Once in the midst of all this however, Dan soon realized that he needed more help. According to Russell George
"Dan's shop had quickly become a hot spot for musicians to hang out and bring in instruments, not only for repair
work, but for more maintenance things that working musicians and session guitar players just didn't have time for,
string changes and intonation adjustments. Here they could drop off their guitars, have it worked on and even
delivered to a studio in the fraction of the time it used to take."
While in his shop one day, Dan asked Russell if he knew of someone that would work for him. Russell said "well, I have
a friend just out of the military who is a guitar player but he has no training in repair work" to which Dan responded
"as long as he is trustworthy, we can teach him guitar repair". Meanwhile, just out of the service was Mr. Carl Thompson
who one day received a call from his old friend Russell George, who, after getting caught up with everything, told Carl to
expect a call from Dan Armstrong. Carl relates the story "I was sitting on my porch after supper one night when he" (Dan)
"called me up and asked me to go to work for him".
Like Dan, Carl had hoped to get to New York and become a famous jazz player, but when he arrived in New York, and
found himself on 48th Street, he soon found himself surrounded by all the greatest jazz players of the age. "It was a very
humbling experience" Carl states, though with a warm and casual chuckle.
According to Carl, he did his apprenticeship under Eddie Diehl, and while most of it went well, the toughest part was
learning fret work. Carl mentions "a lot of it is just learning the tools, and then using the correct tool for the job
at hand. Fortunately, Eddie was extremely friendly and patient with me and together, we eventually we made a good team."
Carl continues "everyone came into Dan's shop, it became more like a place to jam with other musicians, and as a
result the shop also became more like a booking agency and musicians would even swap playing schedules for studio work,
some with Dan's help, as Dan's shop would serve as a messenger service if need be. Other times it was done without his
services. It was commonplace to see big name talent there, and the phone was ringing off the hook all the time".
Jerome Harris writes in to say "it was inspiring and a bit intimidating to witness the relaxed camaraderie and high skills of the various professional
players who frequented the shop while I bought picks and sets of Dan's strings".
Carl remembers going to lunch one day with Dan and his wife Cynthia, saying "they had as many restaurants on or near
guitar row as they did music stores and one day while waiting for our lunch to arrive, I noticed a man having a bowl
of soup. I soon entered a state of shock when I discovered the man a few tables down from us was none other than John
Sebastian of the Loving Spoonful. I
remember trying to point him out but was still to dazed when all of a sudden Cynthia said 'oh yeah....... that's John'."
Another person that would come to work for Dan, though only part time was Steve Kubica, who had managed to hook the high
'E' string of his 1965 Telecaster® into the lead pickup coil - effectively killing the pickup. Locally, every music store
naturally just wanted to sell him a new pickup, but Steve wanted to use the original, and so he took his guitar in its
soft case, and jumped on a train to New York. At the NY terminal he asked where in the city he could get his guitar
worked on, and everyone directed him to 'Guitar Row' on 48th St. After making several stops at various shops he finally
found himself in Manny's Music. It was there that the salesman directed him to the only place they could think of to
have his old pickup rewound - and that was at Dan Armstrong's Guitar Service.
Steve relates the rest of his story, stating "As I walked into the store and up to the counter a man was standing
there and I asked if he could look at my guitar, to which he replied 'sure.... whatcha got?' As I began to pull the
guitar out of the case a book I was reading about UFO's also came out and he looked at it, and asked 'you read this?'
to which I replied 'ya'. I only had 2 pages to go, and he seemed very interested in it and asked where I got it. I
told him that I bought it in a bookstore in Hartford - then asked him 'do you want it?' - to which he replied
'to keep?' - and I said 'yeah' and he thanked me for it, and told me that he was Dan Armstrong."
"From there I showed him the dead pickup and we talked about everything while Dan took the pickup out of the guitar and
together we went into a back room where he had 2 winding machines, various wire and bobbins as well. I asked him about
the winding machines, and I noticed they were made by a company called 'Meteor' and were actually made for sewing or
sewing machines. Dan informed me that he bought them second hand from some electronics company. We talked everything
from UFO's to Go-Carts for the next 4 to 5 minutes as Dan wound wires on to the bobbin and hooked up a gauss meter to
Once Steve returned home, he plugged in his Telecaster, turned on his amp, and was literally blown away at how much better
his newly rewound pickup sounded over the older one. Steve relates the experience, stating "It was just totally
awesome, the pickup just sang like it never had before. It used to sound so thin, but now it was rich, and full. I was
amazed at his ability and wanted to return to his shop, which I did a week later."
