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Silvertone was the brand name used by Sears, Roebuck and Company for its line of sound equipment from 1915 to 1972. A hand-cranked phonograph was introduced under the Silvertone brand by Sears in 1915. Beginning in the 1920s, the brand was expanded to include Silvertone radios and again in the 1930s, superseding the Supertone branding on musical instruments.
Probably best known for their line of well-made yet inexpensive guitars, the brand became popular with novice musicians. Jerry Garcia, Rudy Sarzo, Chet Atkins, Bob Dylan, David Lindley, Garry Nutt, John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty, Joan Jett, Jack White, Mikee Plastik, James Hetfield, Dave Grohl, Phil Keaggy, Mark Knopfler, Brad Paisley, Dr. SETI, Joe Walsh, and countless others had a Silvertone for their first electric, bass, or acoustic guitar. The Canadian band Chad Allan and The Silvertones, which would go on to become The Guess Who, took its name from this line of instruments. Pete Townshend used them in live performance with The Who for the purpose of smashing them (after he'd played them.) Jack White of The White Stripes frequently uses vintage Silvertone amplifiers. Singer-songwriter Beck's main guitar is a Silvertone. Bon Iver used one in making For Emma, Forever Ago.
The guitars, especially the 1960s models, are frequently prized by collectors today. One of the best-known Silvertone offerings is the Danelectro Silvertone 1448, made in the early to mid-1960s. The guitar's case had a small built-in amplifier and the guitar itself had a very short-scale 18-fret neck, which proved popular with beginners. Beck's main guitar is the 1448, stickered with an old Rush sticker, and a sticker that says: "I &heart; Country Music." Other notable 1448 enthusiasts through the years have included Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Melissa Etheridge and many others. Many later imported Silvertone guitars, especially nowadays, are recognizable by a curved hook shape at the end of their heads. Ironically, these inexpensive guitars of 45 years ago remain in the 'stables' of many professional musicians today, who even today bring them out onstage on occasion for their distinctive bluesy sound.
Sears also sold a number of non-stringed instruments under the Silvertone name, such as electronic organs and chord organs manufactured by the Thomas Organ Company, and harmonicas made by the Wm. Kratt Company.
In 2013 Samick released the Silvertone Classic series; reissues of the original Silvertone models from the 50's and 60's. The first two models released were the 1303/U2 (originally manufactured by Danelectro) and the 1478 (originally manufactured by Harmony), followed by the 1449 (also known as the amp in case model, originally manufactured by Danelectro), and the 1423 Jupiter (originally manufactured by Harmony). The reissues are not exact replicas, as that was not the intent of the Silvertone Classic project. Though modeled and engineered as close to the originals as possible (using vintage models to compile the actual specifications), the reissues focused on creating an instrument that is suitable to the modern day guitar player. In January 2014 the Silvertone reissue 1444 bass was debuted at the Anaheim Winter NAMM show, as was a sneak peek at the next phase of the Silvertone Classic project; reintroducing vintage pickups, similar to those created by the legendary Harry DeArmond.
Silvertone is also the name of a model of harmonica made by Huang Harmonicas, more specifically the "Silvertone Deluxe".
Sears sold student-level band instruments under the Silvertone name in the '50's and '60's.
(Kay K-161 Thin Twin)
Silvertone 1423 (Harmony H49 Stratone Jupiter)
Silvertone chord organ
(by Thomas Organ)
- "Silvertone: 1915-1972". Sears Brands, LLC. October 31, 2006. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
- Walsh, Joe. "Joe Walsh". Live from Daryl's House. Episode 60. 10:04 minutes in. YouTube, Palladia, VH1. http://www.livefromdarylshouse.com/currentep.html?ep_id=75. Retrieved 01/03/2014. "It was a Silvertone, which was made by Sears & Roebuck, and that was a [...] huge mail-order company in Chicago. This was way before Amazon[.com] or anything like that. You ordered it and [...] two weeks later my guitar came. I think it was forty bucks."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Silvertone.|
- Silvertone Guitars, Samick Music Corporation — current official site
- Silvertone World — non commercial site
- Vintage Silvertones, Glyph Media Group — curated collection of 1950-1980 models
- Harmony databases, DeMont Guitars — Silvertone guitars made by Harmony
- Vintage American, King of Kays — Silvertone/Harmony variations and info