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January 2010
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Danelectro Dead On ‘67

Electric guitars

Published in PM November 2009
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Reviews : Guitar: Electric
The latest Danelectro six-string revives a characterful Coral model from the late ‘60s, but adds a few updates and is also available in a baritone version.
Roger Cooper
After ceasing guitar production for around two years, Danelectro revived the range in 2005. Since then, the company have continued to plunder their past via successive reincarnations that, although not 100-percent accurate imitations, do offer much of the character of the US originals.
This policy is perpetuated with the launch earlier this year of the Dead On ‘67 guitar and matching baritone models, which followed hot on the heels of the equally retro Dano ‘63 series. The latter harked back to an oldie that was sold under the Silvertone banner, but these most recent reproductions are very obviously based on the Hornet, a design that initially appeared in the late ‘60s bearing the brand of partner company Coral. However, this model never appeared in baritone form, so Danelectro have exercised some artistic licence to offer this equivalent.
Just a suggestion
The Dead On ‘67 model title is something of a misnomer in itself, because while styling and other features more than hint at the original Hornet electric, other aspects are far from authentic. It would seem that the intention is to strongly suggest rather than slavishly copy, and several of the original’s quirkier characteristics have duly been ironed out in the process.
The black-faced headstock is one such obvious amendment, being a more streamlined interpretation of its somewhat clumsy-looking inspiration. The revised end result is Fender-ish, but actually closely resembles a shape seen on Harmony electrics during the 1960s. Strings stay in a straight line en route to tuners that are plastic button-equipped, vintage Kluson copies, rather than reproduction Dano machine heads. Also on the back is a sticker carrying the ‘Made In China’ legend and an easy-to-remember 12-digit serial number!
The truss-rod adjuster is now located at the headstock, under a silver-coloured cover carrying the old ‘Danelectro Totally Shielded’ slogan. This is another incorrect aspect that contradicts the ‘Dead On’ description. All previous Dano revivals hid the adjuster away down at the body end, which was less convenient but at least looked more authentic, as the originals didn’t boast such a luxury. In contrast, the aluminium nut has been retained, but this is one component that could benefit from an update, as the material tends to cause string sticking problems and therefore requires extra setup attention to ensure this doesn’t occur.
The unbound rosewood fingerboard features a flattish radius and 21 medium frets, all smoothly finished. Somewhat unusually, these are spread over a Gibson-style scale length, not Danelectro’s normal, slightly longer alternative. The neck is equally friendly, adopting familiar-feeling proportions and a shallow, C-shaped cross-section. It is finished to match the body, and this provides a suitably sleek playing surface. A secure body join is achieved via a conventional four-screw metal plate, although this is slimmer than standard to suit the somewhat narrow heel block.
Echoing its inspiration, the Dead On ‘67 is one of the few modern Danos to feature a solid rather than semi-solid body. Basswood construction is covered by a slippery, satin-sheen paint job, which comes in a choice of five solid shades.
The Hornet’s body styling was Jazzmaster influenced, but here the lower bout borrows an indent from the Dano ’63, for added individuality if not authenticity. As on the original, extra comfort is created by strongly curved and contoured edges. These engender a ‘sucked lozenge’ image that Ibanez eventually employed with great success in the late 1980s. This severe shaping also cuts down on weight, and the Dead On ‘67 tips the scales at a very shoulder-friendly 2.5kg.
The hardware
The Coral Hornet sported a two-tier scratchplate, but here this has been simplified, omitting the elevated pickguard. It otherwise mimics the original material quite nicely, with swirl pearl-faced, thin plastic mounted beneath a thicker clear plastic layer, while a black coach line on the underside of the latter connects all screw holes. The end result looks suitably retro and is flexible enough to follow the curved edge contours of the body, although it’s already beginning to warp between some of the fixing screws.
This section accommodates two single-coil pickups, with these being the slightly bigger reworked versions first deployed on the Dano ‘63. Also as on the latter, the company’s classic lipstick-style pickup casings feature zero-gloss nickel plating, which matches all the other metalwork and fosters a vintage visual image.
Circuitry consists of the usual clunky metal three-way toggle switch, plus volume and tone controls per pickup. The former replaces the row of four slide-selectors that featured on the Hornet in the 1960s, but the control knobs come closer to those of that era.
All are carried, along with the output jack, on a sizeable panel that completes the curvy outline commenced by the adjoining scratchplate. It contrasts the latter’s looks via brushed aluminium-effect plastic, rather than the contoured chromed metal of the real thing. This material is also starting to lift in places, and the absence of any bevelling leaves some surprisingly sharp edges.
