How the Ampeg Dan Armstrong may well have become a footnote in guitar history had the 'See-Through' electric not ended up in the hands of Keith Richards

Ampeg Dan Armstrong
(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

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.  

Ampeg Dan Armstrong

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

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Dave Burrluck
Gear Reviews Editor, Guitarist

Dave Burrluck is one of the world’s most experienced guitar journalists, who started writing back in the '80s for International Musician and Recording World, co-founded The Guitar Magazine and has been the Gear Reviews Editor of Guitarist magazine for the past two decades. Along the way, Dave has been the sole author of The PRS Guitar Book and The Player's Guide to Guitar Maintenance as well as contributing to numerous other books on the electric guitar. Dave is an active gigging and recording musician and still finds time to make, repair and mod guitars, not least for Guitarist’s The Mod Squad.