Gretsch G5420T Electromatic, Set Up & Review

The Gretsch Electromatic G5420T an independant review

I’d set my little heart on looking the part, I had the wrap round shades, the 50s style shirts, now all I needed to complete the look was the right guitar..! Well not quite, even if there are some half-truths in there.

I have a nice 80’s JV series Japanese Telecaster, a 50s repro/re-edition.. whatever, that plays great, but a little too bright and snatchy and without the overtones of a hollow body, no trem, and it’s never going to flat pick or finger pick like an acoustic/6 string.

So I went in search of an affordable, okay build quality, name guitar with the right sound for 40s and 50s R&B and Rock N’ Roll / Rockabilly. On reading a few online reviews (though ones not published by Gretsch are hard to find; actually some of the best are on their own website forum) I came to settle on the G5420T in Aspen Green, a beautiful colour.

next.. price research..

0211I searched hi and lo in the UK and abroad for the best deal and it became quite obvious early on that Gretsch (owned by Fender) fix their prices fairly hard, and balancing the import tax on buying from the States, or the price from Germany (Thomann) or finding one in the UK, an average lower end price of £632 seemed reasonable if you wanted to find somewhere close enough you could return the guitar or walk in with it unhappy (for what reason I don’t know/yet know) at a later date. I came to rest on my local city Brighton’s GAK centre just off the North Laines. I phoned them to get the one Aspen Green G5420T they had out of the warehouse and to the shop and they were most helpful. And I arrived early on a Saturday morning to check it out.

I wanted to try it out with a heavier gauge string set on it, but they come from the factory with 10s on and they don’t re-string. Quite possibly because stringing it for a floating bridge un-initiate is a pain in the arse, but more of that later. Obligingly they provided a Blues Junior for me to play with (that’s the amp I use at home) and off I went noodling. My friend Des Day of Des Day promotional associated plc ltd. arrived to help me sort out the amp sound and give sage advice and off I went. BUT… it was no good, I just didn’t like the guitar, it felt all yuck.. no good at all. I could have wept,,.. oh well.

Classic Orange

Rowan, the very helpful shop assistant with side-show Bob curls and a jaunty salesman’s pitch suggested I tried the Orange version of the model hanging in the store. This was more like it, a joy to play, and someone had done a bit to set it up in store. It needed some work to get it set right but… hmmmm, thinking about it now, starting respond, good, getting in gear.. lovely but… not sure…

Des suggests market research..

With wads of cash burning a hole in my britches Des, and rightly so, decided I needed to try a few alternatives out and we left to check out a couple of second-hand places and other solid bodies. No good, the orange one was a callin’, eventually I went back and purchased.


0161On return

Returning home, I decided to change the strings for the heavy gauge I had originally wanted to try the guitar out with, and put a set of 11s on it. If you change the strings be careful, this guitar has a floating bridge and if you remove the foam under it and/or change the strings it comes with, you will need to make sure the bridge goes back to the factory tuned position it came in. As the intonation will be out if you do change the bridge position.

I moved mine slightly while changing the strings (more of that in a bit) and so once tuned to concert pitch I gradually adjusted firstly the main bridge and then the individual adjustable bridge pieces for each string, checking note accuracy with a good quality chromatic tuner as I did so. Once I’d done that I marked the bridge position, something which may have invalidated my warranty, but which makes future string replacement a doddle compared to this occasion.

All you need do is compare accuracy on individual strings with your opened but tuned note, then at the 12th fret position (pinging the harmonic helps this too) and then with a chromatic tuner above that if you feel it neccesary. It follows that a higher pitch than is desired requires you to lengthen (though only minimally) the scale length of the string, or in the opposite case, shorten it.

Once the main bridge is as close as possible to the correct position, you can use the fine bridge adjustment to acheive a really accurate result. I worked this out, and it’s logical, but, if you need, there are step by step guides of how to do this online I’ve since discovered. You can also find some set up guides on You Tube, which are handy.

Advice on string change

Don’t take all the strings off at once!!

This will leave the bridge to urrr… fall off. I did not do this, luckily someone in the store said not to, so I changed each string one by one.

