The 1969 Ampeg NAMM Invitation
At the 1969 NAMM show in Chicago which ran from June 22nd to the 26th Dan Armstrong and Ampeg revealed the clear acrylic guitars and basses. Ironically, at this very same show a Japanese manufacturer showcased one of their brand new instruments which was, in fact, a copy of Dan's new clear guitar!

"Ampeg had released a brochure of the six string instrument earlier - actually when the guitar was still in the prototype stage, so word of it was already out there, and it had spread. But I really didn't think anyone could make a copy quite that fast." said Dan in my second interview with him in 2000.

According to Dan another 'outfit' (he couldn't remember which) approached the Ampeg booth all dressed in suits. As they began taking photos of the instrument Dan soon noticed that one of them was always holding the clear guitar while the other was always taking the photographs. "They never switched." Dan later said, with exasperation that began to rise up in his voice.

Dan then noticed that the one that was constantly having his photograph taken with the guitar was wearing an unusual suit that had a pattern of squares all over it. Although it was the late 1960's this stuck out like the proverbial 'sore thumb' to Dan who proceeded to walk up to him with a ruler, press it against the suit only to find out that the 'squares' on this suit measured 1" by 1" exactly. By now Dan had lost his composure and said "I know what you're doing." Years later Dan replied "those pirates were even too cheap to buy a guitar to start making their copies from."

While I've researched the origin of the various Dan Armstrong copies at length, the fact remains that so many different Japanese guitar factories were producing these instruments in order to quickly cash in on Dan's creation that I have decided to yield said information on to someone who has spent as much time researching the origin of Japanese made instruments as I have on Dan Armstrong. The best source of information I have been able to find has been online and can be found here.

      photo courtesy of George Jara
     photo courtesy of George Jara

"Univox® made the closest copy with their Lucy® models " said Dan in my interview with him in 2000. Univox instruments were imported and distributed by the Merson Musical Products Corp. which was a subsidiary of Gulf+Western Industries INC.®

As seen above left, a front side view of the Univox Lucy guitar, model UHS-1. To the upper right, the backside view of the Lucy guitar. Clear acrylic bodies notwithstanding, the Unixov Lucy instruments never really looked all that close of a copy to me. Their Gibson® style headstocks, large dot inlay markers, metal covered pickups and some very oversized scratchplates seem pretty far off the mark to me and I cannot help but wonder if maybe Dan was referring to their playability. Maybe he just hadn't seen many of the other copies.

     photo courtesy of George Jara
      photo courtesy of George Jara

Above left and right, front and back views of the Univox Lucy guitar headstock. While the front maintains the look of the Dan Armstrong · Ampeg guitar with the Formica® veneer on the headstock and a matching truss rod cover, it's Gibson shaped headstock is a style, or trend the other way. Notice the 3-piece laminated neck and headstock - as well as changed out tuners in the back view. Also notice how the original screws were used to seal the original screw holes.

   photo courtesy of George Jara
     photo courtesy of George Jara

At upper left, a closer look at the larger scratchplate on these guitars. Notice how it wraps around the pickups unlike the Dan Armstrong · Ampeg model. Notice the pickups have metal covers even though they are single coil units. Also notice the pickup mounting screws, three per pickup with 2 screws on the low E string side, and one on the other side. Lastly, notice just to the left of the tone control, where it appears a scratchplate screw is missing, and a washer has been added underneath the output jack, for the scratchplate is broken up in and around this area - evidence that these guitars have some of the same issues as an original Dan Armstrong · Ampeg instrument.

At upper right, the combination bridge/tailpiece closely resembles the Dan Armstrong · Ampeg model though the rosewood bridge features a different shape than the Ampeg model. One thing very much in common with the original Dan Armstrong guitar can be seen at upper left. Musicians stepping on their cords and breaking the scratchplate. Here you can see the broken Formica underneath the output jack as well as the addition of a washer placed under the jack afterwards. Back at upper right, notice the diamond shaped pattern that makes up the knurling on the volume knob.



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