Vintage Guitar Scene: The Green Guitar and the Ballerina

1960 Gretsch 6125 Single Anniversary

DSC_0627_Gretsch_BackThis guitar’s colour is probably its best feature – variously described as Cadillac green or avocado, but officially two-tone smoke green. Anniversary Models were not the finest of the golden era vintage Gretsch models, and this is not the most pristine example of the model. However it does have a history, and that’s what makes old guitars all the more interesting.

The Anniversary series was first released in 1958 to celebrate 75 years since the founding of the Gretsch company. Early Anniversary Models were fitted with Gretsch’s highly regarded Filter ‘Tron pickups, but in 1960 they switched to the Hilo‘Tron, a single coil pickup generally less popular than the Filter ‘Tron. However the Hilo’Tron pickup (as fitted to this guitar) is favoured by some players for its softer top end and clanky ’60s-style resonance.

This guitar – a Single Anniversary model Serial No. 38107 – originally belonged to a member of The Rhythm Rockets, a popular dance band in the Sunraysia region of Victoria during the 1960s. For many years they performed every Saturday night at a legendary Mildura venue called The Ballerina, often playing to over 1,000 patrons. Alcohol was not served at the Ballerina, so the young guys would kick off Saturday night with a short drive across the river to the Gol Gol Pub in New South Wales, where 10 o’clock closing was in force. After 1966 when Victoria introduced 10 o’clock closing, they could drink at one of the Mildura pubs before hitting the Ballerina to jive to the Rhythm Rockets, circle the dance floor leering at the girls on the benches lining the walls, or – if all else failed – pick a fight out in the street.

Under-eighteens were able to go to the Ballerina, and many would wait until after 11pm when the entry fee was reduced. As a 16 year old I would often be standing in front of the stage from 11 till 12, picking up some guitar-playing tips by watching the Rhythm Rockets.

This guitar belonged to rhythm guitarist Geoff Evans. Lead guitarist Bill Tyers had a matching Double Anniversary (two pickup) model with a Bigsby tremolo arm. At some stage in its life this Single Anniversary had also been fitted with a Bigsby tremolo. It was not the correct model for a thin-line guitar, and was poorly fitted, so I replaced it with an original “G” tailpiece. There was also a rather rough repair job on the neck where it had snapped off at the heel. I had a luthier re-set the neck and replace the worn out frets, so the guitar now plays as good as new.

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The pickguard has been broken, and again, inexpertly repaired with a liberal application of araldite, so somewhere along the line this green machine has had a hard life. I have heard that it spent some time in Broken Hill in the late sixties, and for a time in the 1970s it served as a “car guitar”, travelling around on the back seat of an FE Holden owned by Mildura musician John Eames. Surprisingly, the original hardshell case has survived.

The guitar came up for sale in the mid 1980s, and I bought it because of its history rather than its value as a working guitar. However I have used it quite a bit over the years, particularly during the 1990s when I worked with a clarinet/guitar/bass trio, and it served me well. If our audience was unable to find anything positive to say about our music, they could always say something nice about the green guitar.

About Ben Rogers 16 Articles
Ben Rogers has played guitar for a long time, and has accumulated an odd assortment of guitars over the years. He plays around Melbourne with Instrumental Asylum – a surf/spy/guitar-noir group, and also with his gypsy-jazz combo The Ben Rogers Trio.

1 Comment on Vintage Guitar Scene: The Green Guitar and the Ballerina

  1. Thanks for the wonderful recollections, Ben. I picked up a 1960 6124, sunburst, in excellent shape last year with the Hilo’Tron pick-up, and it’s just plain fun to play. In my little circle of jamming partners it’s a favorite– we play it through a Fender ’65 twin reverb/ tremolo reissue and it sounds great….. Happy to have found your site, mate!

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