Portugal. The Man’s John Gourley on why a Gretsch is so great out the box

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Portugal. The Man’s John Gourley on why a Gretsch is so great out the box

Portugal. The Man Gretsch
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Ahead of the release of the Electromatic John Gourley Broadkaster, we spoke to John Gourley about his signature guitar.

Portugal. The Man have a stellar rep for melding pop/rock/indie into their own brand, a sound as unique as their name, and that sound is elevated further with the addition of frontman John Gourley’s new Gretsch Broadkaster.


The Broadkaster borrows its name from the Gretsch Broadkaster drum kit, famously known for usurping Fender’s Broadcaster and forcing a few years of the ‘Nocaster’ before Fender settled on the Telecaster name. The Gretsch John Gourley Broadkaster is a double cutaway design, finished in a unique iridescent black finish, and features USA Full’Tron humbucking pickups with independent volume controls for each pickup and a global master volume for the guitar as a whole.

John, congratulations on the signature Gretsch! How/why/where/how did your relationships with Gretsch begin? We’d love a backstory, maybe you’ve been endorsed for a while, that led to a signature model etc.

My first love guitar was a Gretsch Viking with a mute built in. I had found it for nothing at this little shop on tour. I put flats on it to get some thumpy Motown sounds and cranked the fuzz for controlled feedback with the Bigsby. I loved them ever since.

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Gretsch Broadkaster

What made you choose the Broadkaster? Maybe some comparison to different Gretsch models you’ve tried – solid, semi-hollow vs. hollow.

I love the feedback you can get with the semi-hollow. The tone stood out more than anything with the Broadkaster. It’s a real head-turner every time I plug them in. Honestly I had not played one until the past couple of years and it was just so versatile.

What is “That great Gretsch sound!” to you? 

You know, I don’t really listen to rockabilly but I absolutely love the slap back and picking style. The thump. That’s what Gretsch has been known for but I’ve always loved how much you can manipulate feedback with it. Gimme a wild fuzz, a Boss DSD-2, DOD Rubberneck, classic POG and a whammy.

What does Cleon Peterson’s art mean to you and why did you involve him?

Cleon and I have always connected and discussed our world views. During the pandemic we spent hours talking about past, present and future. The human condition. Art has always been a massive driver for my writing and Cleon has literally inspired me since I was a kid, whether I knew it or not. From Toy Machine and skate culture to weirdo adults living in a cabin down by the river.

Can you recall the first time you saw a Gretsch? Could be live, a music video, a studio documentary etc.

It’s gotta be that famous picture of Neil Young with his white Falcon. My pops is such a massive fan, I’m sure that’s the first time I saw it. Again, it’s rockabilly for me. I cannot get enough of that style.

Portugal. The Man

How does the sound of this guitar (and guitar overall) fit into the sonics of Portugal. The Man as a whole?

PTM has been using Gretsch since our second album. It was one of my first big purchases. Saving up to get that first Viking then eventually a Falcon. The 12 string Country Gentleman I played on “So American” when we did Conan the first time. Gretsch has always been my go-to guitars. There are so many options within the family.

Can you share any anecdotes about the design process of your signature Gretsch? Surely there were a few prototypes and tests along the way!

Honestly, Gretsch is so great out the box I really wanted to put the focus on the aesthetic while offering great pickups at an affordable price point. The folks over there were unbelievably helpful in getting everything the way I would want my first guitar to look. From the black rainbow iridescent paint to the cloud inlays and Cleon’s art. It’s such a beautiful guitar and I just can’t believe this is even real.

Thanks for your time, as a closer— for young guitarists and fans of Portugal. The Man, what’s one piece of advice you wish you’d had as a budding musician?

Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Get your ideas out and never stop. Be honest and don’t overthink it, young Johnny. Play with love.

Keep reading about Gretsch guitars here.