The 1956 Chet Atkins Gretsch 6120 Prototype - AKA "DARK EYES"


One of the guitars that started it all... "A very special instrument", according to Joe Carducci, the Sr. Product Manager for Gretsch Guitars (FMIC). The Early 6120 Black Sealed Top Proto that was made famous when Chet Atkins played it on "Dark Eyes". This guitar was the precursor for all things to come in the future with the relationship of Chet and Gretsch... its THE guitar that started it all when it comes to all things Gretsch and Chet Atkins! This amazing and very historical piece was of course owned and used by Chet Atkins, and worked on/experimented by the genius - Ray Butts... then was given to famous sound engineer, Bill Porter. Some years later the guitar became part of the legendary "Chinery Collection", and was displayed for quite some time at the Smithsonian. Les Paul's personal luthier, guitar tech, soundman and close friend Tom Doyle, has owned this guitar for over a decade. Tom was the special luthier and curator of Chinery Collection, and Scott knew that Tom had always admired the instrument. So one day, in a grand gesture of his appreciation, Scott generously bestowed this essential guitar to Tom as a gift. In an ironic twist of fate Scott Chinery passed away, all too early about a week later. This guitar is the very essence and the embryo of all things to come as far as Chet Atkins and Gretsch... There would be no 6120, there would be no Country Gentleman, no George Harrison Model, no Brian Setzer, etc, etc... Gibson had Les Paul, and Gretsch had Chet Atkins - This guitar was the beginning of it all for Gretsch and Chet. So you can see that this is way more than just a guitar... its a piece of American Musical History!

Joe Carducci, Gretsch Guitar's Senior Product Manager came to inspect and evaluate The Original Chet Atkins 6120 Prototype Black Sealed Top with Gold F Holes at Tom Doyle's Custom Guitar Shop. He called it "The Holy Grail" as far as all things Gretsch guitars are concerned... and he and Gretsch have decided to make a reproduction of the guitar to offer in their upcoming Chet Atkins Professional Collection... how great is that?

Joe Carducci of Gretsch shows The Chet Atkins Proto

Tom Doyle does in hand interview on "Dark Eyes"

   The guitar on display with the most recent Guitar Aficionado Magazine Article entitled - "BLACK GOLD"

   See the Guitar Aficionado Magazine Cover Story by clicking here...


Tommy Emmanuel Holds Two of the Most Important Electric Guitars of All Time!


Here's the famous video of Chet playing the song "Dark Eyes" with this guitar... hence its nickname.

Here's Chet playing Alabama Jubilee on this guitar... On the Purina Grand Ole Opry Show.

To say that this guitar is famous... well that's a bit of an understatement. This piece has been featured in many Magazines.


Tom Doyle - Les Paul's Guitar Tech
Joe Carducci - Gretsch's Head Man
Ed Ball - Author of The 6120 Book

All come together to inspect, document, admire, and commemorate this great historical guitar...







While Les Paul was certainly more than a genius in his quest for his ultimate sound,  tone, and understanding of music and the instruments that it took to get there, for over four decades he relied constantly on Tom Doyle to make his guitars whole again after he chopped them to pieces in has mad pursuit of that sound in his head. Most people automatically assume that because there is a famous guitar with his name on it, that Les was a guitar builder, tech, bench man, etc., and knew how to build, repair and refurbish guitars. That just simply was not the case... he relied on Tom for that. Tom and Les worked on countless projects over the 40+ years together and Tom is nothing less than a walking/talking encyclopedia about all things Les Paul, Gibson, build specs, musical history, and knows more about guitars of all kinds than anyone you will ever encounter alive today. History is funny sometimes... Often there's more legend, lore, hearsay, fiction, and spin than actual truth to certain stories as they get passed around over time. That's certainly the case with regard to the legacy of Mr. Les Paul - one of the most creative, ingenious, and important musicians and inventors of this or any other time. Even though Les is/was a recent figure in music history over the last millennium... the man, his guitars, his contribution to music, and his influence are covered in myth... mired in misinformation and laden with erroneous fable. One man was there, through it all... the ups and the downs, the good times and the bad, the major discoveries and the foibles - and that was Tom Doyle. Tom was Les' close friend, confidant, co-inventor, ear, sounding board, and fixer for all those decades. Its been said before, but never was it so true - Tom Doyle was "The man behind the man".

This guitar was even featured in the Smithsonian National Museum Of American History!
These are the professionals an/or institutions that have certified this instrument as being THE Chet Atkins Gretsch 6120 Prototype Sealed Top that started the whole relationship between Chet Atkins and Gretsch:
  • Mr. Scott Chinery - one of the world's most renowned guitar collectors
  • The Smithsonian National Museum of American History
  • Mr. Thomas Doyle - Les Paul's personal guitar tech for 45 year and Luthier to The Stars
  • Mr. Edward Ball - Author of 2 Books on the subject of the Gretsch 6120
  • Mr. Chris Gill - Editor-in-Chief of Guitar Aficionado Magazine
  • Mr. Joe Carducci - Senior Product Manager for Gretsch Guitars

This guitar truly is a prototype in very sense of the word... The guitar has been changed, adapted, morphed, experimented on, parts changed out, pickups put in and taken out, hardware taken on and off, colors changed, etc... all by Chet Atkins himself and Ray Butts (a genius in his own right) over the life of the guitar. This in order for Chet to ultimately become the endorser and spokesman for Gretsch Guitars. This guitar was the beginning of all of it...

This info just barely scratches the surface... if you are a bona fide actual buyer and want to know more, there's lots more info, photos, provenance info, etc. If you would like to know more, or need more information... simply contact us.



The 1956 Chet Atkins Gretsch 6120 Prototype - AKA "DARK EYES"