1954 Silvertone 1375

Nathan “Nat” Daniel entered the world of guitars by building amplifiers. While still in school, Daniel began building amplifiers for Epiphone. He soon opened a one-man amp factory in Manhattan and continued supplying all the Electar amplfiers through the late 1940s. Shortly after World War II ended, he moved his business to New Jersey and renamed it the Danelectro Corporation – short for Daniel Electric. He was soon building amps for Sears and Montgomery Ward stores on top of his products for Epiphone, and Danelectro began to take off.

Danelectro built its first guitars in 1954. They were cheap but honest, never trying to mimic the high-end guitars of the day. The classic Danelectro guitar body consisted of a hollow wooden frame onto which a top and back of Masonite (veneered plywood) were attached, resulting in a thin and light hollowbody guitar. However, for the first year or so of production, Danelectro guitars were true solidbodies. This guitar has a poplar body and a neck containing a solid aluminum rod that protrudes down the top of the body. The neck is secured by two screws going through the body and into the aluminum rod. This rod therefore acts as both a truss rod and the basis of the neck joint. The wooden sides of the neck are secured by several rods running through the entire neck underneath the frets.

Other aspects of this guitar are more familiar to Danelectro fans. The aluminum nut and bridge with a moveable rosewood saddle, the peanut-shaped body, and the tone switch for the single pickup would be staples of Danelectro design for many years. However, the one-piece pickguard and pickup cover are unique to the first year of production; by the end of 1955, the pickup would be encased in a lipstick tube – literally, not just a descriptive term – and the pickguard would be made of clear plastic. This early pickup is identical later ones except for the cover: the coil is wound directly onto the magnet, with no bobbin.

This early guitar was sold under the Danelectro name and through Sears under the Silvertone name. The latter came in two forms, the single-pickup model 1375 and the rarer dual-pickup model 1377. The Danelectro version had a unique headstock shape that flared out toward the base, while the Silvertone version already had the “Coke bottle” shape that Dano-built Silvertones would retain until 1958. They already featured the aluminum nut that would remain a Danelectro trademark throughout the company’s history. The tuners are Waverlys – Danelectro wouldn’t start making their own tuners for another couple of years – and the back of the headstock has an unusual volute that would disappear with the single-rod reinforcement system.

If they weren’t the most traditional design, these early Danelectro guitars were durable, they played well and sounded very good. A guitarist got a surprisingly solid guitar for $39.95 (or $40.50 with case). Despite not having and adjustable truss rod, most vintage Danelectro necks have survived with minimal warping due to the stiff aluminum reinforcement; this one is perfectly straight. Aside from a replacement end pin and a few electrical components, the guitar is entirely original. The neck is a true baseball bat, much larger than even the chunky Dano necks from later in the ‘50s. The sound of that low-output pickup is still recognizable: clear, with a wide frequency range and strong bass.