Ampeg Dan Armstrong Solid Body Electric Guitar (1969)

Ampeg  Dan Armstrong Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1969)

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Item # 8291
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Ampeg Dan Armstrong Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1969), made in New Jersey, serial # A867D, clear acrylic finish, acrylic body, maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

This is a fine example of one of the last great 1960s American guitars, the Ampeg Dan Armstrong, nicknamed the "See Through" for obvious reasons. Its history is fairly straightforward. In 1968 amplifier giant Ampeg was looking to get into the guitar market. They consulted New York-based Dan Armstrong whose "hip" guitar shop had become a Mecca for electric players.

Armstrong agreed to design what they billed as "The Ultimate Guitar", a high quality instrument that was an original concept, not a re-tread. The resulting guitar was both visually and sonically unique. In contrast to many over-designed 1960s guitars, Armstrong emphasized clean lines and simplicity -- so clean, in fact, that you can see right through it!

The most radical element (the body) is cut from a block of transparent Lucite. The deep double cutaway offers access to all 24 frets, inspired by the Danelectro Longhorn. The edges were contoured to reduce weight and make it comfortable to play. The design has other kinship with Danelectros. The chrome bridgeplate was similar, but bolted solidly to the body with a similar one-piece rosewood saddle. A whimsical touch is a wood-grained Formica pickguard and headstock facing -- a visual pun on a plastic guitar!

A daring element was equipping the "ultimate" guitar with only a single pickup. Armstrong knew many rock players used primarily the bridge pickup, and in the interest of a solid and compact guitar eliminated any other. The desire for sonic versatility led to another original concept: interchangeable pickups. The player could tailor the guitar to their own style or vary it for different situations by merely swapping one pickup for another.

Armstrong designed differently-voiced units assisted by Bill Lawrence; any can be dropped into the body, secured by a small knurled knob on the back. Initially 6 were offered. Two came with the guitar, with others available separately for $35.00 each. The stock units were the "RT" (Rock Treble) and the "CB" (Country Bass); this guitar has the "RT" mounted and also comes with the rare "ST" (Sustain Treble) humbucking unit.

The neck is relatively traditional, maple with a rosewood fingerboard, bolted solidly to the body. The small, slightly asymmetrical headstock looks graceful and still rather modern. The truss rod is adjusted at the head, which is equipped with heavy cast Schaller machine heads. The necks have a somewhat "Gibson-y" feel despite the Fender-like materials.

The Dan Armstrong/Ampeg guitar was launched when established guitar names were perceived as losing some luster. The "See Through" guitars (a term Ampeg trademarked) were premiered at the June 1969 NAMM show, listing at $290.00 plus $60 for the case.

The "See Throughs" got a huge boost when the Rolling Stones took a set on their epic 1969 US Tour. The guitar became forever linked to Keith Richards, and other players soon followed "Keef's" lead. Flamin' Groovies' guitarist Cyril Jordan picked one up in 1970 for the Groovies' masterwork TEENAGE HEAD and still plays it today.

Mountain's Leslie West preferred the Ampeg for slide; the full fretboard access and solid sustain both assets. Stone/Face Ron Wood made use of one in the '70s and beyond. As the '70s wore on into the '80s, the Ampeg also became heavily associated with Greg Ginn of Black Flag. Another occasional user was Television's Tom Verlaine.

Unfortunately the Armstrong guitar had a short production life. Armstrong had issues with Ampeg's management and refused to continue his guitar licensing agreement. The See-Through guitars ceased production in 1971. Around 3,000 each of the guitar and bass were produced over less than 2 years; this is a moderately early model with a serial number just over the first 800.

The Ampeg/Armstrong remains unique today despite many other subsequent guitars made from different plastics. It still exudes badass cool and sounds as unique as it looks.
 
Overall length is 38 in. (96.5 cm.), 13 in. (33 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 1/2 in. (622 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

Very clean and original with only some light scuffing and dings, most notably to the back of the neck around the 10th fret. The guitar remains all original and unaltered except for a shim under the bridge saddle. Very little wear to the frets or fingerboard and an excellent player.

The somewhat fragile Formica pickguard is in perfect shape with no cracks, unlike many! The "RT" pickup is currently mounted, but an unmarked unit that appears to be the "ST" is also present. Includes the original HSC that is long enough to also fit the bass version. Excellent Condition.