Gretsch is one of the most recognized guitar makers in country music. Gretsch had been around since the 1800s making various instruments but in the 50s they really found their calling. They began making guitars and some of the hottest guitar players at the time started taking notice of their quality and sound. Guitar players like Chet Atkins and Duane Eddy helped popularize the world to the Gretsch look and sound. The Black Penguin is a cool rare Gretsch. It combines all the cool added hardware that a Falcon has with the solid body of a Duo Jet. It has a single cutaway chambered mahogany body with an arched maple top. The binding is a gold sparkle binding. It has a one piece mahogany neck with a gold sparkle bound 22 fret ebony fretboard. The gold doesnt stop there. The headstock is gold bound with a gold Gretsch logo above a gold truss rod cover. The gold sparkle foil on the control cavity covers is pretty crazy. All the hardware is gold plated. The bridge along with the Gretsch G Cadillac tailpiece are gold along with the tuners and knobs. It will be interesting to see how the gold holds up over time. On a lot of guitars the gold finish on the hardware will fall off or tarnish very badly. It has dual Gretsch Dynasonic single coils and a 3 position switch. The guitar has volume knobs for each pickup along with a master volume and a master tone.
The neck is nice as beefy as you would expect with a 50s country guitar. Some guitars have the gold arm rest thing that looks silly at first but really makes playing comfortable. The neck is a soft V shape so it is like a lot of other 50s style guitars. The radius on the fretboard is not super flat but its not like a 50s Fender either. It is about the same radius as most Gibson fretboards. The inlays stop at the 17th fret so some people may not like this. Unlike many Gretsch models this guitar does not have a Bigsby tremolo system so this guitar will stay in tune even if you breath or look at it or anything.
Normally I would hate chambering in a guitar but with the Penguin it helps get that Gretsch tone. The Gretsch tone you hear in your head is usually from hollowbodies and semi hollow guitars so this solid body guitar being chambered gets that classic Gretsch tone. The pickups are voiced perfectly for 50s rock n roll and country music. There is just the right amount of twang and stringyness. You can even get a good surf tone from the guitar but you will get thrown off the beach for not playing a Fender. The neck pickup can get a kinda bright jazzy tone if you take some tone knob out of it. It isnt very dark but it is like a country guitars jazz tone. You can still hear all the strings and the twang but with a jazz tone.
This guitar is pretty cool. There are people like me who like country music and like Gretsch guitars but our style is too hot for a big hollowbody. The worst part about this guitar is that is is not much different than a normal Duo Jet. It is very expensive just for a special finish. You can get a Gretsch Pro Jet for around 500 dollars and people will not really be able to hear the difference.