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Doubleneck instruments are wish-list items. They’re certainly attainable and some are pretty affordable, but most novice players rarely graduate from a pawnshop ripper up to a doubleneck when it’s time for their first real guitar. The cumbersome axes have their place in onstage panache and encore jams: Just ask Jimmy Page, Slash, Don Felder of the Eagles, or “Mr. 5 Necks” Rick Nielsen—all have used bulky multineck monsters while performing some of their most iconic songs. (OK, maybe five is a bit excessive, Rick.) But sometimes doubleneck instruments are bought and used out of necessity instead of rock-star excess, such as the case with Gus Seyffert and his Danelectro Doubleneck #3923.
“About five years ago, my band Willoughby was asked to open for The Bird And The Bee,” says bassist/guitarist/ producer Gus Seyffert, who is the current touring bassist with The Black Keys. “I couldn’t afford to take my whole band so I thought a decent solution would be to find a good-sounding doubleneck to play bass lines while I was singing and switch to guitar for the solos. I kept my eyes open for an old Hofner 6/4—I wasn’t aware of the 3923 Dano until I saw it at a shop on Denmark Street in London.” As a rare American guitar in the UK, it was a bit overpriced, yet Seyffert felt a strong connection to the ’59 Dano and made the purchase. Immediately after he plugged it into his rig, he says the doubleneck spoke to him like no other instrument he’s played before or since.
The 1959 Danelectro Doubleneck 3923 has the standard Shorthorn double-cutaway body with Danelectro’s classic Masonite construction with vinyl binding and a copper-burst finish. The necks are made of poplar and have rosewood fretboards topped with Dano’s “Coke bottle” headstocks. Danelectro’s founder Nat Daniel incorporated some simplistic and efficient designs into the 3923, for instance, the instrument’s light body construction being able to withstand the extra string tension exerted by the doubleneck, and the stacked volume and tone controls. The standard guitar portion of the instrument has a 24.75" scale with 21 frets while the 4-string bass’ short scale length measures 29.5" and has 15 frets. The guitar and bass each have their own alnico bar magnet pickup that’s wrapped in brown vinyl tape and covered with a surplus, chrome-plated lipstick tube.
Seyffert has used the guitar/bass combo in the studio with Norah Jones, Ryan Adams, Willoughby and countless other sessions. “I get called to play bass and guitar for sessions a lot so sometimes I’ll just show up with the Dano. People look a bit worried until they hear it and then they know I mean business [laughs].” Currently on tour with The Black Keys, he uses the 3923 on the songs “Run Right Back” and “Same Old Thing,” where he switches between bass and guitar. He runs the bass side through original Sunn 1200 and Sunn 2000 heads powering two 2x15 Sunn cabs, while he routes the 6-string signal through a 1970 Fender Deluxe Reverb modded to blackface specs.
“I’ve had a Silvertone 1449 for a while and I’ve always loved it—the guitar on my 3923 feels similar to the 1449 and growls like it, too,” Seyffert says. “The bass on it is one of my favorite basses—I own a lot [laughs]. I even bought a Shorthorn bass because I thought it’d be similar tonally, but the 3923 was far superior with its full, richsounding guitar and deep, rumbling bass tones. It’s still a go-to instrument.”
A special thanks to Gus Seyffert for the opportunity to feature this fine instrument and its story.
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