Vintage Vault: 1958 Danelectro Guitarlin
In 1947, Nathan Daniel founded the Danelectro Company, a New Jersey-based operation that built electric guitar amplifiers for Montgomery Ward and Sears. Daniel had previously designed and made Epiphone’s Electar amp series, and his pioneering circuits incorporated many industry firsts, such as tremolo.
Eventually Sears approached Daniel to make an electric guitar, and by 1954 Danelectro offered a line of low-priced guitars aimed at beginners. A large percentage of Danelectro’s guitars and amps were sold by Sears under their Silvertone brand name.
To keep prices low, Danelectro made the front and back of their guitars out of Masonite—an inexpensive composite material created by pressure molding steamed wood fibers. Instead of being reinforced by an adjustable truss rod, the thin, bolt-on poplar necks relied on two heavy-duty steel bars installed under the fretboard. Danelectro pickups contained an alnico magnet and were housed in metal tubes made for dispensing lipstick, which explains why this type of single-coil is described informally as a “lipstick pickup.”
Until 1958, Danelectro guitars had a single-cutaway body with a similar shape to a Les Paul or Telecaster and were finished in several bright automotive colors. In 1958, Danelectro shifted to double-cutaway designs, offering extreme “Longhorn” and less radical “Shorthorn” models. In addition to electric guitars, the company made 6-string and 4-string basses, double-neck instruments, and the futuristic Guitarlin.
As its name implies, the Guitarlin was built to cover the typical guitar register plus the higher mandolin range, and the instrument’s deep double cutaways provided complete access to its unprecedented 31 frets.
The extended rosewood fretboard began with an aluminum nut, and the “Coke bottle” headstock was decorated with the vertical Danelectro logo. The headstock, neck, and body were all finished in a fetching cream-to-copper sunburst.
The Guitarlin was a little too radical and awkward for most guitar players, so it didn’t sell very well and only about 200 were made between 1958 and 1968. The guitar is collectable today mostly due to its association with Link Wray, who used it on his recordings and tours in the late ’50s.
The original price for a 1958 Danelectro Guitarlin was $150 with an additional $25 for the case. Its current value is $2,000.
Sources for this article include The Strat in the Attic: Thrilling Stories of Guitar Archaeology by Deke Dickerson, American Guitars: An Illustrated History by Tom Wheeler, Classic Guitars of the ’50s edited by Tony Bacon, Electric Guitars by Rob Goudy, and a piece by Jim Washburn and Steve Soest at jackaboutguitars.com.
Original price: $150 in 1958, plus $25 for case Current estimated market value: $2,000