Fred and Dinah Gretsch, president and CFO of Savannah-based The Gretsch Company, one of the world's most well-known drum and guitar makers, are about to become the first musical instrument manufacturers to be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
On September 20, the couple will be honored with the 2008 "Mary Tallent Pioneer Award," a distinction given once a year to an inductee who embodies the characteristics of "Mother Mary" Tallent. Tallent was a charter member of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) and longtime supporter of Georgia music until her untimely death in an automobile accident in 1984.
As Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductees, the Gretsches will join the likes of Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, R.E.M., The Allman Brothers Band and industry professionals like music attorney Joel Katz and record label owner Antonio "L.A." Reid in the "who's who" of the Georgia music scene.
The 30th Annual Awards Banquet, to be held Saturday, Sept. 20 in the Thomas B. Murphy Ballroom of the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, will recognize those who have made significant contributions to Georgia's music industry. The banquet is hosted each year by the Friends of Georgia Music Festival, Inc. and the Senate Music Industry Committee.
"Fred and Dinah Gretsch have been integral patrons and partners since 1994," said Lisa Love, executive director of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. "They played a tremendous role in our early fundraising efforts, which allowed us to open the museum in 1996. Today, Dinah is an active member of our Foundation board, and both of them continue to support our mission to celebrate Georgia's rich musical heritage and support our artists and industry professionals."
In addition to backing the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Fred and Dinah Gretsch actively support a number of statewide and national music education and charitable initiatives. Through The Gretsch Foundation, the company sponsors the Gretsch Institute, a music, art and dance camp for elementary and middle school youth. The Foundation also donates numerous guitars for school fundraisers across the country, awards college scholarships to music students and contributes to VH1's "Save the Music" program.
In 2003, the Atlanta Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) honored The Gretsch Company with the Heroes Award, a distinction awarded to recording artists, key entertainment executives and community leaders such as Coretta Scott King, James Brown, Ray Charles and Tony Bennett. The Gretsch Company was also the 2007 recipient of Cox Family Enterprise Center's Century Award for Family Business.
CFO Dinah Gretsch, who facilitated The Company's endorsement deals with numerous musical legends, has played an important role in the company since she started in 1979 — a role that is still relatively uncommon for women within the music manufacturing industry. Dinah's connection with George Harrison inspired the 1988 production of the Traveling Wilburys Gretsch guitar collection.
"It's an honor to join such a distinguished group of Georgia music icons," she said. "The Gretsch family has always been passionate about great music, so we're honored to be part of an organization that celebrates and preserves the music from our very own state of Georgia."
Fred and Dinah Gretsch's induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame coincides with the company's 125th anniversary this year. The Gretsch Company began in 1883 when Friedrich Gretsch, a German immigrant, started making banjos, tambourines and other instruments in a Brooklyn, N.Y. factory. Today, Gretsch drums and guitars are the preferred instruments of many studio musicians and recording artists looking for unique tonal quality and hand-made craftsmanship.
"It's quite exciting to reach this remarkable milestone," said President Fred Gretsch. "We owe our many years of success to four generations of Gretsch owners and the dedicated men and women on their team who were — and are — passionate about great music and high-quality instruments."
In honor of the 125th anniversary milestone, The Georgia Music Hall of Fame is hosting "That Great Gretsch Sound" exhibit, a display of historic and current Gretsch replica guitars and drums used by musical legends such as 1995 inductee Chet Atkins, George Harrison, Brian Setzer and the late Bo Diddley.