One of member of a long forgotten group had a guitarist that played a very unusual looking 12 string guitar. I had no clue what type of guitar this was until years later when I discovered it was made by The Danelecto Company of Neptune, New Jersey and was called The Bellzouki.
This guitar was based on an idea from Vinnie Bell. Bell was an in demand studio player in that era. He had wonderful career and played with a myriad of artists and on literally hundreds of hit songs of all styles. He still makes a living as a guitar player and you can hear his guitar in The Family Guy theme. One of the more recognizable songs he did was the watery guitar work on the theme to Midnight Cowboy. Check out his website for some great stories. Be sure to click on Memories and Above and Beyond the work of a session guitarist.
Back in the day his stock of instruments included an 8 string double course Greek instrument called the Bazouki which he tuned like a guitar.
Bell got the idea to electrify the instrument by adding a pickup and then he took the idea a step farther by creating an electric Bazouki with twelve strings.
Bellzouki Model 7010
The Danelectro Bellzouki Model 7010 was introduced around 1961. The body was tear drop shaped with two faux tortoise shell pickguards. The guitar came with one volume and one tone control, plus a 3 way toggle for tone selection.
The neck, like all Danelectros, is a bolt on style and is made of maple capped with a rosewood fretboard. The nut is aluminum and the neck is reinforced with a steel truss rod.
Though the body appears to be solid, like all Danos it is a poplar frame covered with Masonite.
Bellzouki Model 7020
To play the model 7010 you needed a shoulder strap due to its Bazouki-like shape.
The later models, 7020 and 7021 could be played sitting down due to changes in the shape.
Both of these models both have 4 unique points on the body that serve as ornamentation and as a leg rest.
The scale was 24 ½ inches and the neck was slightly wider than the neck on six string Danelectro guitars.
All the models had one or two Lipstick pickups which have their own unique sound and these guitars were no exception to that quality.
The earliest models came with 2 unison G strings to give it more of a Bazouki sound. Later these were adapted to only the 1st & 2nd strings in unison and the bottom four courses tuned in octaves.
Dano next came out with two revised models, the 7020 and the 7021. The model 7020 may have been due to a suggestion of a fan of Mr. Bell to improve his design. The model 7020 had a similar shape to the original tear drop, but 4 notches surround the body to make it possible to play the guitar while sitting. The toggle switch was moved from the top of the instrument to the lower side. This model came with twin lipstick pickups and five potentiometers for volume, tone and master.
Bellzouki Model 7021
The model 7021 was much like the 7020 in accoutrements but its body shape was exactly like the Danelectro Electric Sitars body. This would be the sitar that came with 18 strings and was another one of Vinnie Bell inventions. (There was another version of the Danelectro sitar with an oval shape and only six strings.)
Most 1960’s groups favored more expensive model 12 string guitars, but the Danelectro 12 had been around much longer, it was an excellent player and a great bargain.