Steve continues, stating "A week later I went back and saw Dan, and I asked him if he had a chance to read the book on
UFO's to which he replied he had started it. We more/less spent that time talking about UFO's as well as various other
topics. I again went back a week after that and he was doing repair work and he asked if I would do a favor for him. I
said 'sure' and he handed me an envelope with some parts in it, probably guitar parts, and asked me to take it to
another repair shop which was located on 34th St. and when I give the envelope to the guy there, to make sure to get an
envelope from him in return, and bring it back to Dan. I grabbed the envelope, and to this day I do not even know why
but I literally ran all the way there and back. From 48th St. to 34th St. is 14 blocks one way meaning I ran some 28
He finishes with "When I got back to Dan's shop, Dan looked up and was surprised to see me back so fast. He asked me
'How did you do that so quick?' - and I told him I ran there and back. I watched him repair instruments a bit and when
it was time to go he asked me 'are you coming back next week?' - to which I replied 'ya' and Dan said 'come a little
earlier and I'll have some work for you, and I'll pay you. The following week he showed me guitar repair as I watched
him do fret work, and to this very day, I still burnish frets the way he showed me back then. Anyway, that is how I
started working for Dan, although I only worked for him part time."
Although Steve would learn guitar repair from Dan, Ironically it was not always in Dan's shop where the teaching and
the learning took place. According to Steve "In addition to his shop, Dan also did work in a loft further down on
48th St. along with another repairman named Dave Worth, who knew Dan for quite some time. Together, they did customer
repairs and/or returns for one of the stores that I think Dave had worked for. Dan did repairs as well, but he mostly
did a lot of set-ups on guitars for the store. Dan's setup work was flawless and it was here that Dan showed me actual
set-up and repair work for the most part."
Steve relates one story, adding "One time there was a Precision Bass® in for repairs as the neck was both twisting
and warping. I couldn't believe my own eyes, as Dan tore it apart, and within 45 minutes he had showed us how to remove
the original frets, then he showed us how to block plain the neck as he did that next. "Once the neck was straight and
level, Dan began re fretting it while showing us how to do it as he went. After he had installed a few frets, he
stopped, then turned toward me and said 'now..... you finish it'."
He continues adding "One thing that I know Dan wanted to do but never did was to learn how to build an acoustic
guitar. He wanted to be able to do that, but just never followed through with it. He had read the book by
called Irving Sloane's Classical Guitar Construction which was published in 1962 or thereabouts. In fact, Dan once
told me that when he first came to New York he had called Mr. Sloane, though he never told me why or what they had
discussed. But maybe that is why he would occasionally stop by at Dan's shop. He was what some might call a very
renaissance type man, as a car would drop him off at the shop and he would walk in and look around at everything.
Then, after a brief visit around the shop he would walk back outside, and within a minute or two the same car that
dropped him off would stop and pick him up."
"My take was that Dan very much respected him, for Dan had learned everything by doing, rather than by apprenticing,
and he would normally be chatting & kidding with his customers. He even had nicknames for some of them. But that side
of Dan's personality would totally disappear whenever Irving Sloane walked into the shop. Not only would Dan follow him
around, but he always addressed him as 'Mr. Sloane'."
I remember one time when he passed by the counter and I was putting strings on a classical guitar when all of a sudden
he said 'you look like you are doing a good job there, but in order to make any money you are going to have to be able
to do it faster'." Steve finished, stating somewhat wryly "That was the first and only time that Irving Sloane
had ever spoken to me."
But anywhere Dan's skills may have fell short in the acoustic world, was more than made up for in the electric world
as Steve Kubica goes on to tell "Dan loved double cutaway Les Paul Specials® & Juniors®. I remember one day in
Dan's shop we were jamming on guitars. I had a single cutaway 1955 Les Paul Special while Dan played on a 1960 Junior,
a double cutaway model. I said as I played 'see how much more richer sounding this pickup is over the one in your Junior?'
and Dan played the Junior a bit more and said 'you're right'. With that he proceeded toward the counter with the Junior
and within 5 minutes or so had it tore apart with the pickup out of the guitar and went to the back room."
Steve continues "He came back about 4 to 5 minutes later, put the pickup back into the guitar and put it all back together
and tuned it back up. As he plugged into the amp he said 'let's try it now' and he started to play. Ten minutes ago the
Special I was playing was better sounding, but now the Junior could wipe the floor with that Special. It totally blew
it away with more fullness, richness, harmonics & tone. When it came to pickups, Dan just had an innate ability to wind them giving them just enough wraps
for the magnet strength without going over with too many wraps or under with too few. It didn't matter what type it
was, every pickup Dan ever worked on always sounded better than before."
Overall, the electric guitar was indeed Dan's first love, and he would follow that love, and his heart for the rest of his life.
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