The Chet Atkins Tennessean, model #6119, first appeared in 1958.
The red 6119 was the single-pickup member of the Chet Atkins line, a "student model", basically a stripped-down version of the more famous 6120.
Here's a somewhat blurry photo of the early version:
By 1961, the Tennessean had two HiLoTron pickups, a "zero fret", a thinner body, and painted-on f-holes.
The closed-body series were dubbed "Electrotone" by Gretsch. The painted-on f-holes were one of Chet Atkins' many contributions to the design of his namesake guitars.
The painted-on f-holes greatly reduced feedback.
By 1963 there was a white border around the painted-on f-holes, and the body had slimmed down from 2.25" deep to 2".
Like the rest of the guitars in the Chet Atkins line, the Tennesseans were equipped with a tone switch instead of a tone control.
The three-position switch would cut pre-set amounts of treble in two settings, and was bypassed in the middle position.
In addition to the master volume (located on the cutaway bout), the Tennessean had two individual pickup volume controls. Somewhere in the early 60's it had gained a "standby" switch, allowing the player to shut the guitar off without altering the volume settings.
Finishes varied from cherry red to walnut brown, with some guitars fading to a very light brown or pale red.
There's nothing quite like an unfaded wine-red Tennessean...
The Tennessean's HiLoTron pickups don't have that much output, but they have the clear, bright twang of a good Telecaster, and the big resonant "thump" and string-to-string definition that hollowbody Gretsch guitars are famous for.
Gretsch was sold to Baldwin in 1967.
By 1970, Baldwin had made drastic changes to the entire Gretsch line.
The Tennessean reverted to "real" f-holes, was extended to a longer scale length, and had recieved an ugly pickguard and a somewhat awkward body shape. The standby switch disappeared somewhere along the way as well.
The Tennessean was finally discontinued in 1980.
The Gretsch Tennessean is my favorite guitar...it's versatile enough to cover blues, rockabilly, western swing, surf, and all the other stuff I like to play. Sounds great clean through a big Fender amp, and even better when you run it through a class-A combo on the verge of breakup!
Who's that Cool Cat with the Tennessean?
It's Jeroen Haamers from BATMOBILE, of course!