In 1964, Gretsch guitars wanted to create a “space-age” image with a new, modern guitar, it chose to name the model the Astro-Jet, possibly inspired by the TV show, The Jetsons. A decade earlier, seeing Gibson’s success with the Les Paul model, Gretsch introduced it’s first line of solid body guitars, the black Duo-Jet, Silver Jet, then later followed with the red Fire-Jet. Gretsch had some success with these models. In 1961 Gibson introduced a new double-cutaway SG body style and Gretsch answered with its own Jet Stream double-cuts. For some reason I do not know, Gretsch began to use Jim Burns vibratos from Burns of London rather than using the proven Bigsby.
So back to 1964, and according to Vintage Guitar historian Michael Wright, Gretsch decided to go space-age and turned to Jimmie Webster for input. Webster’s charge was to create a guitar with that “Gretsch sound,” but one that didn’t look like a Gretsch.
From a design standpoint, the Astro-Jet was like a pregnant Gibson SG on steroids. Wider upper and lower bouts coupled with a weird 4 + 2 headstock. The Astro-Jets were finished two-tone, with red fronts and a black back. These were pretty high-end guitars - the bodies were solid mahogany with set mahogany necks and bound ebony fingerboards, featuring a pair of DeArmond Super ‘Tron twin-blade humbuckers. Controls were a 3-way pickup switch, a 3-way tone switch, a 2 way on/off standby switch, with individual volume knobs plus a master volume. The vibrato was by Burns.
In June 2013, Eastwood Guitars released its tribute to the Astro-Jet, the new Astrojet v2.0. Quite a few important upgrades are incorporated:
- Bigsby B-50 tremolo
- Adjustable bridge
- Switching changes: Master volume replaces with master tone, 3-way tone switch replaced with coil taps
- Body size slightly reduced to a more ergonomic size and shape.