Since Danelectro started reissuing guitars and basses in the mid 1990s, the company has, for the most part, stuck to what it knows works; that means we’ve seen new versions of the trusty U1, U2, DC59, and the Longhorn bass to go with updated models like the U3 and Hodad.
At last January’s NAMM show, Dano stepped out a bit, and for the first time has reissued the Pro model. Like the original, the reissue is loaded with all the cool mid-century “mod” styling, bowtie-shaped body, white “masonite” pickguard, squared/stubby body, and a rainbow of pastel colors. Topping off its aesthetic elements are “relic” appointments like aged hardware, finish scratches, dirty-looking binding and pickguard, and a satin “played-in” feel on the neck. The effect is subtle and definitely adds to the appeal.
Unlike the originals, however, the reissue sports a pair of high-output “lipstick-tube” pickups instead of a single low-output unit, an upgraded cast bridge with individual intonation and height-adjustable saddles instead of stamped steel one with a the single rosewood saddle and high-quality die-cast tuners instead of the traditional open-strip variety.
The rest of the Pro’s features are familiar Dano fare, i.e. sandwiched semi-hollow body (masonite top and back with a hardwood core), white binding tape, three-way pickup selector, master volume/tone controls with bakelite-style knobs, aluminum nut, and a 25″-scale bolt-on neck with a rosewood fretboard.
The neck’s satin finish and slim C profile give the Pro a comfortable played-in feel while the low-action, polished frets and 12″ radius fretboard make it a breeze to play. The squared body is comfortable to play in any position, and because the whole package weighs only about seven pounds, it never feels cumbersome or bulky. The lack of a real cutaway and the fact that the neck joins the body at the 14th fret does hamper soloing higher on the fretboard, but then this axe wasn’t designed for shredding! The extra mass of the cast bridge adds noticeably to the guitar’s sustain, and its greater intonation capabilities are a huge plus.
To see how it sounds, we plugged the Pro into a 40-watt tube-powered Chicago Blues Box Roadhouse head and an open-back 2×12″ cab. Its bridge pickup produced a bright, twangy tone with a cool Bakersfield flavor, especially with the amp’s reverb turned up oh-so-slightly. The neck pickup also sounded bright, but with a much rounder/fatter tone, with better midrange and punchier lows. The selector’s middle position runs both pickups in series, in contrast to the more typical parallel scheme, and this is the setting that reveals the guitar’s standout tone, combining the twang of the bridge pickup and the fullness of the neck to produce that cool Danelectro clear, piano-like tone. The series wiring not only offers hum canceling, but nearly doubles the output, making a much hotter sound.
With a bit of amplifier overdrive added to the mix via a HBE Power Screamer pedal, the Pro’s dirty sound produced a host of musical overtones and a fair amount of gain in the middle position. The bright overall tone and the inherent tendency for lipstick pickups to squeal in a high-gain setting means you can’t go hog wild with the OD, but the guitar makes plenty of it for blues soloing and/or a crunchy rhythm sound.
Like other Dano reissues we’ve tested, the Pro offers a surprising range of good, usable old-school sounds. Its retro looks and rainbow of nifty available colors add an air of cool, while its excellent fit and finish, playability, and classic Dano tone make it a great overall player.
Price $299 (retail)
Contact Danelectro, PO Box 1327,
Camarillo, CA 63011; phone (805) 389-4860; www.danelectro.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s June 2007 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.