Danelectro, 12-String Guitar (Prototype), 1958


12-String Guitar
Yellow Vinyl
Two single-coil “lipstick style” pickups
The Story Behind

This Danelectro 12-string guitar is a VERY historical instrument. It is not only a historical Danelectro, but a historical INSTRUMENT being the very first Danelectro twelve string guitar ever made, pre-dating the Bellzouki by three years, but also the earliest stand alone 12-string electric guitar built by any manufacturer. Only the Gibson Doubleneck twelve string was available in 1958.

Here some information about the guitar which was reviewed by Gruhn Guitars : The penciled notation in the neck pocket reads: *Test Excellent 9/1/58. C. McBride, with a partially visible address of: *229 Bro???? Long Bea??” Serial number: none. To the best of Gruhn Guitars knowledge, this instrument is the earliest Danelectro twelve-string electric guitar ever made and while clearly a prototype, it was not placed into production. It is worth noting that by 1958 Gibson was already producing a double-neck electric guitar in which one neck was a twelve-string and the other a regular six-string (EDS-1275 model). Upon examination, we note that this guitar appears cosmetically and structurally to be in excellent condition. This instrument was made with single cutaway pine/Masonite body with yellow vinyl exterior covering and black vinyl edging, Brazilian rosewood four-way adjustable bridge, two single-coil “lipstick style” pickups, two concentric volume and tone controls, three-position pickup selector switch, side mounted output jack with plate, white plastic strap buttons, removable neck (three screws) with black lacquer finish, 21-fret Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with dot inlay, and no peghead logo. 

The 12-string guitar is a steel-string guitar with 12 strings in six courses, which produces a richer, more ringing tone than a standard six-string guitar. Typically, the strings of the lower four courses are tuned in octaves, with those of the upper two courses tuned in unisons. The gap between the strings within each dual-string course is narrow, and the strings of each course are fretted and plucked as a single unit. The neck is wider, to accommodate the extra strings, and is similar to the width of a classical guitar neck. The sound, particularly on acoustical instruments, is fuller and more harmonically resonant than six-string instruments.

Electric 12-strings became a staple in pop and rock music in the ‘60s. Early use of the instrument was pioneered by the guitarists of The Wrecking Crew; in 1963, Carol Kaye used a converted Guild six-string on The Crystals' hit "Then He Kissed Me," and on Jackie DeShannon's song "When You Walk in the Room," Glen Campbell played a well-known guitar figure, composed by De Shannon, on an electric twelve.

One of the first mass-produced electric 12-strings was the Bellzouki. Introduced by Danelectro in 1961, from a design by session guitarist Vinnie Bell, it was initially considered a cross between an electric guitar and a bouzouki rather than an electric version on the traditional 12-string guitar. One example of that guitar can be found in our TYS Collection.  In the UK in 1963, JMI briefly produced the Vox Bouzouki, later produced in Italy as The Vox Tempest XII, which was used by Vic Flick on the Peter and Gordon hit single "A World Without Love" in 1964. In late 1963, Burns developed the Double Six, supplying a prototype to Hank Marvin of The Shadows, who used it on a number of songs for the soundtrack of the 1964 Cliff Richard movie Wonderful Life;  the Double Six was also used on The Searchers' cover version of De Shannon's "When You Walk In The Room."

The electric 12-string gained prominence with the introduction in 1964 of the Rickenbacker 360, made famous through George Harrison's use of it on The Beatles' album A Hard Day's Night and many subsequent recordings. In 1965, inspired by Harrison, Roger McGuinn made the Rickenbacker 12-string central to The Byrds' folk rock sound, further popularising the instrument. His signature artist model can be found in the TYS Collection.  By the mid-Sixties, most major guitar manufacturers were producing competing instruments, including the Fender Electric XII (used by Roy Wood of The Move), and the Vox Phantom XII (used by Tony Hicks of The Hollies). Gretsch, Guild, and Gibson also produced electric 12-string models from the mid-Sixties and following decades, with Gretsch promoting theirs by supplying number of custom made 12-strings for The Monkees guitarist Michael Nesmith, for use on The Monkees' TV series.

Standard electric 12-strings became less popular with the end of the American folk rock scene in the late sixties; Fender and Gibson ceased production of the Electric XII and ES-335 12-string variant respectively, in 1969. However, from the 1970s, some progressive rock, hard rock, and jazz fusion guitarists, most notably Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, John McLaughlin of The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Alex Lifeson of Rush, used double-necked guitars such as the Gibson EDS-1275, with six-string and 12-string necks, for live appearances, allowing easy transition between different sounds mid-song.

The post punk era saw a resurgence of electric 12 string guitar use among sixties-influenced alternative rock, pop, and indie guitarists. Players such as Johnny Marr of The Smiths, Dave Gregory of XTC, Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles, Marty Willson-Piper of The Church, Peter Buck of R.E.M., and Tom Petty and Mike Campbell of the Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers often chose 12 strings (particularly Rickenbackers) for many songs.



If you have any questions, please contact us