Lipstick Vogue: c.1960 Danelectro Convertible

The Danelectro Convertible was introduced in the late 50's/early 60's as a student guitar sold through the Sears catalog; note that it is both an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar (featuring Danelectro's ubiquitous "lipstick" pickup). The sides of the guitar are covered in linoleum, with a "Hardboard" top and bottom. Completely unconventional, totally wacky, and a blast to play. Enjoy the photos, and read more about how I came to love mine below.

I purchased this guitar at the Tinicum Guitar Barn in rural Pennsylvania for $95 (with case and a set of strings) in November 2007, while on a guitar-hunting trip with some good enablers/friends from the RickResource Forum. Despite the horrible-looking crack in the neck and seemingly random holes in the face of the guitar, it played pretty nicely. At that time, I was buying a lot of guitars, and at that price, I simply could not resist the quirkiness.

Me and my Danelectro, the week I bought it. November 2007

Me and my Danelectro, the week I bought it. November 2007

For the next 7 years, I barely played it. But, against unbelievable odds, it remained in my rapidly-revolving collection. I'm not quite sure why - I think a part of me felt like it "might come in handy" someday. I sure wasn't into it for very much money either!

At some point, I decided to dump the absolutely horrid floating bridge and slammed a cheap Tune-O-Matic bridge I had lying around on it. A bit heavy-handed, but effective!

In the time I've owned it, it went through stints as a slide guitar, a dedicated open-tuning guitar, and a guitar-I-keep-at-my-girlfriends-house. It was only recently that I realized I'd had a diamond-in-the-rough this whole time.

I had been on the lookout for a small acoustic guitar to keep at the office and to travel with when I don't want to haul my rather bulky and expensive Guild D55. The front-runner was the all-mahogany Guild M20 (a guitar made famous by, but not played by, Nick Drake), but no reasonably-priced vintage examples were surfacing.

It suddenly hit me when I glanced at my guitar rack one day - there was the Danelectro, dusty, rusty, strings broken, and neglected. It was basically a small acoustic guitar, it was already beat-to-hell, and I already owned it! All it needed was a little TLC...

After de-griming it with Windex, oiling the Brazilian Rosewood fretboard, re-stringing it with a beefy set of strings, and tuning it to C standard (being wary of the neck crack), I let'er rip - and rip she did.

I'm rather disappointed in myself for letting with guitar languish for so long. It has a really unique acoustic tone, quite usable for my purposes; but holy crap, I do not remember it ever sounding this good while plugged in! There is magic in those old lipstick tube pickups - it's jangly & bright but meaty too. I'm absolutely amazed at the tone from this thing.

Even tuned super-low, the bass-side of the neck is quite bowed and it does not appear to want to straighten out - kind of a bummer, but it's still playing decently and is going to make one hell of an office guitar!

(Photos © John Biscuti, July 2014)