Harry DeArmond

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Harry DeArmond
Born January 28, 1906
Died October 12, 1999 (age 93)
Occupation(s) Musician, guitar pickup inventor, company owner
Instruments Guitar

Harry DeArmond (January 28, 1906 – October 12, 1999) invented the first commercially available attachable guitar pickup in the mid-1930s. He established a working relationship with Horace 'Bud' Rowe's company, Rowe Industries, to manufacture and develop these items. The company was located at that time at 3120 Monroe Street in Toledo, Ohio. A DeArmond pickup was famously used on a 1939 English Clifford Essex Paragon De Luxe guitar for the original James Bond Theme. Vic Flick was the guitarist making the recording at CTS studios in Bayswater, London.[1]

Early life[edit]

Guitar pickup inventor and company owner[edit]

Harry DeArmond and Bud Rowe began with four models—two for flattop guitars (the RH, and the RHC), with an integral volume control—and two for archtop guitars (the FH, and FHC with a volume control). Initially called guitar mikes, these passive electromagnetic pickups shared the same wide shallow coil shape with individual alnico 2 pole-pieces.

The RH type flush-fitted into the guitar's sound hole, retained with adjustable springs to minimize damage to the instrument and facilitate removal. To avoid interfering with playability, It projected only a few millimeters above the soundboard and had an edgewise, almost flush potentiometer knob.

The FH type comprised a coil assembly, first in a plain chrome-plated brass cover, a single slot—then finally a two slotted cover fixed to a 1/8" rod parallel to and slightly below the sixth (low "E") string. DeArmond called the rod a pressure rod. Players soon nicknamed the assembly (with pickup) the "monkey on a stick" because of a resemblance to a popular child's toy of the time. The rod ("stick") passes through a small hole on the left side of the pickup (the "monkey"), which lightly grips the rod. This rod clamps to the guitar strings behind the bridge. A half moon shape loop goes around the bridge continuing just short of the fingerboard. The pickup slides along the length of the rod, from bridge to neck, providing an infinite variation in tonality.

The FHC-B has a 12' cable but no volume control, and was commonly sold with a volume pedal. The FHC-C has a volume control (potentiometer) in a small box on the cable, 10 inches from the pickup. Many felt that clamping the rod to the strings helped sustain and tone, as the entire unit vibrates in concert with the strings—and provided a good ground connection to reduce hum. A better ground is achieved by clamping the rod to the strings and using the player's body as a ground while playing. This grounding method is still used today on most electric guitars.

The Guitar Mike, FHC, and Rhythm Chiefs was also available with a shorter, 6" pressure rod that fixed to the end of the necks bass side and extended over the body to hold the pickup that was secured using 2 screws through 2 holes in the rod attached just below the fretboard.

DeArmond pickups using the "monkey on a stick" rod assembly first used an attachment cable with a threaded female connector on one end and a 1/4" plug on the other. These were called Screw-on Cables This threaded connector screwed over a male threaded connector on the volume box or "module" which completed the signal path to the amplifier.

The screw-on cables used the same wire as the connecting wire between the pickup and volume control which commonly dried out, became brittle, cracked and fell apart or became completely stiff, rigid and useless. This caused many pickups themselves to be connected to the control boxes using other wire types or usable original vintage wire.

Owners modified many of these pickups, sometimes crudely, to keep them usable. Collectors and professional users dislike these modified pickups today, and they sell for far less than original-condition counterparts.

Eventually, DeArmond replaced the one piece (12 foot) connected cables and the threaded connectors with an 1/8" jack on the pickup and provided an 1/8" to 1/4" plug cable. Pickups sold with a working cable, whether original or new, bring more than pickups without one, especially at auction. These old cables and even new cables are available if you're searching for these screw-on cables.

DeArmond Model introduced the 1000 Rhythm Chief archtop guitar pickup in 1948. In late 1953 they followed it with an adjustable pole model that had 6 individually adjustable poles, and a fancier look (chrome plating, and later, gold plating): the Model 1100. The 1100 was presented to the public along with the introduction of the 210, the adjustable pole soundhole model. Many enthusiasts consider the 1100 among the finest guitar pickup ever produced—others being the Charlie Christian model and the P-90, both produced by Gibson, as well as Gibson's legendary patent applied for (PAF) double coil "humbucker" pickup, originally developed by Seth Lover.

DeArmond pickups were widely used on instruments produced by Harmony, D’Angelico, Eko, Epiphone, Fender, Galanti, Gretsch, Guild, Hofner, Kustom, Levin, Martin, Meazzi, Messenger, Micro-Frets, Ovation, Premier, Silvertone, and Standel.

Some believe DeArmond made the pickups that the Kay guitar company used on their guitars, but no communications or contracts between Kay and DeArmond or Rowe Industries has ever been found. That evidence indicates that Kay made their own pickups, nicknamed the 'Pancake and Speedbump. Rowe-DeArmond pickups when dated, were marked with alpha-numeric dates, e.g., Feb 28 1966, Kay used 6 digits e.g., 022866.

To promote the sensitivity of his pickups, Harry DeArmond developed a tapping technique, sometimes playing two guitars simultaneously. This method was later adopted by Jimmie Webster, Gretsch's designer and endorser, and popularized in later years by players such as Stanley Jordan, Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen.

In 1941, or perhaps a little earlier, Harry DeArmond introduced the world's first effect unit for electric guitar, the Model 601 Tremolo Control.[2] The foot-pedal version, Model 800 Trem Trol followed. This foot-operated floor unit comprised a mains voltage motor that rocked a small sealed bottle fitted with two electrical contacts and containing electrically conductive fluid. The variable frequency of the 'make and break' action of the mechanism created a type of tremolo effect. Bo Diddley and many other artists used this effect unit.

Around 1998, a line of guitars was also made using the DeArmond name under Fender ownership, using Guild designs under the supervision of Guild employees, and manufactured in Korea and Indonesia. The top of the line Korean-built guitars featured USA-made DeArmond-branded pickups that were not made by the original DeArmond company whose pickups were made by Rowe Industries.

Harry DeArmond retired in 1975, by which time his company had designed and manufactured over 170 different pickups for a wide range of stringed instruments, and many amplifiers and effects units. Together with his business partner Bud Rowe, he made a major contribution to the design and development of pickups for stringed instruments and was granted several patents. Joseph DeArmond-B 2013


See [1] for information on all DeArmond products produced in Toledo Ohio.


  1. ^ http://vicflick.com/vicflickapr2012.pdf
  2. ^ Presto Music Times, August 1941