String changing on this type of guitar and with this Tremelo design is a pain in the arse. This is mainly because each string loops round a post on the underside of the tremolo and unless tension is maintained … it pings off. It took a short swearing session to bring about a practical solution. USE YOUR CAPO TO HOLD THE STRING on the fretboard once it’s on the post, this will keep it there while you measure out and clip the string to wind on the tuning head. Wind it on, and once there is enough tension in it, take the Capo off and the string won’t come off the post at the bottom behind the bridge. If you don’t do this, find another way, or you will murder your best friend through frustration. It’s a down side to be honest, surely there’s a little practicle and cheap way to overcome this design flaw?

Just as a heads up Stewart McDonald do a piece of kit called a Vibramate Spoiler that can help you re-string easier. Check out the link. I don’t know if this affects the tone, as the strings don’t on use of it wrap round the tremelo fully, but it’s worth a go if you find it hard to re-string. I for one will stick with my own little workround of the problem for the sake of an entirely imagined tonal benefit.

Ideas.. and set-up

…currently to string up with flatwound heavy gauge strings for that mid rangey plunky and smoother sounds for picking and chording respectively, good for that 40s and 50s R&B and the hick-town chunk that is truest rockabilly guitar.. (*see bottom of article for update)

017Set up

I’ve lowered the action a little more just by lowering the bridge a tickle more and it’s good, rings true and slick, the neck seems to be taking the heavier gauge strings well and there is no need for truss rod shenanigans .. yet.. I’ll keep an eye out to see if there’s any movement over time, but to be honest it shouldn’t move too much as the Rockabilly style of guitar tradition, (as it’s often finger and flat picked in development of a steel strung 6 string acoustic) calls on a heavier gauge and if their axe is designed properly for the purpose it appears to be built for, it shouldn’t ‘mal-function’.

I’ve also raised the front pick up’s ‘pole-pieces’ which sit under the 6th string to hopefully give it some extra ‘twang’ in it’s proximity to the string. As it was slightly lacking in this when playing. I’ve yet to make a decision on shifting any of the other pick up’s set up as the sound so far works well and pleases my ear. I might experiment later.

Strangely I’ve noticed that even with the floating bridge in the correct position the rear pickup does not line up correctly with the strings! This is concerning, but it doesn’t seem to affect the sound of the guitar, so I’m not going to allow myself to fret (gettit!! fret… get it !!??).

Tonal controls

Not being used to this sort of guitar the tonal controls were exciting to me. There are independent volume controls for the two pick ups, one master volume control, and one master tone control. There are three pick up positions, back, middle and front, but with the independent volume controls I know I’m going to have fun when I get to find the time to play about with it, and not just play on it.


Simple, so far and considering the overall price, market, build quality, niche, and all that ‘jazz’.. the tremolo is disappointing. Not for the sound it makes (for it is that classic 50s tremmie wang not the ear bending Little Stevie Vai variety, but the mellow vibrato of Cochran, or Eddy), but that the Trem takes the guitar way too far out of pitch if anything but the lightest indulgence in ‘Tremming’ features in your playing.

Oddly, the tremolo takes the guitar UP in pitch, not under, the first guitar I have ever experienced doing so. Now this may be because the bridge needs a little polishing by the strings’ movement before it releases a wound string properly (I’d be interested to know if the flatwounds might fare better in this regard), nevertheless, if you end a live tune with more than the lightest tremolo at its ceasing, be prepared to re-tune while you try to keep the audience engaged, and let’s face it talking, cracking a joke and re-tuning all at once is more than most multi-taskers can take alongside performance anxiety!


If you guitar tuning gets out of shape, and particularly if you notice it’s going up in pitch, then give the offending string a nice mild yank, and this should put it somewhere nearer pitch and in tune with the other strings I have discovered.


The tuning heads/tuners and gearing could be of a better quality overall, but the guitar holds pitch fairly well, though if you’ve left it 018in case for a couple of days expect to retune. Obviously it’s a less stable guitar overall than a good solid body. The volume knobs/tone controls could be of a better quality, to be fair you’re not sure if they are chromed metal or plastic, I’m still not sure.

