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Danelectro Dead On '67 Guitar Review

April 21, 2009

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Those who didn’t grow up with Danelectro may think of them primarily as a manufacturer of various inexpensive guitar effects pedals. This is only a small part of the story, which began with the founding of the company in 1947 by Nathan Daniel, a former amp manufacturer for the Epiphone company. The first guitars came off the line in 1954 under the Sears brand Silvertone. From that followed an outpouring of guitar models under the Danelectro brand name (and others). All models followed the same formula of simplicity of build, clarity of tone, and above all, affordability.

The company was sold to media giant MCA, who began to experiment with the line, producing some very unusual non-guitar stringed instruments, as well as some very nice additions to the guitar lineup—including the original incarnation of the guitar reviewed here, the 1967 Hornet (part of the Slimline series). Two years later the Dano plant was closed, and it was not until the late 1990s, when the company was purchased by the Evets Corp, that Danelecto reappeared on the retail scene. Danelectro guitars are once more available, albeit in limited numbers and models.

In the early sixties I owned and played a double-pickup, shorthorn double cutaway, which I loved dearly. Unfortunately, because of a loud and bright buzz, my bandmates did not share my love, and I traded for a humbucking model of another brand. Naturally, I was excited to be able to test drive this new axe, especially since it is touted as “totally shielded.” If you want more history and lists of players (you’ll be amazed) there are several good articles online.

On to the guitar itself
The ’67 sports a curvaceous body reminiscent of the shape of a Jaguar or Jazzmaster, but with small, shapely buttocks. It is 1-3/8" thick at its thickest point, near the bridge, but falls away smoothly into a deep contour both front and back, necessitating a contoured shape to the psychedelic mother of toilet seat plastic pickguard and faux satin metal control cavity cover. The body is basswood with paint of a satin texture and expertly applied.

The maple neck is of Fender derivation, with 6-inline Kluson-style tuners and a single-action truss rod. The tuners have a smooth, snug feel. The nut appears to be a hard alloy of aluminum, and the fingerboard is of Rosewood with standard pearloid position markers and a rather flat 14" radius. The fit where the bolt-on neck meets the body is extremely good. There are 21 medium frets, nicely seated, finished and polished. The scale length is 24-3/4".

The ’67 features a vibrato bridge that is the essence of simplicity: a flat satin, nickelplated steel plate with the distal end beveled and notched for the ball end of the strings, and a beveled rosewood bridge. The strings contact the bridge at two points, and there’s a small slot in the bridge plate with a screw that runs into the wood to help keep it centered—and to allow fore and aft movement of the entire bridge for intonation. The pressure of the strings holds the bridge in place.

In this vibrato model, there are two machined holes in the upper and lower forward extremities of the bridge; two slightly rounded Phillips-head wood screws protrude from the body to engage these holes that are machined in a step fashion to support the bridge and to allow height adjustment. Of course, there must be something to hold the bridge plate in place and level, hence a third hole in the rear of the bridge plate through which a countersunk machine screw protrudes downward through the control cover into the vibrato spring cavity, where it engages a spring and is tightened by a steel wing nut.

Holding the head on top of the bridge and tightening the wing nut in the routed cavity on the underside of the body serves to tension the vibrato and hold the bridge plate down and centered. The bridge ground wire attaches to the spring. In my pre-production model this spring tension and the downward pressure of the strings causes a mild bow in the bridge plate.

The aluminum vibrato arm attaches to the bridge plate with a bolt, nylon stop nut and washers, which also control the ease with which the arm may be moved in and out of position. In order to change the fore/ aft position of the bridge or the movement ease of the vibrato arm the bridge must be removed—something I found mildly irritating.

The electronics consist of two of Danelectro’s “lipstick tube” single-coil pickups in satin nickel (redesigned for higher output), with standard controls: two Tone knobs, two Volume knobs and a three-way switch. The pots are full size and of good quality, and the knobs are absolutely classic Dano kitsch.

The Fun Part
The neck has a comfortable “flattened C” contour, and the flat fingerboard radius (once you get used to it) enhances single and double stop bends, not to mention low string pressure for slide playing. Access to upper frets is good. The set up was good right out of the box, although I personally prefer a lower string height at the nut—but of course that’s much easier to obtain from this point than having to go the other way.

The vibrato mechanism will never be nominated for a “Floyd Rose Achievement Award,” but it suffices for some low-amplitude twangin’. The return to intonation is fairly good once you get the feel of the arm, and the simplicity helps maintain the price point. The axe comes strung with D’Addario .010s to help show off one of its main features: the sweet sound of its medium/ low output tubular single coils.

I played through several amps, including a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, an ‘81 Boogie Studio, a Clark tweed Deluxe, a ’64 Ampeg Reverberocket, and an Allen Old Flame. I went for clean tones and found a sweet top end with just enough mids to support and sustain. I went for a mildly crunchy blues tone and was pleased with the detailed attack, articulation, and mild grind. With the Fender and the Boogie I went for full overdrive and really liked the way the top end cut through a very smooth, buttery midrange. The hum level is tolerable, and I’m told by Patrick McGinnis of Danelectro that production models will have a fully shielded control cavity and shielded signal leads, which will decrease hum to even lower levels. He also mentioned that they are fixing the bridge plate warp with a stronger plate and that the production models will sport a basswood body.

The Final Mojo
All in all, this is one versatile axe. Throw in the price, and what’s not to like? Oh, and I failed to mention that there is a baritone version of this same axe—just the thing for all those “spaghetti western” themes you’ve been dying to learn.
Buy if...
you want a fine sounding and playing guitar bundled with a piece of rock and roll history, and low price point to boot.
Skip if...
you don't want to mess with a vibrato tailpiece (which is understandable) or you are a guitar snob (which is not).
Rating...
4.0 

Street $349 - Danelectro  - danelectro.com