How the Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins became a rock ’n’ roll icon, played by Pete Townshend, Randy Bachman and more – before enjoying a triumphant second act in the hands of Brian Setzer

1961 Gretsch Chet Atkins
(Image credit: Future)

The Gibson Les Paul and Fender Esquire/Telecaster and Stratocaster solidbodies, and the Gibson ES-335 semi-hollow electric, rightfully rank as some of the most iconic guitars of the early days of rock ’n’ roll. 

But another often overlooked guitar that deserves a spot right next to them is the Gretsch 6120. Originally developed by Gretsch as a signature guitar for Chet Atkins in 1954 (alongside the chambered “solid” body 6121 Chet Atkins signature “roundup” model), the G6120 was more warmly embraced by rockabilly and rock ’n’ roll guitarists than the country and western players Gretsch initially targeted.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.