Dan Armstrong User Comment - Heather Anne Peel
Keith began using the Dan Armstrong in October 1969, when Ampeg employee and soon-to-be Stones amp tech Rich Mandella brought him one to Stephen Stills' home in Laurel Canyon, CA, where the Stones were rehearsing for their 1969 "comeback" tour with new guitarist Mick Taylor. Mandella was called by Ian Stewart, as the Stones's Hiwatts had been blown by not being properly converted to American voltages after being shipped over from the UK for the tour. Stewart had many friends in the musical equipment industry, as he doubled as the Stones' chief roadie and pianist. Mandella brought the Stones the brand new and not yet for sale Ampeg SVTs for Richards, Taylor and Wyman to all use. Although designed as bass amps, the Stones also used them as guitar amps for the massive venues they were planning to play on the '69 tour. In fact, Mandella and Ampeg redesigned the SVT somewhat, based on the '69 tour with the Stones, to be more stable. Mandella served as the Stones Ampeg roadie until 1978 or so. Anyway, Keith apparently loved the Dan Armstrong he was given by Ampeg, which was also a prototype. It quickly became his main stage guitar for several years ('69 - '71) and is featured prominently on the "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!" live album and "Gimme Shelter", the documentary film of the Stones '69 tour and Altamont. The image of Keith playing one on "Sympathy For The Devil" and other tunes at Altamont is forever etched in the memory of a generation. Keith got a second Dan Armstrong in 1970 from Dan Armstrong himself and the newer model included a humbucking pickup module. Keith used both onstage in '70 and '71.
He also used his Dan Armstrongs during the sessions for "Sticky Fingers" (mostly notably on the solo in "B#tch") and at the beginning of the sessions for "Exile On Main Street". Anyway, both of Keith's Dan Armstrongs were sadly stolen from Keith's villa in the South of France, Nelcotte during the "Exile" sessions in the summer of '71, along with many of his other guitars (Les Pauls, Flying V, ES-355, etc.). Keith was reportedly in tears, but his guitar tech, Texas guitar builder Ted Newman-Jones scored Keith great replacements, including Micawber, which has been his main open G guitar since 1971. Ampeg and Dan Armstrong had a falling out over financial compensation for Dan's designs (Dan also designed or helped design Ampeg's V-3, V-4, VT-22 and SVT amps), so Dan parted company with Ampeg and took his guitar design with him, thereby ending production of the original Ampeg Dan Armstrong Plexi guitar in late 1971. That's why it's so cool to see Keith using one after over 35 years. As to the "problems" the Stones are having on the current leg of their tour, this reminds me of similar "problems" they were having at the start of the "Voodoo Lounge" tour in the Fall of '94. The Stones are human, and they are aging, but I wouldn't count them out just yet. They have shown over and over that they are incredibly resilient, and no one can touch their longevity. I think they will continue to surprise us all for some years to come!
Heather Anne Peel
July 12th, 2007