The paint finish is good, purfling a little boring but suitable and what grain you can see is also very plain, being ply of some sort no doubt.

The fretboard is well made and adequate and what detailing there is, is simple but neatly done.

I don’t like having a plastic nut, I don’t even know what the material is that they’re using, but it seems less dense than the Ivory or Bone I’m used to, and I can’t help think that it may be dulling the tone somehow, probably not the case at all though, but only Gretsch know.

I also wish that the pick guard / scratch plate was more easily removable so I could adjust the front pick up more easily, though maybe I’ve just missed a trick somewhere..

And that’s about it..

Overall verdict 7.5 out of 10 for impression overall
9 out of 10 for value for money
10 out of 10 for falling in love with my first hollow body

… but watch out for that tremolo, it’s a bit of a problem, though perhaps it’ll settle in.


I finally go round to purchasing that set of flatwounds. These started at a .11 and including a (flat) wound third.

The results are great, easier bass runs and audible results in the ‘sounds like it should’ category. Obviously a lot of those 50s cats were using flatwounds, because it kind of just completes the sound, particularly through a nice valve amp (I set mine literally down the middle on all EQ and don’t put too much gain on the signal either.


p.s. Looks like this has become one of the most popular Gretsch setup and floating bridge set up sites on the web! So please post your cures and headaches here, there are hundreds looking at this page every week.


Mento, not Calypso – Fantastic Voyage Double Cd to be released

Mento, not Calypso – Fantastic Voyage Double Cd to be released

mentonotcalypsoDue out on the 12th of August this year (2013) hopefully Mento lovers and the general music loving public will enjoy this double cd of Jamaica’s very own vintage music. With 51 songs in the main dubbed from 78rpm singles and some from hard to find early Long Playing Lps, there should be something on it that pleases the ears of Mento mad music lovers. At least I hope so, because I had the joy of compiling it.

Currently it’s available on pre-release on Amazon here – See it on Amazon

Entirely from my own collection

Entirely taken from my own collection of rare 78rpm discs, I am told that the track listing will be, as I submitted, please see below. Though the label Fantastic Voyage have not confirmed that as I write, it seems likely.

What the hell is on it then?

Many of the songs have never been widely available and even for the avid collector, may not be well known. Being able to include some of the songs from an album called MONTEGO BEACH HOTEL CALYPSO BAND which likely features Lord Lebby and may have been produced by Stanley Motta for the hotel was for me a highlight. I tried really hard not to repeat too many songs that have already seen digital release, though did include some, where for instance they have only appeared once elsewhere, or have been duplicated on less than ‘pukka’ releases. I was helped in the dubbing/recording of the discs by Port O Jam, and I understand to some degree they have been ‘restored’ since, though until I hear the final cds, I won’t know how heavily. I hope they leave a good level of texture to the cd release, though understandably the hiss of a 78rpm record and the obvious scratches that walk with a recording that’s over 50 years old may not be to everyone’s taste.

Bases covered?

Hopefully I covered a number of bases, Rural Mento, Hotel Mento, both the rootsy and more commercial sounds, I wanted to include records created by the main movers in  Mento in the 50s and early 60s and so have included recordings produced by Chin, Tewari, Khouri and Motta, and sung by singers like Count Lasher, Lord Power, Harold Richardson etc. It also includes some of  the earliest recorded work by Lord Flea for Khouris pre Federal Times Record label.

At the same time hopefully I’ve made the two cd albums work in their own right, providing and entertaining overall ‘listen’ and not just a collection of individual songs.

Witter on why don’t you?

I won’t witter on, but I think it will be a more than welcome addition to anyone’s collection of Jamaican Mento, early Jamaican and Caribbean music. If you love Mambo, Cuban Jazz, Paranda, Ska or are a World Music and Folk fan, you’ll find loads on it to excite. Put it this way, If I hadn’t compiled it, or already collected the tunes, I’d be very very excited to get hold of a copy.


