Page last updated February 20, 2023.
In October, 2004, this writer uploaded the following article to Wikipedia, under the title ‘Harry DeArmond’, as a biographical entry:
‘Harry DeArmond (born January 28, 1906, died October 12, 1999) invented the first commercially available attachable guitar pickup in the mid 1930s. He established a working relationship with Harold ‘Bud’ Rowe’s company to manufacture and develop these items. The company was located in a former schoolhouse at 1702 Wayne Street in Toledo, Ohio.
Initially there were two models for flat-top guitars (the RH and the RHC which incorporated an integral volume controller) and two for archtop guitars (the FH and FHC with a volume controller). Both types of pickup, initially called ‘guitar mikes’, were passive electromagnetic, employing the same wide shallow coil shape with individual Alnico II pole-pieces.
The RH type was flush-fitted into the guitar’s soundhole and retained with adjustable springs, to minimise damage to the instrument and to facilitate removal. As it projected only a few millimetres above the soundboard and had an edgewise, almost flush potentiometer knob, it hardly interfered with the instrument’s playability.
The FH type comprised a coil assembly in a plain chrome-plated brass cover, fixed to a rod that lay parallel with, and just below the height of the sixth string. This rod was clamped to the guitar strings behind the bridge. The pickup could easily be slid along the rod from the bridge to the neck, providing a wide variation in tone. Its volume controller was in a separate small box, attached to the clamp behind the bridge.
In 1948 (perhaps a year or two earlier) he introduced the world’s first effect unit for electric guitar, the Model 800 Trem Trol. This foot-operated floor-mounting 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. This effect unit was used by Bo Diddley and by many other artists.
The DeArmond Model 1100 Adjustable Rhythm Chief archtop guitar pickup introduced in 1954, is considered by very many enthusiasts to be one of the three best pickups ever produced, the others being the Charlie Christian model and the P-90, both produced by Gibson. Gibson developed the P-90 as a direct response to the innovative Dynasonic Model 2000 guitar pickup produced by DeArmond and first used by Gretsch in the early 1950s.
DeArmond pickups were factory-fitted to instruments produced by Airline, D’Angelico, Eko, Epiphone, Fender, Gretsch, Guild, Harmony, Hofner, Kustom, Levin, Ovation, Premier, Martin, Messenger, Microfrets, Silvertone and Standel.
To promote the sensitivity of his pickups, Harry DeArmond developed a tapping technique, sometimes playing two guitars simultaneously. This method was later adopted by Jimmy Webster, Gretsch’s designer and endorser, and popularised forty years later by players such as Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen.
Harry DeArmond retired in 1975, by which time over 180 different pickups for a wide range of stringed instruments had been designed and manufactured, together with amplifiers and effects units. He made a major contribution to the design and development of pickups for stringed instruments and was granted several patents.’
In 2004, there was scant information – mostly contradictory – in the public domain on Harry DeArmond and the products.
Since then, that Wikipedia page has been copied and translated into many languages but up to the launch of musicpickups.com in October 2004, had remained the only source of accurate historical information on the company.
That original Wikipedia site has been modified by many persons since shortly after going live. The majority of those modifications are factually incorrect – and the couple of glaring, deliberately wrong items in my original entry remain uncorrected. Indeed, very many of the alterations made to that page, even in recent years, show the lack of knowledge and the lack of proper research evident in contributors.
This site (www.musicpickups.com) deals with music products (pickups, amplifiers. effects units and associated items) produced by the various Rowe-DeArmond companies based in Toledo, Ohio, USA only from the 1930s to the closure of the last company in 1984 approx.
Some of the musical instrument producers listed on this site used a wide range of pickups from different manufacturers. However, only those instruments fitted with original (i.e. Toledo, Ohio-manufactured) DeArmond pickups are shown on this site.
Although this site has been prepared in Ireland, due deference is given to the country of origin of these products. Therefore, where regional differences occur, spelling will be American English, and dimensions will show Feet and Inches first, followed by Metric equivalent.
