Local San Francisco music critic and author, Joel Selvin,
featured an electric sitar segment on his weekly show
"Selvin On The City."
Joel was happy to provide a brief overview of the instrument.
Invented in 1967 by New York session guitarist Vinnie Bell and guitar maker Nathaniel Daniels of Danelectro,
the electric sitar was quickly and briefly in vogue on records from New York, where Bell inevitably played
the instrument, to Memphis, where Reggie Young more than capably added the instrument to tracks by the Box
Tops, B.J. Thomas and others. The Coral Electric Sitar, the most popular brand of several versions,
substituted a "buzz bridge" for the sympathetic strings found on the Indian sitar, which was enjoying
a faddish popularity on the rock scene (Beatles, Yardbirds, etc.). The electric sitar always had
problems staying in tune and the chords didn't sound quite right, so the instrument was largely used
to play melody. The electric sitar rapidly dropped out favor, as the summer of love passed, and Steve
Miller is fond of telling concert audiences that he found the instrument he used with such great success
on his "Wild Mountain Honey" in a barrel at Manhattan musical instrument store Manny's marked
"Any Guitar $99." By the time, Jeff Baxter used the model on "Do It Again" from the first Steely
Dan album, the instrument had already passed from the scene and the arcane guitar sounded fresh all
over in the context. Over the years, the instrument has developed a constituency and the collectors'
items now change hands for $1500 or more apiece.