1969 Coral Electric Sitar
Coral Electric Sitar By George Gruhn and Sarah Rose Jones13071
Late-’60s Coral Electric SitarFor centuries, Indian musicians have utilized the resonant sympathetic strings of the sitar to create the unique sounds of classical Indian music. Traditional sitar design combines a body fashioned from a large gourd with a long, hollow neck made of teak or tun wood and two bridges made of bone, horn, or ebony at the base of the body. Typically built with 18, 19, or 20 strings, six or seven primary playable strings run across raised, adjustable frets into one bridge with the remaining drone strings fed through small holes in the fretboard and onto the second bridge in order to pick up sympathetic vibrations from the playable strings. In the 1950s and ’60s, Indian musician Ravi Shankar brought the sitar to a wider audience when he toured the world performing his own compositions and Indian classical music. The sitar then found its way onto popular recordings of the ’60s after The Beatles’ George Harrison embraced the instrument and studied under Shankar and Shambhu Das. It can be heard on several Beatles songs, and on the Rolling Stones’ 1966 hit “Paint It Black.” The popularity of the Indian sitar led to an inventive American instrument – the electric sitar. Amplifier designer/builder Nat Daniel founded the Danelectro company in 1947 with the intention of producing well-made budget instruments and amplifiers. In addition, the company supplied instruments to Sears Roebuck under the brand name Silvertone, as well as Airline-branded instruments to Montgomery Ward. In ’54, the company began producing electric guitars, and in subsequent years patented a number of innovative instrument and amplifier components. Daniel found a friend and creative ally in prolific New York session player Vincent “Vinnie” Bell, who designed several electric guitar models for Danelectro, including the electric sitar under its own Coral brand – a slightly higher-priced budget line that included additional Vincent Bell signature models along with several other solid and hollowbody electric guitars and basses. For decades, Bell saw high demand for his talent creating guitar sounds and effects; his work was heard on recordings by an extensive list of pop performers (including Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra) in numerous genres, and featured on commercial jingles, theme songs, movie scores including Airport, Barbarella, and mentor Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack for the cult television hit “Twin Peaks.” Growing weary of the complications of recording and transporting an Indian sitar, Bell was inspired to create an electric instrument with a similar sound that was not only portable and easy to record, but designed to be played in standard tuning, so it could be picked up and played by any guitarist. The first prototypes were created and hand-built by Bell. The production version had six strings, along with a set of 13 drone strings on the bass side of the body, which, according to the owner’s manual “respond to the vibrations of the main strings transmitted through the sitar body.” The one shown here has the teardrop shape with treble horn, six strings with “Sitarmatic” bridge and six-on-a-side Kluson Deluxe tuners, 13 drone strings with two rosewood bridges with metal saddles and metal friction pegs designed to be tuned with a harp-style wrench, three “lipstick tube” pickups (two for the played strings, one for the drones), three Volume knobs, three Tone knobs, floating pickguard with the Bell Signature Design logo, a finish dubbed “Textured Bombay Red,” rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays, and a Patent Pending sticker affixed to the back of the headstock.
Recently, the owner of a well known recording studio was in the shop who had never heard of this remarkable instrument. This is a original with some playing wear, but it really sounds and plays perfectly. While neither the Beatles nor the Stones used these on the above mentioned recordings, the Stones did use on on "Street Fighting Man". In fact I have seen Ron Wood playing one live, only his wasn't as nice as this one. Just listen to "Signed, Sealed Delivered" by Stevie Wonder and there it is. You will find the Coral Sitar on numerous classic recordings. This one has been in the shop for a while and actually, one of the Yardbirds played, "Heart Full of Soul" on it,
right here in the shop one day! Yes, I like this guitar a great deal, but please don't feel bad about purchasing it, as I have one of my own. (How could I not?) $4K.