It’s not often that a country music star comes to Bay Ridge, but ‘80s and ‘90s hit-maker Steve Wariner was the headlining act at Street Sounds annual Gretsch Day celebration on Saturday, June 8.
For 12 years, Street Sounds has been celebrating the legacy of Gretsch guitars. In fact, “Gretsch Day” has become an anticipated community event that attracts musicians and music lovers from across the borough and beyond.
This year’s event featured a full day of music, ranging from rock and rockabilly to bluegrass and country. There was free food, drinks and numerous giveaways, including three Gretsch guitars with cases.
Street Sounds owner Rocky Schiano welcomed the crowd and offered a brief history of the Gretsch guitar brand, which, he said, started “just a few miles away in Williamsburg.”
Schiano has been in the music business since 1988, when he opened Street Sounds as a CD store. He eventually switched over to selling instruments and offering music lessons.
Located about 10 miles away from the original Gretsch factory, Street Sounds is the largest authorized Gretsch dealer in the world and carries one of the largest inventories of Gretsch guitars anywhere.
Schiano introduced Fred Gretsch and his wife Dinah, who is celebrating her 40th year in the music business. Fred is the great-grandson of founder Freidrich Gretsch, who started the company in 1883 by opening a shop at 104 S. Fourth St. in Williamsburg. In 1916, he moved the company to a larger building that he had built at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn.
Legendary musicians, from Eddie Cochran and George Harrison, to Tom Petty and Pete Townsend, have played Gretsch guitars. Chet Atkins endorsed a popular series of Gretsch guitars starting in 1954.
“It’s all about the music and we’re mentored by the Street Sounds family,” said Fred, who thanked the Schiano family — Rocky, his wife Mireille, daughter Kristina, son Matthew and Rocky’s mother Eleanor — for proudly representing his brand.
Fred also introduced Product Marketing Specialist Joe Carducci, Gretsch Custom Shop Master Builder Stephen Stern and former state Sen. Marty Golden who stopped by to congratulate Rocky.
The day of music started with rockabilly guitar instrumentalist Sean Mencher who paid tribute to guitar legend Chet Atkins by performing Atkins’ arrangements of “America the Beautiful” and “Mister Sandman.”
Mencher was followed by rockabilly stars Mark Gamsjager and the Lustre Kings who performed rousing renditions of “Big Big Man,” “San Antone” and “It Ain’t Right.” He was followed by Quentin Jones and later Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones.
Wariner received a warm welcome when he took the stage and showed off his custom Gretsch guitar that he designed with his son Ryan. “I remember as a boy I always used to look in the window at those beautiful Gretsch guitars,” Wariner said. “It took awhile but I finally got one,” he added.
Wariner ruled the country charts throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, scoring 10 number one hits and 62 charted singles between 1978 and 2003. Atkins was his mentor and produced his early recordings for RCA. Wariner wrote many of his songs, including “You Can Dream of Me,” “Two Teardrops,” and “Burnin’ the Roadhouse Down” with Garth Brooks. His song “Holes in the Floor of Heaven” was named CMA Single of the Year in 1998, and in 2009, he released the Grammy Award-winning album, “My Tribute to Chet.”
Wariner was happy to be back in Brooklyn. “I love coming here. I have a son who lives in Williamsburg, and I have another son, my stepson, who lives on the Lower East Side. And one of my dearest friends in the world lives in Brooklyn so I’m here quite a bit,” Wariner told this paper.
“I just love it. I love the history. Gretsch started right up the road from here and the history of Gretsch alone is amazing. After all, Brooklyn is the mecca for Gretsch fans,” he added.
ebrooklyn media/Photos by Arthur De Gaeta