The Dead On’s vibrato unit also sits on this lower section and the design harks back to Dano’s typically simple early version. Equipped with an angular arm, the baseplate is otherwise very similar to this brand’s usual fixed bridge, employing string anchor slots and an angle-adjustable, single wooden saddle. It rests on two height-adjustable screws at the front, while a third retains the rear. Here, this one connects to a single spring mounted in the body beneath, altering tension accordingly. Operation isn’t exactly fluid or responsive, but the stiff action still allows a semitone warble either way with consistent return to pitch.
Beefy behaviour
A surprisingly resonant acoustic response confirms that solid basswood can match the combination of hardboard and air employed on most of this model’s stablemates. Plugged in, the Dead On ‘67 proves to be beefier than its light weight and slim feel might suggest. Its impressive unamplified character is conveyed via an open quality that blends well with both pickups, adding an airy clarity. The neck selection offers a pleasing mix of flute-y lows and chiming highs, while the bridge pickup delivers more attack courtesy of a snarly twang combined with edgy upper harmonics.
Engaging both pickups puts them in series and humbucker mode, simultaneously increasing output and eradicating any noise interference. This results in a greater ratio of nasal-tinged tonality, which offers a meatier and equally useful alternative. All selections sound great played clean, while adding increasing amounts of gain-induced overdrive takes the Dead On ‘67 through wiry blues into the grimy and gritty grunge typical of the garage-band scene where the former Hornet found favour. The control pots are smoothly progressive in operation, and the standard Dano wiring further increases versatility, allowing gradual blending of either pickup in the centre position.
Going deeper
Danelectro’s association with the baritone guitar dates back to 1956, when the company introduced the first instrument of this type. However, like later versions, this was tuned a full octave down, making it an old-style six-string bass rather than a baritone proper, which is usually tuned a 4th or 5th below standard pitch. Most of the company’s more recent reincarnations have been offered in the latter guise, with the Dead On ‘67 being the latest in this somewhat specialised design line.
Being a matching mate to the guitar, many construction, component and cosmetic aspects are common to both models. The headstock and tuners stay the same, with the latter being large enough to accommodate the instrument’s necessarily heavier strings. Frets and fingerboard are equally alike, although the former now number 24 and scale length has been increased accordingly to 29.75 inches (754mm). Neck width and profile are further features shared by the two instruments. Despite the extra stretch involved, playability remains excellent, which is a plus point that’s in keeping with all Dano baritones.
The neck is obviously longer, but the basswood body doesn’t differ in terms of size or shape, and the paint job is again up to par. The associated fixtures and fittings are equally identical, including the vibrato unit, which actually operates a little easier. Circuitry is the same, as are the pickups, with the company’s single coils being particularly suited to the lower tuning.
The Dead On ‘67 Baritone retains the guitar’s responsive acoustic character, along with the same tonal traits when amplified. These work well with the lower frequency range involved, supplying sounds that span deep and dark to upfront twangy bark. Engaging the centre selection again ups the volume level and adds a more muscular mid-range. The circuitry’s volume-blending facility proves equally effective, but the tone controls are less useful, being noticeably on or off in operation.
Like most Danos, performance of both instruments is impressive for the money, as they look, feel and sound very good indeed. Construction is quite conventional compared to most other Danos, and the Dead On ‘67 guitar sounds correspondingly different and distinctive, presumably due to the changes involved. These include the vibrato, which seems to be more beneficial in this capacity than its intended function.
Danelectro do baritones very well and the Dead On ‘67 is no exception. In America it costs the same as the guitar, but for some reason over here the price is £30 more. This is a pity, as the lower figure might tempt a few more people to try this very nice but essentially niche market model. Even so, neither instrument exactly breaks the bank, and the money buys bags of character plus great performance, which makes the Dead On ‘67 a very attractive proposition in either guise.  0

Published in PM November 2009
Dead On ‘67 guitar
£289 Baritone £319
Although not as authentic as the name might suggest, these ‘67 models offer great sounds and excellent playability, in a very distinctive, retro-flavoured package.
John Hornby Skewes
+44 (0)1132 865381
Tech Spec
Dead On ‘67 guitar
Basswood solid body.
Bolt-on maple neck.
21-fret rosewood fingerboard.
24.75-inch (630mm) scale.
Single-saddle bridge/vibrato unit, Kluson-type tuners.
Two lipstick-style single-coil pickups.
Two volumes controls, two tones controls, three-way pickup selector.
Weight: 2.5kg.
Agent Orange, Red, Black, Butterscotch, Cobalt Blue, Limey Green finishes.
Tech Spec
Dead On ‘67 Baritone
As guitar, except:
24-fret rosewood fingerboard.
29.75-inch (754mm) scale.
Weight: 3kg.
Black, Cobalt Blue or Limey Green finishes.