Gretsch Tales from Chip Navarro
In 1964, Mike - lead guitar, Chip - rhythm (on right in photo) and Frankie - drums, started an instrumental group. Since we all played Gretsch, we named ourselves The Gretschmen. Looking for a singer we found Rick and his manager Van who knew a bass player, Kenny. One year later in '65, Van had us in NYC playing The Peppermint Lounge, The Metropole, Trudy Hellers and The Eighth Wonder.

Back to Connecticut, winter of '65, Mike went into the Air Force and Frank left to become a still photographer for NBC.   Kenny went to lead guitar and we found John for drums and Bruce for bass and added a girl singer Heidi.   In '66 we went back to NYC and played the previous clubs as well as The Phone Booth, Joey Dee's Starliter Club and Harlows. When we returned from NYC that first time in '65, we brought back to Connecticut the concept of "Go-Go Dancing" to Tony Romano's Hauf-brau Haus in Hartford CT --  the first go-go cage performances. We had a standing songlist of over 75songs and were extremely popular.

In '65 and '66, we regularly toured the Gretsch factory over in Brooklyn, guided by Fred Sr.  Our bass player is responsible for the first Gretsch bass being discontinued after he told Fred "it sucks." He used to call it 'the tree trunk,' lol. I was to receive the third Nashville 12-string made, Chet having the first, George Harrison the second (he ran his over one night in England), and me the third, but I left the group before I got it..

Due to military commitments, Kenny and I had to leave the group when it went to California, late summer '66. When the band left for California it was only four pieces instead of the six pictured and the band deteriorated and broke up in '68. Two of the members, John and Bruce, went on to form "Touch."

After returning to CT I married the girl in the photo and we had two sons. One son, Jason, lives in NYC and plays guitar and has opened for bands in England, the other,  Jon, lives in CT and is a model-maker: www.titannicreations.com. He builds these for people all over the world.  As far as playing, I went back to playing bass for another 15 years on a '72 Fender Precision Fretless. Talk about smooth fingerboarding, LOL. I have neither the Gretsch, nor the Fender as I felt giving them to guys when I retired who still played made more sense than a leaving them in a closet. All told through the years I have had a '59 Strat, '70 Gibson EBO, '64 Guild Starfire, and a '65 Gretsch Tennessean, in addition to the Nashville and Fretless Fender. You don't want to know how many cars I had starting with a bronze '57 Chevy white top convertible. . .

I talked to what is left of the Gretsch organizition years ago about a retro band thing showing our pics and such and they were not in the least interested. Fender f***ks I call them now. I talk to Rick (singer sitting in the photo) and Bruce (bass) and John (drums) about once a year just to stay in touch.. We have not been able to find Kenny (lead on left) and he may have passed on. We were a group of musicians that only had to hear a song twice to have it down. We would work it out in our hotel room (Hotel Earle corner Washington Square mostly) and play it that nite. As a matter of fact I rode down in the elevator one night on my way to the club with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, who were having their affair there -- she sings about it in "Diamonds and Rust" as that 'crummy hotel overlooking Washington Square'.  Many other bandmates of mine I never had the need to hunt up, I think you know how it goes, earstwhile and all that. But the memories thrive still and I wonder how I survived it all. . . lol.  FYI, that grey Standell piggy-back amp in the club pictures (Jolly Jester, Mass. '66) I am playing out of was used one nite by Jimi Hendrix. My band had the nite off at the Eighth Wonder in NYC, Aug '66, and a road band led by Curtis Knight (King Curtis,White Falcon player) came in and used our equipment. Jimi used my amp and we had a couple of drinks at the bar. He talked about going to California for some concert, LOL. I talk too much, thanks for listening . . . Chip

Chip Navarro



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