Gretsch Brian Setzer Hot Rod, G6120SHATV
The Gretsch Brian Setzer Hot Rod, G6120SHATV will be reviewed today. This model features Candy Apple Red finish with TV Jones Classic pickups, 1959 trestle bracing, Sperzel locking tuners, pinned adjusto-matic bridge and Bigsby B6C Vibrato tailpiece. The guitar is very well made in Japan and has a vintage Gretsch feel with modern playability. The finish is flawless as well as the fret work. It seems to be much better made than a vintage Gretsch. The nut is made of Delrin to help with the guitar staying in tune. The Hot Rod is a very simple design with one pickup selector switch and one volume knob.
The test amp was a 5F6-A Bassman clone using Mercury Magnetics transformers, Sozo caps, carbon comp resistors, a Larry Rodgers tweed covered pine cabinet and 4- Weber VST, 10A125 speakers. Current production Sovtek 12AX7LPS’s and Tung Sol 5881’s were used and the GZ34 was an N.O.S. General Electric. The amp was hand built by me here at 300Guitars.
The amps controls were set with the Bright channel Volume at 12 o’clock, Treble 2 o’clock, Bass 8 o’clock, Middle 9 o’clock and Presence at 3 o’clock. With the Hot Rod plugged into the Bright channel of the 5F6-A amp and bridge pickup selected an open E chord sounded nice and twangy with hints of wood and plenty of chime. Chording and Chuck Berry rhythms sounded articulate and full with nice definition. Single notes cut nicely and never sounded too thin. As the amps volume is turned up toward 3 o’clock the guitar starts to rock. You can get fantastic rock tones like Pete Townshend on the Who’s Next album and heavier rockabilly Setzer solo tones. Double stops and double note bends have a great texture and edge. If you turn down the guitars volume control the sound cleans up for clean rhythm work. The neck pickup with the amps volume backed down to 12 o’clock again sounded full and defined. You could play some really nice jazz chords or single note lines. The wood quality and chime is also very evident with the neck pickup. If you crank the amp up a bit the guitar starts to want to play the blues. More like jump blues not heavier rock-blues. Both pickups together was my favorite setting and a lot of fun. This is where the guitar becomes a total rockabilly machine. That’s where 85% of all the Setzer tones are. All the Stray Cats hits and BSO sounds are easily recognizable, really nice.
Because the Hot Rod has the 1959 trestle bracing it never wants to feedback out of control like a full hollowbody guitar. It gets to the edge and stops right there. If you play with amp/guitar positioning you can control the feedback for great effects. This is a great feature for playing loud and on the edge of overdrive. Thanks to Chet Atkins for the trestle brace!
The large, very well dressed frets play and bend easily. You can tell this guitar was co-designed by a great player, Brian Setzer. There is barely any fret buzz even with the low action and absolutely no notes that fret out at any position of the neck. The 16″ body size is comfortable even for a physically smaller player and it is relatively light. The neck has the slightest “V” shape to it and feels great in your hand. Tuning is precise with the Sperzel tuners and the guitar stays in very good tune even when you play the Eddie Cochran Bigsby licks. The pinned Adjusto-matic bridge is another key factor in keeping the guitar in tune. The body of the guitar has two small allen head machine screws coming out of the body where each foot of the bridge base is. The bridge base feet each have a small hole where the allen screw fits in. This prevents the bridge from sliding side to side helping to keep the guitar in tune.
The Bottom Line: Overall this is one great guitar with all the tools necessary without being cluttered by too many controls and buttons. The simplicity helps you focus on playing rather than tweaking. In live situations the Hot Rod performs flawlessly and sounds great for many different styles of music. Definitely a players axe. Included with the guitar is a harshell Gretsch case. It is a very heavy duty case and will protect the guitar to and from gigs. List price is $3500.00 and is available from authorized Gretsch dealers. Photo Credit: Gretsch Guitars.