The origins of the Westone guitar line go back as far back as 1900 when Matsumoku Industrial was established. Matsumoku began in Matsumoto, Japan, as a family owned woodworking business that specialized in building elaborate furniture and other various items. By the end of the second world war, the Singer® Corporation established the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Japan, and set up production facilities in Nagoya. Matsumoku Industrial was contracted to build its sewing machine cabinets, and by 1951 became a partially owned subsidiary of Singer, Japan.

In addition to furniture and sewing machine cabinets Matsumoku also built amplifier cabinets, speaker boxes and wooden cabinets for audio and television makers and by the mid 1950's Matsumoku began to look into other woodworking markets. Using their already well established background in woodworking, they made inroads into the musical instrument market.

While other Japanese companies were producing similar instruments, Matsumoku set out to distinguish itself by producing high quality acoustic and electric guitars. By the early 1970s, Matsumoku had acquired new mills, lathes and specialized presses and began to increase musical instrument production. Combined with its staff of skilled craftsmen, Matsumoku was able to mass produce guitars of higher quality. Because it manufactured guitars under contract, the Matsumoku name was largely unknown until 1979, when Matsumoku began to market its own guitars under the Westone name which flourished throughout most of the 1980's.

By 1986 though, the home sewing machine market was in heavy decline and Singer was nearly bankrupt. Matsumoku found it could not afford to buy itself out of Singer and by 1987 had closed down and all international rights to the Westone name was sold to St. Louis Music Company that same year. Various brochures/flyers of the time show 'SLM' within the literature itself. These flyers also began to display instruments with more radical body styles, no doubt in order to keep up with the times. Another change that was seen in the brochures was the inclusion of the Dan Armstrong Master Series® pickups in their guitars.

Dan had been marketing pickups through St. Louis Music since the early 1980's so whether the inclusion of his Master Series pickups in the Westone guitars was due to this prior association with SLM or not is unknown, but it would seem likely, for literature as early as October 1989 features Dan Armstrong single-coil and humbucking pickups in both the Westone 'Spectrum II Custom' and 'Spectrum GT Custom' guitars.

Despite these changes however, the Westone sales figures were noticeably down from the years prior. In their attempt to stay afloat, more changes were made to their lines as can be seen in their 1990 brochure. St. Louis Music decided to include a line of 'personalized' instruments. Guitars that were designed by musicians and.......of all things..... designers. This new line of instruments would come to be known as the Westone 'Signature Series'.

Enter Dan Armstrong, who had successfully designed the clear acrylic guitars and basses for Ampeg in the late 60's and early 70's as well as producing his 'London' series instruments in the early 70's, while making guitars and pickups and selling them through St. Louis Music in the 1980's. With the Westone Spectrum guitars already sporting his Master Series pickups, It wasn't a very big leap for SLM to contract Dan to design a guitar for their new Signature Series line. By late 1989 or early 1990 Dan produced an instrument for Westone which would come to be called the 'Dan Armstrong Signature' guitar - and take its place among the other elite instruments of the Westone 'Signature Series'.

The Westone 1990 brochure shows two models of the Dan Armstrong Signature guitar. The Dan Armstrong Signature I and the Dan Armstrong Signature III guitar. Oddly enough, there was no Signature II guitar. These guitars featured solid Alder bodies that were gracefully contoured for playing comfort, along with satin finished maple necks and 23 fret rosewood fingerboards. These 23 fret fingerboards were a hold-over from the time when Dan produced his 'London' instruments back in the early 1970's. He was of the belief then that the pickup pole pieces for the front pickup should be positioned precisely where the 24th fret would lie in order to achieve the best overall tonal qualities and harmonics possible for a rhythm pickup. Apparently he had not changed his opinion since.

The Dan Armstrong Signature I featured a fixed, die cast bridge/tailpiece along with a Dan Armstrong Mini® humbucker in the neck position with the Dan Armstrong Maxi® humbucking pickup in the bridge position. The Signature III guitar features a Floyd Rose® licensed double locking tremolo system, as well as the same Mini humbucker in the neck position and Dan's Rock Monster® pickup which employs 3 coils and 2 magnets to achieve its massive power and tone in the bridge position.

As can be seen, the Dan Armstrong Signature guitar looks like a cross between a Fender Stratocaster® and a Fender Jaguar® with the lower cutaway and overall majority of the body sporting the looks and lines of a 1980's type Strat® body shape moving to more of a Jaguar look on the upper cutaway. The instrument features a bolt-on maple neck with the aforementioned 23 fret unbound rosewood fingerboard with larger 'dot' type inlays. Unlike a Strat, the output jack of this guitar is located approximately where one would be on a Les Paul® guitar. Also featured is a Floyd Rose licensed locking tremolo system, a master volume & tone control, and a Strat style pickup selector switch all mounted on a plastic type scratchplate with Dan's name etched in across the top. Notice how 3 screws are used to lower or raise the bridge pickup.


This Dan Armstrong 'Signature III' guitar utilizes the 3 coil 'Rock Monster' humbucking pickup in the bridge position and a 'Mini-Bucker' pickup in the neck position. The pickups on these guitars are extremely hot. They're rich, dynamic and biting. Overall, they work best for heavier sounding music.

There is an additional screw on the treble side of the bridge pickup that keeps it from rocking back and forth. In addition it can also be used for any other adjustments that one may desire, like purposely tilting the pickup one way or another. Dan's name can also be seen on the bridge pickup cover.

The pickup selector switch has five positions. The first, or very rear position (towards the bottom/back) of the guitar is the rear & middle coil of the Rock Monster pickup making it a humbucker. The next position upward (upward & towards the neck) is the single 'middle position' coil of the Rock Monster pickup by itself, making it a single coil. Going upward/forward again on the switch activates the single 'front position' coil of the Rock Monster pickup by itself. Going up and forward again on the switch to the fourth position activates both pickups together in humbucking mode, while the last upward, or fifth and final position is the front humbucker by itself.

continue

menu


Names and images are TMand Dan Armstrong / Ampeg. All rights reserved.
All other names and images are TMand of their respective owners. All rights reserved.