John D’Angelico, the famed New York guitar maker, built just 1,164 instruments before he died in 1964, and the brand all but disappeared for five decades.
But the name is staging a comeback, thanks to a group of entrepreneurs who bought the trademark and launched D’Angelico Guitars in 2011.
Now the company, best known for its Art Deco-inspired electrics, is expanding. It has launched its first line of acoustic guitars, which it unveiled at the National Assn. of Music Merchants’ annual trade show in Anaheim. The eight new acoustic models feature the guitar maker’s signature curvy headstock. The EX-63, inspired by the last instrument John D’Angelico ever made, sports an arch-top body and the same angular tailpiece that decorates its electric brethren.
Chief Executive Brenden Cohen, 30, said the designs were all inspired by the company’s namesake. “We evolved them into what we think he’d be making today,” he said. “All the little details are how you can tell it’s a D’Angelico guitar.”
D’Angelico started his business in 1932, making just about 30 guitars a year at peak production. Now, the company’s instruments are manufactured in South Korea, California and Michigan, and the company is working on setting up its own factory in New Jersey, Cohen said.
It has 150 guitars on display this year, compared with only six at its first NAMM booth three years ago.
But the company’s aesthetic continues continues to rely on the vision of John D’Angelico, whose original instruments fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction, Cohen said.
“He’s known as the Stradivarius of the guitar,” he said.