What type of Bigsby is this

ZackyDog

Friend of Fred
Feb 6, 2015
7,483
In the USA
I own one of these Vikings, ser #71459. I got the dope on this model from Duke Kramer himself, back in the 1980's.

He said it was a first-year Viking, made in 1964. The only Vikings that include the massive cast G tailpiece with the telescoping arm vibrato were made in the first manufacturing run in 1964, although some were sold as 1964 models and some as 65's. For the second manufacturing run and all later production Vikings featured a Bigsby tailpiece -- and the dreaded and fatuous Floating Sound Unit aka Tuning Fork Bridge. It was a dumb idea and (virtually) nobody ever used the accessory, but every Viking made after that first mfg. run '64 was fitted with one. Unfortunately it required a large hole in the top of the guitar right behind the rear pickup, forcing the bridge rearward and introducing scale-length and intonation issues in the bargain.

I've been watching Vikings on eBay for 20+ yrs and I've only seen 4-5 of these 1964's come up for sale in all those years. Tons of 1965's and later Vikings came and went in that period. These '64 models are rare and superior to everything that came afterwards.
I had that tuning fork bridge on my old Streamliner (Black Hawk?) with simulated f-holes, similar to this one. I removed it and kept it in the case.

1653497127335.png
 

Bill_6040

Electromatic
Mar 21, 2021
5
Colorado USA
The original 1964 pickguard was gold-tone (of course). It had the word "Gretsch" on it plus a small stylized graphic of a viking ship, both in navy blue.
It didn't say "Viking" anywhere on the pickguard.

BTW: Duke said that Gretsch used chalkboard eraser material to make the top surface of the Viking mute. It was usually dyed bright red, but not always.
 

Bill_6040

Electromatic
Mar 21, 2021
5
Colorado USA
I had a ‘67 Falcon with this tailpiece. It was ok…much stiffer than a Bigsby and not as much travel. Strange how you only see these on the earlier Vikings but they used them on Falcons till much later. I’ve seen one on a ‘69.
I vaguely remember Jay Scott (or similar) saying the Viking was offered by Gretsch as a high-end, high-tech model like the Falcon -- but with a sunburst finish that was less showy and more appropriate in certain professional band settings.
 

afire

Friend of Fred
Feb 12, 2009
5,383
Where the action is!
I vaguely remember Jay Scott (or similar) saying the Viking was offered by Gretsch as a high-end, high-tech model like the Falcon -- but with a sunburst finish...
I remember the first time I saw a Viking (sunburst), I called it "The Brown Falcon".

As for the "Floating Sound Unit", I've never actually played a Gretsch with it in place. But occasionally, somebody will step up to defend it. Apparently it really is effective for its intended purpose - increased sustain. But at the cost of attack and ergonomics. For me, sustain is overrated and nothing is more important than a crisp attack. But for some people, I can see how it could be useful.
 

ForTheLoveOfIvy

Gretschie
Feb 28, 2022
160
London
I remember the first time I saw a Viking (sunburst), I called it "The Brown Falcon".

As for the "Floating Sound Unit", I've never actually played a Gretsch with it in place. But occasionally, somebody will step up to defend it. Apparently it really is effective for its intended purpose - increased sustain. But at the cost of attack and ergonomics. For me, sustain is overrated and nothing is more important than a crisp attack. But for some people, I can see how it could be useful.
I'm not going to defend it but my '67 Falcon had it intact and I used it for a few years. It did add sustain but produced some strange overtones...somehow I put up with it! Oh...and what a PITA it was to restring with that thing!! ☺️

I also used to own two Cadillac Green Vikings, a '67 and '68 and both had had the units removed. Definitely better without it...like you say sustain is overrated.
 
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Wayne Gretschzky

Country Gent
Aug 27, 2008
3,325
East Coast
I own one of these Vikings, ser #71459. I got the dope on this model from Duke Kramer himself, back in the 1980's.

He said it was a first-year Viking, made in 1964. The only Vikings that include the massive cast G tailpiece with the telescoping arm vibrato were made in the first manufacturing run in 1964, although some were sold as 1964 models and some as 65's. For the second manufacturing run and all later production Vikings featured a Bigsby tailpiece -- and the dreaded and fatuous Floating Sound Unit aka Tuning Fork Bridge. It was a dumb idea and (virtually) nobody ever used the accessory, but every Viking made after that first mfg. run '64 was fitted with one. Unfortunately it required a large hole in the top of the guitar right behind the rear pickup, forcing the bridge rearward and introducing scale-length and intonation issues in the bargain.

I've been watching Vikings on eBay for 20+ yrs and I've only seen 4-5 of these 1964's come up for sale in all those years. Tons of 1965's and later Vikings came and went in that period. These '64 models are rare and superior to everything that came afterwards.
Hi Bill... I've been tracking Gretsch serial numbers from the 50s and 60s for some time now. I was curious if the number you've offered from your Viking is actually #71459? I've collected 9 serial numbers from the #714xx batch, and they are all Chet Atkins 6120 guitars suggesting that this is a group of 100 units of that model. There are plenty of examples where a random occurrence of another model pops up within a batch, but for the most part the production batches were in increments of 50 or 100 like-model units. So... if you can verify that your '65 Viking is from the #714xx batch, that would be helpful.
 

duojet55

Electromatic
Dec 21, 2010
23
Arkansas
This unit is properly WebsterGretschVibratoPatent.jpg called a "Gretsch Vibrato". It was in fact designed by Jimmy Webster, whose name is on the patent. My '69 White Falcon has one.
 

duojet55

Electromatic
Dec 21, 2010
23
Arkansas
If you look at Fig. 4, Jimmy's original design called for the spring to flex
vertically. Later, Gretsch simplified it by drilling out the heel block and installing the spring there. Here's an internal of an older Viking's spring (left) and my Falcon's spring and compression arm (right). GretschVibratoInternalSpring.jpg
 
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