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A seriously fun axe with swingin' 50s style.
The '59 Dano reissue electric guitar is based on the guitar model first released in 1959 and sold through the mid-'60s. Just because this guitar is inexpensive and a tad outré doesn't mean it's not a serious instrument. The '59 Dano guitar features professional-level playability, intonation, and electronics. The '59 Dano is a guitar that will withstand the rigors of the road and continuous stage work in addition to inviting curious glances and knowing nods of approval.
The '59 Dano comes in finishes inspired by classic car colors of the day and have zero gloss, which helps convey the retro vibe. The glossless colors, swooshing pickguard, lipstick pickups, ridged knobs, and vertical headstock logo all help to create the immediate impression that this is an instrument from another time.
The body is a double-cutaway, and features the familiar plastic tape that runs around the edge of the guitar. Originally, this was to hide the seam in the two-piece body construction. Modern Dano's are not made using this clamshell method anymore, but the tape remains, as it is such a distinctive part of the look. The tape is affixed using a self-adhesive, and is aged with a shellac to give it a slightly brown-streaked or discolored look which adds to the vintage vibe. The pressed-particle pickguard is covered in the same material and cut precisely to fit.
The Alnico pickups are the lipstick variety, and have the same design as the ones that appeared in the '50s, when actual lipstick tubes (purchased from cosmetics makers) were used to house the electronics. One modern improvement is the bridge, which, on the reissue, is capable of being intonated.
Also an improvement over the original is the tuners, which are die cast and hold the tuning well. The nut is made of aluminum and contributes to the twanginess and uniqueness of tone that the Dano's were known for. In addition to sitting in a nut slot, the nut itself is screwed into the top edge of the fingerboard.
The playability is one of the most impressive aspects of this guitar— the action is low enough for velocity playing, yet was buzz-free on every fret. The neck is not speed-demon shallow, but its depth adds to the sustain, tone, and general feeling of substance.
The '59 Dano's pickups are bright and sparkly, but not shrill. The manufacturer reports that the 2007 reissue features a warmer wind on the pickups, which increases the output and provides a less high-endy tone. The jangly pickups and aluminum nut work well when playing open-position chords and single lines. Very versatile is the neck pickup—mellow and strong but not dull, perhaps due to the extra windings and its placement midway down the string length. The three-position switch and volume and tone knobs are rugged and stand up well to aggressive swiping and twisting.
Aside from being a definite conversation starter, the '59 Dano is a quality, low-priced instrument. It would be great as a second guitar, set up for a particularly twangy sound (owing to the pickup quality and the aluminum nut, which sounds particularly good when using open-string chords), or for slide. Or it would be good for a rhythm-playing front person, especially if your band plays retro or neo, jangle, pop, or surf music.
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