1964 Danelectro-made Silvertone 1444 Electric Bass

Update July 2015: I've used this bass a lot for gigs over Winter and Spring and have just updated this blog post with new pics and a soundclip. It's a great, sturdy machine with unbelievably-fast action (and not to mention 24 frets with access all the way up!) and is proudly wearing a set of LaBella "Hofner bass" flats in the right gauges for an instrument like this: 96w-36w or something close to that. I also added a tortoise pickguard (translucent) in the shape of a standard Danelectro guard (traced from an original) to spruce it up a bit. Now back to the original post...

I "deconstructed" a modified instrument I was using as a short scale bass the other day and this "dolphin headstock" Dano-made (New Jersey) Silvertone is going to replace that one. I picked this up on Reverb in a more-beat state and gave this the glorified setup (fret level/dress, saddle recut/mod, general setup) it needed late in the afternoon as I was trying to burn through a pile of customer work in the few hours spare today.

Like most classic Danelectros, this bass is made with an abstract form of semi-hollow construction. It has a bolt-on maple/rosewood-board neck with a thin profile and non-adjustable steel truss rod (which is why it's still straight) and a body made from two sheets of Masonite glued to a couple blocks of poplar ("bridge" block and "neck block") which are surrounded with poplar edging that makes up the "sides." Like most classic Danelectros, it's also "awesome."

The body is a direct rip from the company's usual U-1 and U-2 model guitars. It's basically the same thing but with a 30" scale (well, 29 7/8" to be exact) bass neck stuck on and a 4-string bridge baseplate retrofitted.

This bass is well-worn and, while mostly original, it lacks its pickguard. Update: but now it has one!

The "pinned on" Silvertone badge at the headstock is gone, too, but the metal nut isn't. Note the replacement Kluson tuner: it's a 50s/60s unit from my parts-bin. Good enough!

What's also surprising about the neck is the two-octave range for each string: this has 24 frets and all are accessible. That very high G will be an appreciated "finishing touch" at the end of cowboy songs, I'm sure.

Despite the funky construction, what really sets Dano-made products apart from the rest of the lower-end pack built at the same time is the fact that they have painfully-cool styling and also great necks. I've yet to encounter an old one of the maple/rosewood-board variety that I haven't both liked and also been able to resurrect happily-enough into a perfectly-playing unit.

I can't say that for the arguably "cooler" Japanese imports being built during the same years.

This neck has a 1 5/8" nut width and a "short P bass" feel to it with a flatter profile to the board and a thin neck depth. The instrument itself is nearly as long as a Fender but it's a lot lighter-weight and less bulky overall.

The clean, clear Dano "lipstick" pickup gives that hollow, airy "sproing" that works so very well with the semi-hollow build.

A lot of people complain about the typical Dano-style adjustable bridge. The truth is that they can intonate just fine if the rosewood adjustable saddle is rough-cut (like an archtop guitar topper) to provide extra compensation where it's needed. It's then just a matter of setting it in the right place (Fender-style) during setup.

This bass plays in tune all the way up.

The seller of this bass dated the original electronics to 1964 and that gave the dating on this guy. The U-1 body style, however, gives it more of a 50s vibe.

A bit battered and bruised, huh?

I moved the (original) strap button from next to the heel to the shoulder for better comfort and balance when standing up.

The heavy-duty fabric-style tape is a classic Dano feature. Why? Why not? ...and what better way to keep it from sliding off your lap?

A very nice, brand-new tweed gigbag comes with the bass.


Unknown said…
I love my Dano '63 with two lipstick pups. I've converted it to Nashville tuning and it has a lovely autoharp sound if you chord it just right.
jp said…
Nice one. I dont like the reissues, except for Jerry Jones, which has the soul of this little guy. Another great use of these is in reggae..in spite of most JA players SEEN using a jazz or steinberger, the bass mostly used in Kingston studios was a Hofner beatle..and the short scale with flats and neck pu sound of that is very close to this Dano. Nice talking to you today Jake, thanks for all the good info.
EricL said…
Ya think I'll be able to find a replacement pick guard for my Danelectro 1444? Anywhere? Still looking. Might have to go with a DIY.
Any helpful hints?
Eric L
signalbass said…
What strings work best on these basses? I've had a hard time getting the string end ball to seat properly in the saddle. As a result the bridge is set as high as it can go and the action is horrible.