Lesser Known Gems: DAngelico

By David Stanton: July 21, 2016

There are a bewildering number of guitar manufacturers producing great instruments for all styles and budgets. It’s easy to just narrow your focus on the giant well-known brands but you might well be missing out on a better quality, better suited guitar.

In the world of semi-hollow jazz and rock guitars, there is a great American company with a long and illustrious history that you cannot afford to overlook…

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At the age of only nine years old, John D’Angelico became an apprentice to his grand uncle Raphael Ciani, an expert violin, mandolin and flattop maker. As a result, like other legendary archtop manufacturers, the mandolin was hugely influential in the design of his guitars. John D’Angelico focused on quality rather than quantity when crafting these beautiful instruments from his small but adequate shop at 40 Kenmare Street in New York’s Little Italy district – making approximately 35 instruments per year. His reputation for building fine hand-crafted archtops allowed John D’Angelico to expand his operation and employ a hand full of employees. In the later years one of these was James D’Aquisto who was offered an apprenticeship aged just seventeen. Under D’Angelico’s mentorship, James D’Aquisto became regarded as one of the finest archtop luthiers in the world.
During the cold winter of 1964 John D’Angelico passed away from a heart attack aged only 59 having made 1164 instruments. Each one took around 18-24 months to build and are individual works of art with tone to match which is why they are regarded as one of the most sought after vintage archtops money can buy.

Art Deco Styling

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During the nineteen-thirties, jazz was becoming ever more popular and the demand for “f-hole” archtop instruments was growing. Many manufacturers were copying each others traditional designs but D’Angelico opted for a unique Art Deco style. When John D’Angelico was in his twenties, French Art Deco was becoming popular particularly in American architecture with buildings such as the Chrysler and Empire State changing the New York skyline. This influence can be seen in the ‘skyscraper’ truss rod covers, Empire State Building inspired headstock logos, and their stair-step bridge tailpieces and scratch plates.

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D'Angelico president, Steve Pisani with Guitar Village owner, Derek Eyre-Walker

D’Angelico president, Steve Pisani with Guitar Village owner, Derek Eyre-Walker

Rebirth

In his relatively short career, John D’Angelico created a legacy with his stylishly unique archtops. Most serious collectors and players are aware of D’Angelico guitars – in particular the huge price tag some of those original instruments have fetched – an original New Yorker may set you back in excess of £30,000!

In 2011 a major exhibition in New York’s Metropolitan Museum featuring some of these rare originals brought the D’Angelico brand back into the public eye re-igniting an interest in these beautiful instruments. Since then the company has been working hard put D’Angelico back on map. As Steve Pisani (current president of D’Angelico Guitars) says,

“We are proud to have grown the brand immensely in the past five years, and remain committed to bringing the finest quality instruments at affordable prices to D’Angelico enthusiasts worldwide.”

This focus is coupled with a great new range of quality models for a broad spectrum of players and styles. D’Angelico are in it for the long haul!

The Current D’Angelico Range

D’Angelico offer a range of models in The Standard, Masterbuilt, Acoustic and Bass series.

The Standard series are handcrafted in Korea and include semi-hollow and solid-body models like the EX-DC, EX-SS, EX-DH, EX-175, EX-Style B, EXL-1 and EX-59. These instruments currently retail between a £1000-£1500 and include a hardshell case.

D’Angelico Masterbuilt series have a team of master-craftsmen in California who painstakingly and faithfully recreate some of the original models like the legendary New Yorker, Excel, Style A and B. D’Angelico will actually source original D’Angelico intruments from the thirties and forties and have an MRI scan carried out on the guitar resulting in an exact replica of the original instrument. This series currently retails between £6000-£8000.

As well as offering traditional models like the EXL-1A and EX-63 in the acoustic series, D’Angelico offer a comprehensive range of flat top cutaway electro-acoustics in various body sizes even including an electro-acoustic bass.

And finally there are a couple of models available in the D’Angelico bass series, the EX-Bass which is a semi-hollow archtop four-string and the EX-SD Bass a solid four-string instrument with a chambered body.

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Seeing these prestigious instruments displayed in our beautiful fifteen century building is a sight to behold! Guitar Village are proud to stock these guitars and help carry on the legacy created by John D’Angelico, seeing the brand evolve and go from strength to strength.

“It doesn’t stop with the products of course. It’s our dealers who make that extra difference and with Guitar Village we struck gold. A highly dedicated, knowledgeable team that is very much in love with our guitars. We can’t ask for more.” – Steve Pisani

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D’Angelico links:

WEBSITE       FACEBOOK

TWITTER       INSTAGRAM

GOOGLE+

Click here to view our stock of D’Angelico guitars at Guitar Village
More on the way…

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