepening to 24.6mm at the 12th, there's enough to hold onto here and provide plenty of comfort when fretting chords. As with all the best Gretsch designs, the Junior Jet Club has the feel of a classic guitar, as though it is lived a couple of interesting lives before making its way into yours. In this era of the factory relic finish, it is quite refreshing to simply have an old-school guitar arrive pristine from the shop. You can do the relic'ing yourself by, y'know, actually playing the thing all the time.
• Danelectro 59X
We implore you to play this guitar. LP players will feel right at home with the gloss-finished neck, and the comfortable 25” scale length means this could quickly become your go-to pick-up-and-play electric. The neck pickup has a fat single-coil response, with a sweet compression when you dig in, the slanted pick-up position resulting in a more even string response.
• Gretsch G2622 Streamliner
The beefier pickups certainly don't nail a classic Gretsch tonality - although if that's what you want, the full-size pickups are easy to replace - but they do broaden the sonic potential, especially for more gained styles, while staying close to the classic iconography. If you want a great-value semi-hollow, this is among the best electric guitars for under $500.
And you will want to play this all the time. It's a clever move by Gretsch not to put the Streamliner name on the headstock or draw attention to the fact that this is a budget model. The playability and the tones suggest it is anything but, and it is such a well put together chassis that it's the sort of guitar that will be modded over the years should you want to spice things up with the pickups or whatnot.
This, however, is already an inspired pickup pairing and it might well be many a player's gateway to serious P-90 addiction. We've seen it happen. At first, many people are not too sure about this in-between pickup, noisier than the humbucker, a little warmer and less pin-sharp than a Strat-style single-coil.
But we recommend plunging straight in with the neck P-90 here, bang it through a tube amp or a good digital model of one (hey, it is 2021 after all), and luxuriating in the majesty of its sound. It's big and it's warm. As with all good P-90 winds, it loves a little bit of gain, and you might find that those blues licks you felt were a little tired before suddenly have some musical oomph.
The only problem, if it's a problem at all, is that the P-90 steals the show a little from the Broad'Tron at the bridge, which is a fine pickup in its own right, and an excellent all-purpose 'bucker for rock styles, but it just lacks that extra star power by comparison.
As a pairing, they make quite the team in the mix position, and playing around with the volume and tone controls reveals a wide array of tones that might not identify themselves as Gretsch but nonetheless service the same rock 'n' roll demographic, and offer a fine platform for blues and rock players to get creative with.
At this price, the Junior Jet Club is an exceptional option. It is a grown-up, seaworthy guitar that you could upgrade over time or simply just play it hard as it is. There is a dual-humbucker G2210 model in the series, but the P-90 makes this irresistible, and a welcome reminder that Gretsch can shake things up and not lose that brand identity. And look at this: we've made it through the review without mentioning the word rockabilly.
MusicRadar verdict: An entry-level model that doesn't feel entry-level, this Junior Jet Club is ridiculously good fun – super-playable with some serious tones to burn.
The web says
"Now, if you think you’re going to replicate classic Gretsch fare when you plug in, this Junior Jet Club should probably come with a warning: this is a no-Gretsch zone. As initially supplied, the P-90 is big and thick, with a big blues voice and a muscular slide sound, but the bridge pickup, obviously brighter, is thinner and a little quieter, too, with an almost generic ‘humbucker’ sound. It might not shout ‘Gretsch’, but it’s a perfectly good rootsy rock voice that laps up crunch and even heavier gained styles."
- PRICE: $349 / £370
- ORIGIN: Indonesia
- TYPE: Single-cutaway slab-body solidbody electric BODY: Nato
- NECK: Nato, ‘Thin U’ profile, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Synthetic/43.3mm
- FINGERBOARD: Bound laurel, pearloid ‘Neo-Classic Thumbnail’ inlays, 305mm (12”) radius
- FRETS: 22, medium jumbo
- HARDWARE: Anchored Compensated Wrap-Around Bridge/tailpiece, die-cast tuners – chrome-plated STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm ELECTRICS: Gretsch Broad’Tron BT-2S humbucker (bridge), P90 Soap Bar single coil (neck), 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, master volume and tone controls
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.53/7.76
- OPTIONS: Colour only
- RANGE OPTIONS: The G2210 Streamliner Junior Jet Club, with dual Broad’Tron humbuckers, unbound body and single-ply tortoise pickguard, is available in four colours and costs $299 / £320
- LEFT˛HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Single Barrel Stain (as reviewed), Mint Metallic, Sahara Metallic – all gloss
- CONTACT: Gretsch