1956 Danelectro U1 Semihollow Electric Guitar

My almost-strictly-acoustic-playing buddy Joel sent this guitar up to me for resale as, well, he's almost-strictly-acoustic these days. He's like me and has a bit of a "thing" for Danelectros -- this being the second one he's ferried up here after realizing he never plugs in. I adore early Danos once they've been gone-through and made to play like a modern rig, myself.

They have an almost "acoustic" response to their sound through their lipstick pickups -- nothing else quite sounds like them and the "modern" Danelectro instruments do not have the same vibe. There's just something lovely about these old pickups when mated to the masonite-and-pine sandwich of their semihollow bodies. This Dano has that vibe in spades and it was a lot of fun to take a walk down memory lane, as I used a green '56 Dano for gigs for about a year.

These have a clean and clear sound from the pickups. They're low-output and so to get it properly driven one needs to add some gain at the amp. I think they sound best right on the edge (or a little over) of breakup and played in an Americana/vintage style of one sort or another. Fingerpickers and crosspickers will get a ton of delicious sound out of that setup. Folks who mostly strum or pick on acoustics will also find it easy to dial-in a good tone right off the bat, too. Folks who are looking for gritty blues-rock or heavier stuff, though? Skip it!

While the volume/tone knobs are obvious, the 3-way switch operates as follows: up engages a resistor, I believe, that bleeds-off bass response. Down engages the tone pot control. Center is as-normal -- signal affected by volume pot only, tone pot bypass.

Repairs included: a fret level/dress, cleaning, compensation of the original rosewood saddle, and setup.

Setup notes: action is bang-on at 1/16" overall at the 12th fret, the neck is essentially straight (1/64" deflection under tension -- like, nothing) overall, and it's strung with 46w-10 gauges and compensated for plain-G stringing.

Scale length: 25"
Nut width: 1 5/8"
String spacing at nut: 1 3/8"
String spacing at bridge: 2"
Body length: 17 5/8"
Lower bout width: 13 1/4"
Waist width: 8"
Upper bout width: 9 7/8"
Side depth at endpin: 1 5/8"
Body wood: masonite top/back, poplar+pine ribs/sides & center block
Neck wood: poplar
Fretboard: rosewood
Bridge: original Danelectro-style, compensated saddle
Neck feel: slim C/D shape, flattish ~16" board radius

Condition notes: this guitar is mostly original but does have two unexplained screwholes below the bridge, replacement (Tele-style) knobs for the volume/tone controls, two unexplained tiny screwholes on the back of the neck below the nut (not obvious), and two (vintage) replacement screws for the tuner plates that I added as the originals were stripping-out. The finish is heavily-aged throughout with a lot of weather-checking and finish-crackle all over the top/back and headstock. Its color is not faded-out and rubbed-out like a lot of Danos, though. The electronics coverplate (circular cutout on back) is a replacement or has had its finish removed. The strap buttons are later replacements, too, as far as I can tell.

It comes with: a same-period (late '50s/early '60s), high-quality, Ess & Ess hard case.

I don't know how easy it is to see in the pics, but when I set these up I do a few mods to make them play better at the bridge. First-off, I compensate the rosewood saddle so things play in tune up the neck. Next, I add a spacer between the bottom of the bridge and the top of the guitar at the rear of the plate near the mounting bolt. This keeps the ball-ends of the strings from rubbing against the top of the guitar and thus more-snug in their slots.

One thing earlier Danelectros have that later ones do not is a half-round edge at the back of the neck at the cutaway. Later models have this area squared-off and so the feel isn't quite as good as on these earlier ones that are more sculptural.