Following the release of the White Falcon, Gretsch decided to target the established solid-body electric market by producing a solid-body companion to the Falcon as they had done with the 6120 Chet Atkins. The guitar would share all the gold-plated appointments and snow white finish of the 6136, but with a body built around the Duo Jet’s 13 ½ inch wide template. It would not be hyperbole to say that White Penguins are one of the rarest American vintage guitars to exist in the market. Gretsch guitar historian Edward Ball clarifies the rarity in his research on Gretsch production numbers during the 1950s. Gretsch produced these spectacular instruments intermingled within the batch numbers used for the White Falcon. Without solid numbers, he can only estimate the total output to be, at the very most, 50 guitars. Among the pantheon of rare and collectable guitars, a 1950s White Penguin would be comparable to a 1958 Gibson Korina Flying V or Explorer or a pre-war Martin D-45.
As David Gilmour had coveted a Gretsch White Penguin for some time, he jumped at the chance when longtime guitar technician Phil Taylor received a tip off from friend and guitar maker Grover Jackson. Jackson led Taylor to the Georgia based guitar dealer Tut Campbell, who managed to track one down. The White Penguin was purchased for Gilmour’s collection in July 1980 and kept for home and studio use.
Gilmour told us: At some point I heard there was a sister or brother guitar to the White Falcon and set around to find one of those. It’s a lovely instrument with something all of its own. These guitars can be so similar, same make, but they sing out in a different way. I’ve played it a lot, it’s a lovely, lovely thing.