As I write this is the assumed track listing. Please excuse the Upper and Lower case . . .
01 Sir Horace and His Merry Knights  – Vocal – Horace Abrahams – Mambo Jamaica
06 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Mary’s Lamb – The More We Are Together
07 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Calabash
08 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Wheel And Turn Me
09 Chin’s Calypso Sextet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Give Her Love aka Woman’s Tenderness
10 Wigglers, The – Vocal – Denzil Laing – Limbo
11 Jamaica Boy (Denzil Laing) and his Kingston Calypso Orchestra – Man Is Smart, Woman’s Smarter
12 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – The Mighty Panther – The Talking Parrot
15 Dan Williams and his Orchestra – Vocal Lord Fly – Calypso – Whai Whai Whai
17 Ticklers, The – Vocal – Harold Richardson – Hard Hearted Lover (Man Could A Smart)
19 Local Calypso Quintet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Honeymoon
22 Dan Williams and his Orchestra – Vocal Lord Fly – Transportation Kingston Style
23 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Donkey City
25 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Calypso Cha Cha Cha
26 Lord Power and His Calypsonians – Mambo La La

01 Sir Horace and His Merry Knights  – Vocal – Horace Abrahams – Morgan’s Mento
02 Lord Power and His Calypsonians – Special Amber Calypso
06 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal Lord Lebby – Ethiopia
07 Chin’s Calypso Sextet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Industrial Fair
08 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Dalvey Gal – Parson
09 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Miss Goosie
10 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Mattie Rag, Brown Skin Gal
11 Ticklers, The – Vocal – Harold Richardson – Parish Gal
12 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – The Mighty Panther – Cinemascope
14 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Miss Daisy And Brown Skin Girl
15 Count Lashers Calypso Quintet – Vocal Count Lasher – Trek To England
16 George Moxey and his Calypso Quintet – Vocal by Joseph Clemendore (Cobra Man) – My Brother Calamity
18 Jamaica Boy (Denzil Laing) and his Kingston Calypso Orchestra – Mary Ann, Brown Skin Gal
19 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Perseverence
20 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Ugly Woman
21 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Run Mongoose, Linstead Market
22 Count Lashers Calypso Quintet – Vocal Count Lasher – Water The Garden
24 Local Calypso Quintet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Money Is King

Finally I wanted to sa:


Blind Owl Blues – The Mysterious Life and Death of Alan Wilson by Rebecca Davis – A review


Blind Owl Blues ~ a review

Just finished reading this. If you’ve ever wondered who that quiet guy in Canned Heat was, the one standing at the back looking sheepish, playing a blinding bit of bottleneck, or singing that high falsetto vocal on ‘On The Road Again’, then read this book.

An illuminating entre into the late 60s psychedelic band scene on the West Coast and for those uninitiated into Blues music past and present.

The book suffers from the ‘relatively’ recent rash of online self publishing; it desperately needs an editor’s hand and a true story-teller at the helm, but we get the information we came for and it’s that which counts. Wilson, underrated and overlooked has his story told and we are assured throughout that the facts as they are presented are well researched and balanced.

You’ll be introduced to some of the characters in the story, Bob Hite the frontman and singer, Henry Vestine the talented but drug addled lead guitarist and Larry Taylor the driving and truly talented bass player.

Wilson and his compatriots were there right at the birth of the Blues revival and he and some of his friends rediscovered a number of the artists who would go on to lead that revival, at the same time as giving honour to the past, they blew the cobwebs off of their old  78s, re-worked the old tunes and re-dedicated their blues to the power of amplification.

Wilson wrote both of their biggest hits, ‘On the road again’ and ‘Going up the country’, they played the Monterey and Woodstock festivals and their output soundtracks the 60s as well as anything by anyone else. Many Blues revivalists consider Wilson to be THE under-rated figure of that age and the book tries to re-balance history, place him centrally as an important figure and to chart his compulsive obsessive love of Blues music as it transformed into and equally obsessive love of nature, particularly Sequoia trees. Intrigued?

U-Roy UK tour 2013 Don’t bother, you’ll come home disappointed. A Review.

