As with all ‘student’ models/ cheaper set ups of the time, Gretsch’s mid 60’s Playboy outfit featured the same 6-ply Jasper shells as its more expensive models. The Playboy wasn’t Gretsch’s first single lug set up, but it was the first to feature a mounted and floor tom.
The ‘Semi-Pro’ Oufit, (a name that wouldn’t sell many units in todays world) featured a single single tension ‘Broadkaster’ kick drum and ‘Renown’ 14×6.5″ snare, cowbell, woodblocks and cymbal, as seen here in the 1954 catalogue scan (above right). It’s interesting how all the old fashion branding and drum series names (such as both Broadkaster and Renown) make their way back into modern day drumming!
The Semi Pro Outfit remained unchanged into the early 60’s and Gretsch also introduced the ‘Renown’ Outfit, (not to be confused with the earlier Renown shells of the 1950s) which featured a 22×14 single tension, central lug kick, 14×5.5″ snare and 12×8″ tom with tacked bottom head. These sets were being offered during the same time as the sets we all know and love, such as the Progressive Jazz (20×14, 12×8 and 14×14), Bop (20×14, 13×9 and 16×16) and Name Band (22×14, 13×9 and 16×16)
But the outfit that interests us most is the Playboy Outfit, first seen in the 1964 catalogue. The set was advertised as “Ideal for traveling, perfect for club or combo work”. Advertised as a complete set for $399 – around $3200 in todays money- or without the 14×14 and legs for $314 – $2500 today – the Playboy was only $70 – or $500 today – cheaper than the Progressive Jazz set.
As mentioned, the Playboy featured the same 6-ply shells, cast hoops and finishes as the more expensive kits, 20×14”, 12×8” and 14×14” drums with a 14×5” chrome metal snare.
We were luck enough to have found a complete Playboy Outfit a couple of years back and can honestly say the differences between this outfit and the more coveted Progressive Jazz Outfit are negligible. Maybe it’s the control of those big heavy cast hoops or just the weight of them, but the the Playboy sounded almost identical to the Prog Jazz with no real difference in tone or depth. Interestingly the Playboy may be a more sought after set with collectors, as not many complete kits with the 14×14 seemed to survive, but from a players point of view the still don’t command as high a price.