They’re out there. The original Danelectro guitars that is—pennywise student guitars with 40 years’ worth of chips and dings, and tuners that have lost their grip. Sure, they’re bad ass but do these battered budget playmates deserve their four figured collectors’ tags? Danelectro didn’t think so. Their response was to build the guitars again, and build them 100 times better, then sells them for a lot less than they could have. Following the roaring success of the company’s re-issued ’56-U2, Danelectro dusted off the rest of its blueprints.
First in line is the “59-DC, the model that launched a thousand garage bands. Much of the unique character of Danelectro guitars stems from their famed “lipstick” pickups and other domestic materials and radio-shop components that were commandeered for the manufacture. Luckily, the reissued ’59-DC retains all of these weird trademarks, including the TV set knobs and “baked Melamine” pick guard. The two lipstick single coils are height adjustable fro the back and each is governed by a stacked volume and tome control. Another quirk is the Dano has the simple bridge, which features a flat rosewood saddle attached on a metal plate, with a couple of screws for tweaking the action. The 59-DC’s 21 fret bolt on neck is inviting and features some surprisingly sharp fret-work, considering the guitar’s modest price tag. The trademark coke bottle headstock provides a reasonably straight string path over the aluminum nut.
Played through a suitably vintage styled Carvin Bel Air Combo, the ’59-DC provided quite an experience. Beneath its solid back and front and leatherette-covered sides, the guitar’s body is largely hollow. Combined with the wooden saddle, this gives the ’59-DC a unique jangle, with tone that is fat, and almost definitively electric. Clean sounds are full bodied and punchy while adding a few notches of gain brings out the instrument’s chunky metallic dark side. In addition, to its respectably sweet tones the ’59-DC delivers those beautiful clattering, lo-fi sounds that can only be in a Dano.
Our second resurrected rocker is the eagerly anticipated ’58-Longhorn bass. This short scale bass shares many of the same components and construction quirks of the ’59-DC with the obvious exception of its abyss deep cutaways. The distinctive horns are a stylish solution to the problem of fitting a two octave neck onto a compact guitar without comprising upper-feet access. This slender neck shares the same tidy fretwork and aluminum nut as the ’59-DC, with surprisingly good intonation right up to the end of the bolt-on joint. Like the ’59-DC, the Longhorn features twin lipstick pickups with their own concentric tone and volume controls, but without a pickup selector switch. Our company’s vintage burst finishes, complimented by a matching headstock and plastic cow-hide edging, for a complete Fifties vibe.
With the aid of a SansAmp pre-amp the Longhorn delivered all the beef and kick of a small rodeo. Shorter 30 inch scale basses tend to lose definition on the lower strings due to the reduced string tension, but the Longhorn’s pickups work their magic to produce clear, punchy and resonant tones. The simple controls offer a wide range of sounds, from biting treble snap to subsonic muted rumbles and endless blends between. Although its distinctive twang begs for Dick Dale surf grinds and kitschy 60s pop, the Longhorn’s remarkable tone would enliven any number of music styles. A light feel, slim neck and ergonomic body give this bass its easy playability, making it an exceptionally good choice for beginning players and guitarist who want a bass on hand for home demos.
These revamped models are totally cool, totally unique and total blast to play. And with the prices like these, who can resist the temptation to buy one, or, perhaps, to collect the entire set?