Retro-Rama 1967 Silvertone 1442

IN THE 1950S AND ’60S, THE SEARS CATALOG was a staple in virtually every household in America.

IN THE 1950S AND ’60S, THE SEARS CATALOG was a staple in virtually every household in America. A variety of manufacturers made guitars and basses for Sears, including Harmony, Valco/Supro, Teisco, Kay, and Danelectro, who made this bass. Nathan Daniel started making amplifiers for Epiphone in the 1930s, and in 1947 he founded Danelectro. The next year he landed the Sears & Roebuck account, and began manufacturing amplifiers for them exclusively. In 1957, Danelectro began making guitars for Sears under the iconic Silvertone brand name. For the next decade, a wide variety of well-made, inexpensive basses and guitars jumped out of the Sears mail order catalog into the eager hands of aspiring musicians all over the country. The classic Dano features—lipstick pickups, semi-hollow masonite bodies, and the infamous “amp in the case”—all became part of Silvertone lore. John Entwistle played a Dano on the Who’s epic “My Generation,” and the E Street Band’s Gary Tallent has used Danelectros extensively over the years.

This 1967 short-scale bass—known as the 1442— and its big brother, the 1443, were the last Silvertone bass models produced by Danelectro before the company was sold to MCA. At the time, the vast majority of Danelectro’s products were made for Sears, but this was to be the end of the line, as the company ceased production in 1969. The 1442 sold for the bargain price of $79.95— or you could pay $5 a month! For a mere $114.95, you could get the two-pickup 1443, a long-scale bass which also featured Fender-style tuners, as opposed to the one-piece “skate key” tuners on the 1442. Silvertones may have been inexpensive, but they were very well made, and this two-tone coffee-colored beauty still sounds great and plays wonderfully.

This slim solidbody’s shape is reminiscent of a Fender Jaguar, and features the classic Dano bridge (with a wooden saddle), a large pickguard, and a thumbrest. The 21-fret neck is straight and fast, and the intonation is quite good. It has a neck tilt adjustment on the back, as well. The large, round volume and tone knobs look like they came off a Silvertone amp of that era. The electronics are elegant in their simplicity and allow quite a bit of variation. The alnico “lipstick” pickup sounds sweet, and the three-way tone switch gives a number of cool sonic options. In the middle position it is flat, and the bass boost position fattens things up nicely with a throaty midrange. The third position cuts the low end quite dramatically and could be helpful if playing a palm-muted “tic-tac” style part. In any position, the short-scale thump is always in evidence, especially with flatwound strings. In short, this bass is a gas to play and could fit into any number of musical situations.

The 1442 may have been the last bass model to be made in the Neptune, NJ Danelectro factory, but the influence and style of the company’s guitar and bass models have stood the test of time and had a big impact on many young musicians of the day. It’s been a long time since Sears was in the musical instrument business, but way back in the day, Silvertone products were an affordable option for many aspiring musicians, and considering the build quality of the 1442, there may still be few of these out there in good shape. Thanks to Nashville bassist Don Kerce for sharing this cool bass from the Swinging ’60s!


Retro-Rama : 1973 Hagstrom Swede

HAGSTROM WAS FOUNDED IN ALVDALEN, SWEDEN IN THE 1920S by 19-year-old Albin Hagstrom. The company initially specialized in making accordions, and business grew steadily through the ’30s and ’40s, despite the economic turmoil of World War II. In addition to building musical instruments, the company also operated a large chain of music stores throughout Scandinavia. By the late 1950s, Hagstrom jumped into the burgeoning guitar market in a big way and successfully marketed their instruments world wide through various distributors, including Selmer in the U.S. 

Retro-Rama: 1984 Steinberger XL25 5-string

HARD AS IT MAY BE FOR SOME OF US to believe, it’s been almost 30 years since the Steinberger bass turned the electric bass world upside down with its unique look and hi-tech tone. Coming to the bass world from a design background, Ned Steinberger arrived armed with a vision to reinvent the basic concepts of creating an electric bass. The first Steinberger bass hit the scene in 1980, and was an immediate sensation—and subject of debate— among bass players worldwide. Appearing at the dawn of the MTV era, the first wave of Steinbergers seemed to be everywhere throughout the ’80s. The Dixie Dregs’ Andy West and reggae bassist/producer Robbie Shakespeare were two early players of this innovative instrument, giving some indication of its global reach.

Retro-Rama : 1940 Kay C-1

 This bass belonged to Music City legend Floyd “Lightnin’” Chance (1926–2005), and currently resides in the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville. Chance was one of the top acoustic bass players in the Nashville from the early ’50s until his retirement in 1988, and he played on records with everyone from the Everly Brothers to Marty Robbins to Hank Williams, Sr., including Hank’s final recording session in 1952 that included the classic “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”