Jerry Fretwell passes

Popular Virginia bass player and retail operator Jerry Fretwell died on August 22. He was 79 year of age, and had been hospitalized at Augusta Health in Fishersville, VA.

Born Jerald Ray Fretwell in Stuarts Draft, VA, he served in the US Army military police, and was President of Valley Building Supply in Staunton until his retirement in 2007.

Blessed with the perfect name for a musician, Jerry had a passion for bluegrass music, but in an interesting irony, his instrument of choice was the upright bass, which has no frets. Shortly after retiring, he opened a music store in Staunton called Fretwell Bass, specializing in basses, though also selling and servicing all sorts of acoustic stringed instruments. The company remains in business, after Jerry sold it to Travis Weaver in 2017, and actually retired.

Bluegrass pickers in central Virginia know Jerry from the jam sessions he hosted at the store, and from seeing him at area festivals over the years. He was a master luthier for the bass, and players from all over the southeastern US brought their instruments in for set up and repair. Weaver had worked under Fretwell and learned from his experience before purchasing the business.

Jerry was also known for his special love for Alcoa aluminum basses, made mostly in the 1930s and ’40s. You could always count on seeing one of those shiny monstrosities in the shop when you stopped in.

No one ever left Fretwell Bass without a smile and a greeting from Jerry, who seemed to love repairing and serving bass customers as much as they appreciated his skills.

A Celebration of Life will be hosted this Saturday, August 26, 2023 at the Waynesboro Elks Lodge. The family will receive visitors after the service, and a reception will follow. They also request that, in lieu of flowers, donations could be made to:

Waynesboro Elks Lodge
P.O. Box 246
Waynesboro, VA 22980

R.I.P., Jerry Fretwell.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.