The Danelectro "The 64". Why Do I Keep Reaching For This Guitar?
Please Note: I am not here to teach guitar. I do not have that skill set and I am very comfortable saying that. I am also not anything near an expert. I receive nothing in return for my words, so what you are reading is the result of my demanding assessment of the practical use of a tool. I am not selling anything. please keep that in mind as you share my experience.
When the mood to play hits me, I grab a guitar and walk to the garage to play for a while. I have tried to be wise when I purchase a guitar, and thus there are some great instruments on the wall to choose from.
There doesn't seem to be much choosing anymore. When I have that feeling, the Dano is in my hands before I even think about it. The question now seems to be how much of my desire to play is because this instrument is such a pleasure.
As I said, I try to be wise when I purchase a guitar. I need every instrument to have a reason to be invested in. The reason for this guitar is Ricky Wilson and the B-52's, with a heavy dose of "The Ventures".
I have always enjoyed Ricky Wilson's guitar playing. Once I began to understand how a guitar actually worked, I learned the he used very unusual guitar turnings presented on 1960's guitars. He played a Mosrite frequently, and my research on this brand was very entertaining. Semmie Moseley was a visionary, and there is an interesting story in itself that I would like to discuss later. As I dug into the Mosrite guitar, I ran right smack into "The Ventures". This research also introduced me to a couple of things I needed to learn: the zero fret, and guitar building materials.
The Zero Fret
The zero fret is interesting. At the base of the headstock of the guitar, where it meets the guitar neck, you will usually find the guitars nut. This is where the the fret board and the playing surface of the guitar is established. The nut is usually made of bone, or a synthetic material. It is placed precisely at the start of the first fret.
The Danelectro "64", like the old Mosrite "Ventures" style guitar, has a metal nut holding the strings before the start of the fret board, and the top of the first fret is actually fret wire.
One thing I noticed on this design of the "Zero Fret" is that the metal strings rest on the metal nut, which in turn then rest on the metal roller bridge at the foot of the guitar. The entire playing surface of the string has the tension on both ends established with a metal contact point. I do not remember this point being discussed in my research, but I would think it significant. I know two guitar players that have been playing almost as long as I have been alive. They both say it makes no difference. I believe them, but darned of the tone I get from this guitar doesn't sound better with a little less effort.
Guitar Building Materials
I love hardwoods. Everything about them except the harvesting. Every beautiful thing has a price. Harvesting is the price and we must manage our payments.
Hardwoods brought me to the guitar. The sonic characteristics of the varieties of wood used in creating a guitar is a critical aspect of the Luthiers art. the visual beauty of wood is also integrated as a measure of the quality of an instrument. Why is my current favorite guitar made of Masonite?
The Danelectro guitar brand was the brainchild of Nathan Daniel, and darned if he didn't pioneer the use of Masonite for guitar construction. He was pretty innovative, because it works. It's not as pretty as hardwood, but you do not have to kill a 200 year old beautiful tree to get it. If you go to the Danelectro website, there is a link to a video where a rather famous guitar player tries to destroy a Dano 64 on stage. Judge for yourself on the strength of the tool. If durability and quality of sound are what you are after in an electric, there is a valid argument here for hybrid and synthetic materials for certain applications. I am actually unclear if the 64 is Masonite. The Danelectro website does not tell me it is. This guitar plays so nicely that I actually hope it is.
A Special Instrument
I was looking for a Mosrite. I was compelled by the zero fret idea, but I really was interested in the body shape of the Mosrite.
Playing standing up presents some challenges for me. I like the guitar to ride as high as I can get it. The up swept body shape of the Mosrite appeared to present a portion of the guitar body that would fit under my pick arm. This would permit me to hold the guitar in a more stable manner. I liked this idea. I wanted to try and play this design.
When I went to find out what a Mosrite would cost, I ran smack dab into another interesting story. There is more to a Mosrite than a guitar with the distinctive Mosrite headstock design and the name Mosrite presented in the proper manner. This is another story for a different time. Again.
An original Mosrite could be obtained. All that was required was careful diligence about the guitars history and at least five thousand dollars.
I cannot play five thousand dollars worth of guitar. I am afraid that is not going to happen.
That is when I noticed the Dano 64. This guitar was a reflection of Semmie Mosely's design theory. I saw the up swept body, as well as the Vibrato and lipstick pickup array similar to the old Mosrite "Ventures" or Mark I guitars. The guitar was about $800.00 new. When I visited E-Bay to see what was available there, I noticed that there was one available for considerably less at a shop close by. The guitar was a show model that had been purchased after Danelectric participated in a recent NAMM trade show.
May I ask you....is this a red flag, or a good thing?
I reasoned that this was a good thing. I remember my bike mechanic days. When the boss was taking a Colnago to a local event to show off, he would hand it to a really good mechanic and make sure it was perfect. There was a high probability that someone with a great deal of skill and experience spent a lot of effort making this particular guitar
as a shining example of the model. I liked those odds.
I visited the shop. The owner was patient as I "wanted, wanted, and needed" but did not buy. The guitar played well upon initial introduction, but that only tells you so much. Eventually the guitar came home and we got to know each other. The owner also sold me my very first tube amplifier and helped change my guitar life forever. He also saved me several hundreds of dollars.
I was correct about the setup of this guitar. It is perfect. There is no telling who has played it from when it was selected to go to NAMM to when it came to my home. That in itself is kind of fun, and adds to the mystique of this individual instrument. It plays well up and down the fretboard, and the notes ring true all over with little to no effort. I play this guitar alot. When I do a lesson, it is with this guitar.
My only issue with this guitar is I do not play well enough for a red guitar. The guitar is very red.....it is a beautiful red, but it is red. For me, a red guitar is like going into a juke joint with a Telecaster on your back. You had better be ready to play.
There is no way I am going into a juke joint with a Tele, At least not yet. I am also nervous playing a red guitar, even if I am alone in the Garage. I think that is part of the reason I keep reaching for this particular instrument. I know I must improve to earn the right to play it.
So, if you were to ask me if you should purchase a Danelectro "The 64" with your hard earned dollars, I would say yes. I would also say that purchasing a NAMM show guitar has a certain risk, but is well worth considering, especially of you can play the instrument before purchase. I would also say "support your local guitar merchant, you never know what you will learn". Either way you have a good chance of getting as nice a guitar as this one is. I wish you good luck!