Differences in terminology also exist between English-speaking Europe and America. For example, vacuum tubes are known as thermionic valves in English-speaking Europe. Again, American terminology will be used throughout this site.
All photographs shown on this site are the property of, and copyrighted to www.musicpickups.com, unless specifically stated otherwise. Apologies in advance for any photos due credits. Please advise me if your photos are missing credit.
This site is unofficial and is not associated in any way with The Cordoba Music Group (DeArmond), The Eko Music Group, The Epiphone Company, Fender Musical Instruments Company (FMIC), Fred W. Gretsch Enterprises Ltd., The Guild Guitar Company, The Harmony Guitar Company, Karl Hofner GmbH & Co., KMC Music Inc. (Ovation), The Martin Guitar Company, Eastwood Guitars (Messenger) or any other company.
As this site is the first vehicle in the public domain attempting to cover this comprehensive subject in detail, inevitably there will be some errors. Should you find any errors, please notify this site, ideally with the correct information. After all, the prime purpose of this site is to provide the truth – a diminishing commodity.
Ben Cheevers, Dublin, Ireland.
UPDATE – January 26, 2022:
The text of my original biographical page dated 2004 on Harry DeArmond in Wikipedia, as shown above, has been altered many times, almost entirely by others. This process began almost immediately after I had published it. Unfortunately these alterations are almost all incorrect to a greater or lesser degree, where they refer to products or people. Just a few of the many blatant errors include:
1. The page title has been changed from ‘Harry DeArmond’ to ‘Rowe Industries’, but Rowe Industries’ activities runs to less than two lines in the whole article – and those two lines were lifted directly from the ‘DeArmond company history’ page of my own musicpickups.com site. There is so much more to that company.
2. Harry DeArmond ‘was an industrial designer of electrical components.’ This statement has no validation.
3. ‘DeArmond’s younger brother, John, was a budding guitarist at age 10 but wanted to make his guitar louder and better-sounding, and in 1935 created a magnetic pickup…’ – Incorrect. This unverified story arose from an obituary published in The Los Angeles Times on February 7, 1996 for a John Henry DeArmond. This obit was written by Brett Anthony Collins concerning a John Henry DeArmond, who was described as a younger brother of Harry. This statement is not true. He was a half-brother. Genealogy records prove this. The obit also states that John Henry ‘returned’ to the company in 1946 after military service and stayed until he retired in the 1970s.’ This statement is also not true, based on my own research. In 2005 I met with and interviewed Harry’s widow Dorothy and their daughter Suzie in their home in Toledo, Ohio. Dorothy was upset about the obit as she had never heard of John Henry until this obit was published. I also met with and interviewed several ex-employees – one who began working there in 1948 – and none of those people had heard of John Henry. He has also not appeared in public records as a resident of Toledo and surrounding area that I have searched. Nonetheless, this story has been included in several music magazines, some books and many websites, all based on that obit. I have contacted The LA Times for information on this several times without success.
The Carl De Armond Pickup Company is in some way linked to the MCD Pickup Company which runs a pickups website. This site refers to Harry DeArmond and pickup manufacture. It also infers a familial link to Harry DeArmond. I have emailed that company several times for information and am awaiting a reply.
4. Floor-based Model 601 Tremolo Control – Incorrect. Rowe DeArmond never produced a Model 601. The correct title is Model 60, replaced by the Model 60A a few years later and later agian by the third and final version, the Model 60B. The number 601 in this context is likely lifted from another music wholesaler’s catalog.
5. ‘The FHC-B has a twelve-foot cable but no volume control.’ The C in FHC-B confirms the inclusion of a volume control.
6. ‘Harry DeArmond is best known for pickups used on inexpensive “beginner” instruments as well as quality guitars.’ Best known for everything, specifically!
How is it that I can gather this information and establish links with Harry’s family and ex-employees from my home in Ireland when other contributors, mostly from within the USA, fail to do so? This should not be the case. Real research, worthy of the name, involves more than just ‘cut and paste’.
January 26, 2022.