1967 Danelectro “Vinnie Bell” electric Coral sitar

George Harrison's interest in Indian music, and the sitar in particular, began in April 1965 during the making of The Beatles movie "Help!" During a break from filming a scene in an Indian restaurant, Harrison picked up a sitar that was being used by one of the musicians on set. Harrison’s use of the instrument on the groups albums Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band would soon influence a generation of young musicians. Its distinctive drone became an integral part of the growing psychedelic movement. However, the instrument was very difficult to play, let alone amplify, so skilled guitarists made passable imitations of it on their electric guitars.
In the U.S.A., leading session guitarist Vincent “Vinnie Bell” Gambella had devised a novel "Buzz-bridge" that more accurately mimicked the unique sound of the sitar. Bell set about designing an instrument that any guitarist could use. The result was the oddly shaped “Coral” electric sitar, manufactured by the Danelectro company, which first appeared in late 1967. The Coral sitar wasn't in production for long and its initial success was limited. However, its impact would became more widely felt during the 1970's, when it was featured on dozens of hits from the Tamla Motown and Philadelphia Soul acts.
Nathan Daniel founded Danelectro in 1947. Throughout the late 1940s, the company produced amplifiers for Sears, Roebuck and Company and Montgomery Ward. In 1954, Danelectro started producing the Danelectro lines of solid body electric guitars and amplifiers. The company was also contracted to make guitars and amplifiers that were branded with the names of various store brands, such as Silvertone and Airline. Later hollow-bodied guitars were constructed out of Masonite and plywood to save costs and increase production speed resulting in no-frills guitars of reasonably good tone at low cost. In 1966, Danelectro was sold to entertainment conglomerate, Music Corporation of America (MCA), and a year later the Coral line was introduced. In 1969, the Danelectro plant was closed, due to MCA's attempt to market Danelectros to small guitar shops rather than the large department stores.
Although Bell invented a number of electric guitar models for Danelectro and other companies, he is best known for inventing the electric sitar that bears his name. His invention had the following features: a light weight two-point “teardrop with treble-horn” shape; solid center construction with a Masonite top and a pine frame back; 13 ½” wide body and 1 5/8” deep; one-piece mahogany neck with a Brazilian rosewood headstock; nut width of just over 1 3/4 inches, a scale length of 26 1/4 inches; slab Brazilian rosewood finger board with 21 jumbo frets; white dot position markers and silver side-dot markers; in-line 'Style 3' headstock with horizontal metal "Coral" badge and silver silk-screened "Sitar"; all on-one-side individual double line Kluson Deluxe tuners with oval metal buttons; three-bolt neck plate and micro-adjustment; two Danelectro “Lipstick” tube single-coil pickups, height adjustable from the top; thirteen "drone' strings with metal friction pegs and a single Danelectro “Lipstick” tube single-coil pickup (also height-adjustable from the top); six black plastic control knobs with ribbed sides and metal tops: three volume and three tone; transparent floating Lucite pick guard with frosting and "Vincent Bell/Signature Design/Electric Sitar" written in black; rosewood "Sitarmatic" bridge for the "play" strings; two rosewood bridges with fret wire saddles for the "drone" strings; transparent floating Lucite bridge cover over both sets of strings. All of the original Corals were supplied in a "Red Gator" finish (a crinkly red-and-black mock-alligator "skin")
The characteristic buzzing effect is achieved as the strings vibrate over a carved rosewood "table" approx. 1½" long, which is very subtly curved in profile. Next to the six main strings are a set of 13 sympathetic "drone" strings that can be tuned to chords or scales of one's choice. The transparent Lucite guard keeps the player's forearm off the drones when playing on the normal strings.
Both Harrison and John Lennon were each given a “Vinnie Bell” Coral sitar from the beginning of the production run. Unfortunately, neither one used it on a Beatles recording.
The Danelectro “Vinnie Bell” Coral sitar shown in our collection is also from among the first few made and is identical to the ones given to Harrison and Lennon.

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Original advert featuring Vinnie Bell playing his Coral sitar.

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The U.S. Patent for the Coral sitar.