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Fretwork Friday: Greg's Gretsch

Updated: Jan 19

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Hi Everybody,

The newest themed day is Fretwork Friday, where I'll look at the gear of the members of Blue Rodeo members past and present, and not only guitars but keyboards, drums, amplifiers, and more.

Like many guitar players, myself included, Greg Keelor has played a wide variety of guitars, both acoustic and electric. Since the beginning of Blue Rodeo Greg has been playing Gretsch guitars.

Greg talks a bit about how the Gretsch was prominent in the days before Blue Rodeo:

We were living in New York. I was sick of it, but Jim Cuddy was still enraptured. It would have been 1984 and music everywhere seemed to have stalled. I was sitting in a bar, on a gloomy early-spring afternoon, listening to a recently purchased cassette of Gordon Lightfoot's Gord's Gold on my Walkman. At the time, I didn't own an acoustic guitar. I had a Ricky and a Gretsch, and I wrote all my songs on electric, thinking that acoustic guitars were obsolete, not compatible with New York's post-punk ethos. (The Globe and Mail)

One particular Gretsch guitar that Greg played a lot in the early days of Blue Rodeo was an orange finish, likely a 6120 - if you know, please let me know. The 6120 is the foundation of the rockabilly sound, and prominent in country music, and has been the main guitar of many notable players such as Eddie Cochran, Chet Atkins, and Brian Setzer of The Stray Cats. You can definitely see in the Rebel video how Greg looked to be in a rockabilly phase of his own! Check it out in the video for Rebel, filmed at the iconic Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, Ontario, Canada...

The beautiful sound of a Gretsch 6120 is a combination of the materials, its hollow body, the Filtertron pickups, and the Bigsby vibrato system. Clear, bell-like, articulate, and crunchy with a touch of! Throw in a bit of slap back delay for the rockabilly sound. Greg's tone on Diamond Mine adds so much to the song's atmospheric opening and as it builds to its explosive conclusion!

In my Blue Rodeo tribute band, True Rodeo, I have the honour of singing Greg's songs playing many of his parts. To do this I bought a Gretsch of my own, the 5420T Electromatic in the limiited edition Candy Apple Red finish. Gretsch makes 3 lines of guitars; the entry level Streamliner, the mid level Electromatic, and the top of the line Professional series. Although I played a couple orange 5420Ts and wanted to be as authentic as possible when on stage with True Rodeo, this particular 5420T had the looks, and more importantly the feel and sound - it's got the mojo! It's my number 1 stage guitar with True Rodeo and I absolutely love it!

I'm playing it during our live recording of After the Rain at the 2023 Wasaga Beach Canada Day Celebrations...

Come out and see True Rodeo for yourself, our gigs are posted on our website at I'd love to meet you and talk Blue Rodeo and guitars with you!

Until then, as Greg says, "We'll see you down the road..."

-Dave Brinton, True Rodeo.

Sources: Youtube, the Globe and Mail, Gretsch Gretsch guitars, and others as linked.

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