Our History

D’Angelico Guitars

A Legend is Born

The oldest of four children, John D’Angelico was born in Little Italy on Manhattan's Lower East Side into a hard-working, God-fearing Italian family. Music was in his blood, and at age 9 he became an apprentice to his grand uncle Signor Ciani, an expert violin and mandolin maker. The young D’Angelico’s apprenticeship with these instruments became the basis of construction principles he later incorporated into his world-renowned archtop guitars.
D’Angelico Guitars

Open Up Shop

D'Angelico's first shop was located at 40 Kenmare Street in New York City’s Little Italy. 27 years later, the business was forced to move due to rising rent costs, so D’Angelico packed up and moved right across the street. Both locations were quite small, but perfectly suitable for a humble operation: D'Angelico instruments were strictly handmade in limited quantities. During the late 1930s, when production was at its peak, D'Angelico was able to make approximately 35 instruments per year with the help of two or three workers. The rarity of a D’Angelico became part of its mystique, but it was simply how the master-luthier preferred to work.
D’Angelico Guitars

A Symbol of New York

The 1940s were scarred and defined by the wake of World War II. Music once again filled the role of a desperately needed emotional outlet, and guitar players in the service and at home depended on D'Angelico for their instruments. His recognition as the “finest builder of archtop guitars” later brought offers from larger companies including Gretsch. "John, close up your shop and come to work for me,” Gretsch said. “I'll put you in charge here. You'll never have to worry about money again!" But John already knew his answer: "Big money? Big title? For what? I want to build guitars under my own name, for my own customers, the way I do it! For me, that's a good life!" As always, D’Angelico knew his loyalty lay with the instrument and the artist.
D’Angelico Guitars

The Successor

James D'Aquisto was a skilled New York musician who studied jazz guitar and played the bass. As a teenager, he was taken to visit D'Angelico's workshop and was immediately entranced by the idea of instrument building. He was offered a job as an apprentice in 1952, at the age of 17. D’Aquisto made $35 a week cleaning the windows, running small errands and sweeping the floors. D'Angelico never could have foreseen that this young, mildly-annoying teenager would one day save his business, securing the future of archtop guitars and the D'Angelico legend for generations to come.
D’Angelico Guitars

A Cold Winter

Throughout the early 1960s, John D’Angelico’s health began to fail. As the only other worker in the shop, D’Aquisto gradually took over more of the instrument production. Then, in the bitter cold winter of 1964, D’Aquisto found D'Angelico dead of heart failure. He was only 59 years old. D'Aquisto was 29 years old at the time and inherited "the bench." He eventually purchased the shop from the D'Angelico family, but later went on to build guitars under his own name. Today, D'Angelico and D'Aquisto are widely regarded as the two greatest archtop guitar makers of the 20th century.
D’Angelico Guitars

The Return of D’Angelico

Renewed artist desire for archtop tone and a major 2011 exhibition featuring John D'Angelico at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (“Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsmen from Italy to New York”) fueled tremendous new interest in the D'Angelico brand. The timing was perfect: The D'Angelico brand had recently been purchased; A new D'Angelico management team was carefully recruited; And a support system of new, state of the art manufacturing, warehousing and distribution infrastructure was built. The entire effort was laser-focused on the revitalization and successful relaunching of the D'Angelico brand. During the initial months of operation, the D'Angelico team worked under the radar, creating and perfecting a line of authentic reissues that delivers D'Angelico magic for an affordable price. The new models were enthusiastically embraced by a huge number of serious players and professionals. D'Angelico soon found itself among the most successful "new" brands in the industry.
D’Angelico Guitars

The Legend Goes On

The family can’t stop growing. As of January 2015, D’Angelico now offers a brand new line of eight stunning acoustic guitars, ranging from dreadnought to archtop, and even includes an acoustic bass. Three outstanding new electric guitars have been added to the family as well, featuring the gorgeous American-made NY-DC and the EX-SD Bass, our first solidbody bass. Now widely available in music stores across the world, D’Angelico is growing exponentially. Over the course of more than 80 years, we’ve moved from a tiny shop in Little Italy to a sprawling showroom in midtown Manhattan, but our promise remains the same: to produce exceptional guitars that uphold the legacy of John D’Angelico. Thank you for helping us maintain the tradition of one of the finest guitar brands in the world.
More Information
D’Angelico Guitars

Find Out Even More

No name resonates across the spruce and maple boundaries of the classic American guitar like that of master guitar builder John D'Angelico. Here in personal and cooperative histories, anecdotes, and first-hand accounts, Frank Green has infused the name of the master with life and vitality. Green’s scrupulous account includes a 24-page color section and hundreds of rare photographs.

For more information go to Centerstream Publishing or Amazon to purchase.

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