Brighton 27th March 2013 U-Roy

Simple as this, Headlining on the promotional material, U-Roy was on the Mic in  2 and a half hour period for about 8 minutes.

Banditry. The promoter will be getting a letter from the trading standards authority telling them why a customer was desperately unhappy at the way in which he and many others were treated. General Trees and Little Twitch, who were not hardly highlighted on the poster for the gig, took the Mic and rocked the house for an extended period and did so with nuff style, some great tunes, well-selected and some fine toasting and boosting of a now non existent Stur Gav ‘Sound’, in my opinion a wallet of cds and a few self promoting specials by the likes of Blender and Coco Tea do not constitute a Jamaican Sound System, but I was prepared to let this one drop… not however the shit way the punters were treated by both promoter and U-Roy.

Daddy Roy, or Robber Roy as I think I’ll be referring to him from now could have taken the Mic at any point he so wished, and yet he preferred to stand with the selector, staring at an iPad for much of the gig, occasionally looking on with a wry smile. Probably thinking of the money he was raking in for doing…. urr… exactly zilch! Perhaps he was on eBay trying to buy up some of his rare back catalogue on auction.

Bandit Bizness by Promoter and Daddy Roy
Bandit Bizness by Promoter and Daddy Roy

Truly shameful performance by someone I once had a great deal of respect for. This was an example of something I’ve seen before and yet another occasion where ‘white bwoy a follower’ stand and listen to supposedly roots and culture artistes tell them about all about one love, unity, peace and love and equality while having their wallets washed out by people who don’t live what they preach and teach.

Shame on you.

Rub A Dub Style – the Roots of Modern Dancehall – by Beth Lesser

This book is a must own for anyone interested in the history of Jamaican music, particularly the wonderfully vibrant era of Dancehall in the late 70s, 80s and early 90s.

Full of first person testimony and coverage of many artistes who rarely got recorded, let alone talked about after the event in any country other than Jamaica, or by the most dedicated of fans overseas.

Artists like Brigadier Jerry, Johnny Ringo, Early B, Charlie Chaplin, General Echo, Welton Irie, Lone Ranger, Sugar Minott all get an airing, and it’s great to really get a feel for the energy of Jamaican music during this era.

Anyone interested in ‘Reggae’ cannot deny that this was a time when Jamaican music was made for Jamaicans by Jamaicans and was undiluted by corporate strivations to make it appeal to bed sit hippies and bearded spliff heads with a degree in economics from Loughborough University.

For example, having never been interested in exploring the sub genre of slackness in 80s Jamaican music I now find myself ordering Welton Irie and Johnny Ringo Lps.

Beth was there, knew the artistes and loves the music and that shows.

The book as I have said is an absolute must own, in that it is so cork up with information and first person tale, that this alone makes it’s appeal.

Unfortunately the book suffers from the almost total lack of narrative voice and the narrative through line becomes little more than a fragmented exploration of the many aspects of ‘Dancehall’ and the Sound Systems that tell the tale. It’s a little boring how lack of authorial talent means that many people who have the opportunity to do something really amazing pass it by. Also the unfortunate frequency of typographical screw up, misspelling and grammatical error detract from the book and at times make it a frustrating read. There IS a reason why self publishing isn’t always the right or best option whatever the aim. However, it is just SO FULL of stuff you need to know, the sheer excitement of learning more makes it a page turner and a book I for one will return to again and again.

You can get it as an electronic download or online at I’ve got the paper version, and as I write it’s sitting by my bed awaiting another read, I think I might go to bed early tonight and ignore the wife’s appeals to my energetic side 😉

MEK IT RUN Dennis Bovell, fresh Dub from Pressure Sounds


New Dennis Bovell Dub set,… freshly, from Pressure Sounds, Check it…

Just sent the promo for the latest upcoming Pressure Sounds release, and lovin’ it, lovin’ it, lovin’ it.. Dennis Bovell is a Dubster almighty, ignore at your aural peril… simple as.. currently rinsing my ears out on the way to work and the way back home..

