For a little while in the early 1980’s I was Northeast District Sales Manager for the Gretsch Musical Instrument Company, which was then based out of Tennessee. Karl Dustman was an executive with Gretsch at the time. Karl and I knew each other from his many years at Ludwig Drum Company and my time as a freelance writer for Modern Drummer. A wonderful guy.
Max Weinberg and I had become friends through Modern Drummer. Not long after I moved to Gretsch from Modern Drummer, Max and I started talking about his endorsing and using Gretsch drums on Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming Born in the USA tour. I don’t remember whether Max first broached the subject or I did. But I thought it was a great idea that had to be a plus for a great American drum company in the process of rebuilding itself.
If memory serves, Max would need three four-piece Gretsch drumsets for the road in exchange for his endorsement. That was, I think, because of the logistics of the equipment trucks. Roadies might be loading one of Max’s kits onto trucks in New York City while roadies were unloading one of Max’s kits from a truck for the next gig in Chicago. Something like that.
I approached Karl Dustman with the idea. He said no. I don’t remember if that was Karl’s unilateral decision. It may have been a decision with which Karl disagreed, and he was merely the messenger. But the reason Gretsch said no to the Max Weinberg endorsement was interesting.
Karl asked me, “Can you guarantee Max Weinberg’s endorsement will sell a certain number of Gretsch drumsets?”
“No,” I answered, adding, “You don’t think Max Weinberg playing Gretsch drums on a worldwide Bruce Springsteen tour will sell more than three drumsets?”
What anyone thought, wasn’t the point. The point was, Gretsch saw no way of quantifying drum sales based on endorsements.
Jonathan Moffett was turned down as a Gretsch endorser for Michael Jackson’s Thriller tour for the same reason. And both Max and Jonathan toured the world endorsing other drum makers.
I still believe Gretsch was wrong, shortsighted. What do you think?