Here’s one from the “Why in the world did they discontinue this?!” file: the Gretsch G6120N “New Nashville” model.

The “N” was introduced in 2001 and remained in production for roughly a year, placing it firmly in what is now referred to as the “pre-Fender” era (Fender took over marketing and distribution rights in late 2002). In the post-Fender era, the focus had been on reissues and signature models, making this model one of the company’s last gasps to date at a break from tradition.

That’s not to say that the “N” is all that different; it still sports the famous Gretsch orange finish, a pair of Filtertron humbuckers, gleaming gold hardware, a Bigsby vibrato and neoclassical thumbprint inlays. The differences become obvious when cradling the instrument, going for a 15th fret high E bend, and playing at high volumes.

The “N” is constructed more like an amalgam of a Gibson ES-335 and ES-175 than a 6120. The body is a thin 1.7”, as opposed to the acoustic-like 2.75” depth on a typical 6120. Played standing up, the arm rests comfortably without having to “reach around” the body.

The addition of the solid spruce center-block confirms the ES-335 parallels. The result is a more muted acoustic tone, but the real treat arrives at stage volume. Through a roaring Orange Rockerverb 50, the “N” only hints at the woofy feedback typically associated with hollowbody guitars. Instead, the player is treated to a singing sustain, not unlike that of a solidbody instrument riding a wave of gain-induced feedback.

The body’s silhouette is classic Gretsch, save for the addition of a Florentine cutaway – to date, the only Gretsch to ever have one. The deep, clean, sharp cutaway allows for far more comfortable upper-fret access than your father’s Gretsch, greatly improving the guitar’s versatility.

It’s surprising that this model didn’t take off, as it represents a missing link between two venerable Gretsch models: the small, chambered Duo Jet and the 6120. Like the Duo Jet, the “N” delivers a more focused Gretsch sound and a more player-friendly body, but with all the pomp and grandeur of the wide, gleaming 6120.

Words & photos by John Biscuti; October 2012.