The first prototypes of this very different electric guitar were made in 1969 for USA amplifier company Ampeg by Dan Armstrong, who had already made quite a name for himself both as a player and repairer by the time he opened his own repair shop in New York in 1965.
With its clear acrylic solid body – named Lucite, Plexiglas and Perspex – it soon earned the ‘See-Through’ nickname, which was apparently trademarked by Ampeg. Its brief production lasted from late 1969 to ’71, when, after a disagreement with Ampeg, Dan Armstrong relocated to the UK.
Its futuristic plastic body housed some tricky passive electronics, too, and could be fitted with various interchangeable electric guitar pickups – Rock Treble, Rock Bass, Country Treble, Country Bass, Jazz Treble and Jazz Bass – designed in collaboration with Bill Lawrence.
It may well have become a footnote in guitar history had Ampeg not got one into the hands of Keith Richards in October 1969 while The Stones prepared for their ’69 US ‘comeback’ tour.
Aside from featuring on Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! (and picturing on the original album cover), it was the ‘See-Through’ that hung around Richards’ neck while the horrors of Altamont unfolded: the concert that ended the swinging ’60s dream.
While you get a great idea of the guitar’s gnarly tone on the film of The Stones at the Marquee in 1971, before they headed off to the south of France (that’s another story!), the ‘See-Through’ guitar, and its bass version, has had plenty of rockstar outings from the likes of Ronnie Wood in the early Faces days, to Bill Wyman, Geezer Butler, Phil Lynott, Joe Perry, Tom Petty, Tom Verlaine and Dave Grohl.
Iconic? We’d say so.