An excerpt from the upcoming releases liner notes…

Following recent neck surgery Dennis Bovell was under heavy medical discipline, amongstother restrictions there was to be strictly no playing of the bass. Now, more than any musician,the bass player has an almost physical connection to his chosen instrument, umbilical even,so the prospect of no vibration sensation was going to be difficult to deal with for therecovering Dennis. Not one to let such news impede his onward path Dennis came up with theidea of returning to unfinished work in an attempt to distract attention from his enforced low-end bass cold turkey.

Down in his musical lock-up lay a stack of boxes containing old 2 inch multi-track analogue master tapes, some dating back to the late seventies; Dennis selected some likely looking titles that never had dub treatment and arranged some time in Neil Fraser’s(the Mad Professor)studio as he knew the Prof had every gadget under the sun, there he”baked”tapes ready for digital conversion via an Alesis HD24 a 24 track, 48kHz hard diskrecorder rescuing the sounds from an inevitable oxidisation process that comes with age. At the mixing end Dennis utilises a whole range of outboard gear from old analogue to the latestdigital sets, explaining the unique and separate end sounds of the dubs presented on thealbum.

Of the twenty odd tunes recovered, sixteen are featured on this set, like dubbing on a digiOuija-board they date from the late seventies through the mid eighties. It was at this time thatdeejay of the day I Roy had first come to the UK to tour, and like all visiting Jamaican stars hepicked up a local band, it just happened to be Matumbi led by the young Dennis Bovell whospent most of his time between the ages of 19 and 25 working with that most intelligent andprolific of toasters. He even recalls I Roy’s first UK appearance being double booked sold outdates at both Battersea and Action Town Halls! Of course, the pair went on to record the albumWhap’n Bap’n together for Virgin, an early reggae rap set that the deejay insisted appear underhis real name Roy Reid, lest his roots credentials were impaired.

Bogumil – Album Cover Art Super Bad More and Agains

Bogumil Says:

‘Hello again, so it’s time for another comment on your favorite off the awful cover art critic, Bogumil. How many of you already know that I’m a Polish gentleman who collects LP with works of art truly shite and puts them on here – ‘Traces Musical’ with permission for you all to enjoy.

Again, although this time I was recently on a new trip to England, where he focused on collecting in the south east of the country again and this time they have come up with some doozies! Namely, Will Conrad and West Lps (of which I hope at least one copy of the guideline in if I find a place), and the upper reservoir of the last Lp joyfullness see. Enjoy, as they say in the best Polish restaurant, as you begin to eat boiled carp fish.’

Will Conrad, wondering where it is in this sense, you know? Answers on a postcard please Bogumil, located near the Potato, Poland.
Read sign, tell me please?
Another cover of Lp by Will Conrad and the West, these boys have to be famous, so where are they now? Scraping the dung to a local farmer? Wonderful drawing skills.
Accordion band, or a mental escape people? You decide.
When a man has a florid face and too jovial way, it usually indicates that something is terribly wrong, do not you think? Leaning also, same angle guitar and tree and guy, work of genius!!
Wow, oh to be strong Polish moustacche man on the bus after the ceremony the girls after work drink.
We'll meet again, and I know where, at the Central facelift, contractors budget wrinkle in Warsaw.
Auntie Vera, wartime spirit. Much sexual activity in older ladies, no lie!
In Poland, every night is party night. I'll drink potato vodka all night ... all night!
Mrs. Mills was a good horse, and donkey, the most reliable and musically Showoff. Pissed, always.
Engelbert Humperdinck, really his name? He will soon be representing Great Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest ... Nil points for name and then lips that look like chicken's bum crack.
Have not I always thought Acker Bilk's name sounded like a man vommitting? In this case, you probably saw the cover of Lp!
Looks like they found the secret of fashion victims Garden Blue Peter!
Pobierz swoje dziecko tank top, masz pociągnął!

A final note from Bogumil

Rumors reached me that some of my words are getting confused when I use Google translate, it is unfortunate, but nothing I can do in this situation. I asked Google to improve the translation quality, but sadly to say that currently have no plans to even bother to think about Poland at all ever.

Please accept my apologies, and until next time, ma wspaniałe życie.