Gretsch G7686 Chet Atkins Hi-Roller


A rare Gretsch that is part Gretsch, part Gibson, part awesome…

In 1977, the Baldwin-era Gretsch decided that they needed to cash in on their golden history, as their current series of guitars wasn’t really grabbing the guitar playing publics attention. So they enlisted the help of their most valued ex-endorser, Chet Atkins. Instead of the usual Chet style hollowbody, they tried something a little different. The resulting guitar was a stab at the Gibson Les Paul market… a solid bodied set neck with humbuckers.



Chet wanted this guitar to be called the Gretsch ‘Hi-Roller’, and specified that the neck have dice inlays. Balwin built a tiny number of these then decided they really weren’t comfortable with the gambling association, so they changed the inlays to plain square markers and renamed the guitar the ‘Super Axe’… and then stuffed it full of the usual weird/unusable Gretsch electronics like phasing, compression & sustain.


Fast forward about 30 years and a guitar shop in the US called Music Zoo commissioned Gretsch to make them some reissue Hi-Rollers to sell in their store. These guitars where made in Gretsch’s Japan facilty and this is the model that you see here.

This guitar was found by my friend Mike Cheng (aka Mutronic Mike) in Japan, and is a weird but fantastic guitar. The guitar has a maple cap with a mahogany body, and though it’s about 1 and a half inches wide, it weighs as much as a Les Paul Custom. But because the body is so thin, it doesn’t FEEL as heavy, as the guitar sits more snug to your body… The humbuckers were excellent, very clear sounding and not too high output. I was playing through Mike’s beautiful Hiwatt though, and everything sounds good through that amp!


The neck was a big surprise. Where a Les Paul neck is usually pretty meaty, the Hi-Roller’s neck radius is flat, the neck width wide and the neck itself thinner than a 60’s Gibson. Close your eyes and you’d swear you were playing a 90’s Jackson Soloist. The fretwork and general workmanship was amazing. And I loved those inlays… the dice actually add up to what fret you are on.



Mike contacted Music Zoo to find out how many they actually built of this particular model and got a surprising response. They said they ordered 18 of these guitars and received all of them, so they think that this one may have been a prototype or custom order by a Japanese customer. Either way, they’re very rare.

Now if only Gretsch would reissue the Monkees Gretsch…