Initially popularized by Atkins’ passionate endorsement, the Country Gentleman, in its later ’60s double-cutaway incarnation, is also widely associated with George Harrison.Sales of the model soared following the Beatles’ famous performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February of ’64.
Standard features on this single-cutaway, 17″ wide by 2.25″ deep, archtop included a tasteful walnut brown stain, elegant gold-colored hardware, and distinctive neoclassic markers on an ebony fretboard.
It was the first to employ the Filter’Tron – the earliest examples having plain gold-colored cases surrounded by smooth plastic bezels.
The gap of 3,000 serial numbers between this guitar and the 26400 Gent equates to about nine months of production, which is corroborated by the factory invoice for a Country Gentleman with serial number 26439, published on page 184 of Jay Scott’s The Guitars of the Fred Gretsch Company, confirming a September 1, 1957, shipping date for the Gents of the debut batch.
Documented Country Gentleman specimens from as early as number 26405 of the debut batch display the standard feature package including the walnut stain finish, faux sound-hole inserts, and headstock plaque.
Also, there are no simulated sound-hole inserts, making the body appear strangely barren.
The scale length is 25.5″ while most subsequent examples are 24.5″.
He didn’t appreciate the over-sized f-shaped sound holes in the 6120, and the sentiment was illustrated in his well-known favor of a prototype 6120, which had a thick top that lacked sound holes.
He used the guitar – made for him in 1955 – on many recordings, and it was no doubt a source of inspiration for the subsequent Country Gentleman format.
Though the Atkins signature archtops all received internal “trestle” bracing for the 1958 model year, he could never persuade Gretsch to make a guitar with a solid block down the center, which Atkins believed would further enhance the tone of the instrument.
Regardless, with its sealed top and internal bracing, the Country Gentleman in essence emulated a 17″ chambered solidbody, as much as anything else.
The Gretsch Country Gentleman 6122 was the third of four Chet Atkins signature guitar models created for the legendary guitarist in the ’50s.