I’ve told everyone who will still listen to me on the subject that all guitarists should have a Danelectro as part of their trick bag. These guitars are affordable (way under $500), fun to play, surprisingly gig tough, and nothing sounds like those lipstick pickups. A Dano’s unique timbral shadings can be inspiration boosters when you’re stumped for “that special something” to add vibey character or subtle strangeness to a guitar part.
Now, Danelectro has put a bit of a backwards spin on the lipstick sound with its 59 M-NOS. The new, limited-edition model utilizes a “lost” supply of 15-year-old lipsticks (Danelectro says they were misplaced by the pickup manufacturer all those years) to produce a “new old stock” twang. Admittedly, this is not like finding a load of truly vintage single-coils, P90s, or humbuckers in a dilapidated warehouse. Fifteen years back puts us at 1999, which is an awesome year for a Prince song and unfounded fears about Y2K, but hardly as exciting as if Danelecto discovered a truckload of unused lipsticks made when the company was founded in 1947. Still, the 15-yearold pickups are a good hook for the cool-looking 59 M-NOS, which ups the retro ante with five fab colors: Orange-adelic, Outa-Sight White, Right On Red, Baby Come Back Blue, and Go-Go Blue.
To determine just how different the lipsticks on the 59 M-NOS are compared to those on a “new” Dano, I borrowed GP Managing Editor Kevin Owens’ 2011 Danelectro DC59 with psychedelic paint, and also auditioned a current model, the 67 Heaven. Amps for the tests included a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, a Vox AC30, an Orange Tiny Terror, and a Marshall 1973X. I routed the guitars through a couple of pedals, as well: a Vauxflores 23 fuzz, a Blackstar LT Drive Classic Overdrive, and a Boss FB-2 Feedbacker/Booster.
The combination of a light Masonite body and lipstick pickups always gives Danelectro guitars a great snap and pop with a hint of depth and resonance. All three guitars delivered that “Dano Sound” whether run clean, dirty with amp overdrive, or wildly saturated using a pedal. The tight, articulate tones produced by all three pickup selections can cut through just about any band mix without being overly bright or too thin. Danos aren’t typical first choices for jazz gigs, and you won’t get a bounty of luxuriant low-end out of these guitars, but there’s enough roundness and warmth for classic-rock stylings and “faux-jazzbo” moments.
For the taste test, I recorded the 59 M-NOS, the DC59, and the 67 Heaven into Apple Logic using identical amp settings, signal chains, and musical parts (each guitar was tracked with the same short chord sequence, melody line, and riff). Then, I had a friend play back the sounds without me knowing which guitar was blasting out of my M-Audio BX5 studio monitors.
The good news for Champions of the Truth, is that I found the 59 M-NOS did produce a slightly twang-ier tone with more articulate and punchy midrange frequencies in the 1kHz to 3kHz range. I couldn’t determine much difference between the three guitars with the neck pickup engaged, but the 59 M-NOS sounded somewhat bigger, bolder, and more aggressive with the bridge pickup selected, as well as with both the bridge and neck pickups rocking. So, yes, the 15-year-old pickups definitely added a shade more smack and pop and twang. Operative word here is “shade,” but I nonetheless dug the hyper-cool sound of the 59 M-NOS.
As with most Danos, the playability of the new model is very good, and you also get a much more studly tunable, die-cast bridge, as compared to most other Danelectros out there. The 59 M-NOS is a wonderful addition to this super-fun line of retro beauties.
PRICE $349 street
NUT WIDTH 1.65"
NECK Maple, C shape, bolt-on
FRETBOARD 25"-scale rosewood, 14" radius
FRETS 21 medium jumbo
TUNERS Traditional Danelectro
BODY Masonite top and bottom
BRIDGE Wraparound, adjustable
PICKUPS Two NOS lipstick
CONTROLS Two concentric Volume/Tone, 3-way selector switch
WEIGHT 6 lbs
FACTORY STRINGS Korean-made custom set
KUDOS Retro-licious! Unique tones. Good playability. Fab colors.