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  • Writer's pictureJohn Barton


Nathan Daniels began building and selling electric guitars in New Jersey 1954. His instruments were unique. They were  mostly semi-acoustic, constructed from a wooden frame with tops, backs and often pick guards made from Masonite. Most of his instruments were sold to Sears to resell under the Silvertone name. Others, were sold to distributors who then sold them to music stores under the Dan Electro name. The pickups were made from wire wrapped around an alnico magnet, then wrapped with tape and inserted into lipstick tubes purchased from a supplier to the cosmetics industry. The non-adjustable necks had Brazilian rosewood fret boards. In 1967 The Dan Electro company was sold to entertainment conglomerate MCA. That lasted about two years. Then the guitar company folded, but for better or worse MCA did not. The guitars that they produced were named Coral and were sold directly to music stores.

In 1967 Vincent Bell, an extremely prolific and talented session musician invented the Electric Sitar. The sitar had been used on records by George Harrison and to a lesser extent Brian Jones. Few people had the time and commitment to devote to learning and mastering such a challenging instrument, so Vincent Bell decided to create a guitar that did a remarkable job of replicating that unique sound, and could be played by almost any guitarist.

The Coral Sitar employed a novel bridge design that strings buzzed against. It used regular Dan Electro pick ups and neck along with chambered poplar wood bodies that were made in Japan. I have found that there is a bit of a trick to get these properly intonated and still obtain that great sitar simulation. The Coral Sitar also employs twelve sympathetic strings that can be tuned a variety of ways. The strings on this instrument are tuned chromatically, I have never been able to use them very effectively myself. If you have any suggestions, please share them! These spacey instruments were assembled at the factory in Neptune, New Jersey.

Dan Electro also built a stripped down electric sitar without the sympathetic strings. A few years ago I saw Ron Wood open a Stones concert playing “Street Fighting Man” on his Dan Electro Sitar although he also has at least one Coral Sitar. The Coral Sitar has been associated with songs like the Box Tops “Cry Like a Baby” and a number of pop songs, but clearly it can be a real rock and roll machine. Just listen to Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and lots of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers material.   I confess I even think it sounds great on “Band of Gold” by Freda Payne. (That may be because Vinnie himself is playing the Coral Sitar on that track.) 

Forty years after it’s invention the Coral Electric Sitar is more popular than ever. While it may be true that “You don’t have to be a Hindu to play the Coral Electric Sitar”, you just may need to be a Sheik to be able to afford one!

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