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 1970's, 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 were 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 as can be seen below.
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
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 also making guitars and pickups
and selling them through St. Louis Music in the 1980's. With the Westone Spectrum guitar seen above 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' line. Production facilities
for Westone instruments had by this time been moved to Korea.
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 (had the neck & fingerboard support
a 24th fret). He felt that the octave point always produced the best overall tonal qualities and harmonics possible for
a pickup. Apparently he had not changed his opinion since. According to literature at the time the Signature I guitar was
only available in two colors Black (WEA100BK) or White (WEA100WH).
As seen upper left & right, Dan Armstrong Signature I guitar. At left, the lower cutaway is shaped after an 80's style Strat. The
upper body has considerable sculpting to it (the entire top half is much thinner than the bottom half). In an unusual twist (for Dan anyway) the body
only features two strap pegs. Unlike a Strat or a Jaguar, the output jack of this guitar is located on the side of the instrument, much like where you
would find it on a Gibson Les Paul Standard or Custom guitar but a bit more to the back.
At upper right, the upper cutaway is somewhat modeled after a Fender Mustang or Jaguar type guitar. The
flat black scratchplate set against the high gloss finish of the body is classy looking and has a unique shape, with the lower half fashioned in the usual
Strat style, while the upper half takes on a style all its own. This portion of the scratchplate is adorned with the Dan Armstrong name in white lettering.
Mounted on (and through) this flat black finished scratchplate are two Dan Armstrong pickups with matching black covers. At left, the front, or neck pickup,
called the 'Mini-bucker' - is a mini type humbucking pickup, reminiscent of mini humbuckers found on other guitars, only hotter. At the right, the back, or
'saddle' pickup was, at the time, Dan's newest pickup. Called the 'Maxi' - which is basically Dan's 'Rock Monster' pickup with an additional coil added, making it
a lead humbucker that is actually three single-coil pickups in one package. Using the toggle switch, a wide range of tones can be achieved as one can choose
different coils to introduce into (or remove from) the guitars circuitry. Coupled with the front pickup even more tonal qualities can eminate from the
instrument. Given it's large size there is an additional height adjustment 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.
At left, the pickup selector switch is also mounted on the scratchplate in the usual Strat fashion and features five selector positions. The first,
or very rear position (towards the bottom/back) of the guitar is the rear & middle coil of the Maxi pickup making it a humbucker. The next
position upward (upward & towards the neck) is the single 'middle position' coil of the Maxi pickup by itself, making it a single coil. Going
upward/forward again on the switch activates the single 'front position' coil of the Maxi pickup by itself. Going up and forward again on
the switch to the fourth position activates the rear & middle coil of the Maxi pickup in humbucking mode - identical to the first position - but
includes the front humbucker in addition. So it's more/less like a Les Paul in the middle switch position (i.e. two humbuckers). The
last upward, or fifth and final position is the front humbucker by itself. A master volume & tone control with black colored knobs complete the
scratchplate mounted hardware. At right, The Signature I is also equipped with a licensed Floyd Rose locking tremolo system in a
matching black color.
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.