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Title: D'Angelico  
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Subject: Brian Setzer, National Music Museum, Semi-acoustic guitar, Harry DeArmond, D'Addario
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John D’Angelico (1905–1964) was a luthier from New York City, noted for his handmade archtop guitars and mandolins.


John D’Angelico was born in 1905 in New York to an Italian-American family, and was in 1914 apprenticed to his great-uncle, Raphael Ciani, who made violins, mandolins, and flat top guitars.[1][2] D'Angelico took over as supervisor of Ciani’s shop when he died. In 1932, he began working on his own designs in his own workshop in New York.

Instrument designs and output

By 1937, D’Angelico had settled on at least four main f-hole archtop guitar designs, heavily influenced by the Gibson L-5: .[3]

  • Style A – 17 inch body. Phased out in the 1940s.
  • Style B – 17 inch body. Phased out in the 1940s.
  • Excel – 17 inch body
  • New Yorker – 18 inch body. Approximately 300 made.[4]

Through at least the late 1930s, D’Angelico’s guitar necks had non-adjustable steel reinforcement. Later models had functional truss rods.[5] All of D’Angelico’s guitars were hand-built, and many were customized for specific people, so substantial variation shows up in his output. D’Angelico’s shop rarely made more than 30 guitars per year.[6] All-in-all, it is estimated he built 1,164 guitars.[7] D’Angelico also built a few round-hole (as opposed to f-hole) archtops, and a few mandolins. D’Angelico suffered a series of heart attacks starting in 1959, and also suffered from pneumonia. He died at age 59 in 1964.


Some of D'Angelico's employees went on to become craftsmen in their own right. Among them were Jimmy Di Serio, who worked for D'Angelico from 1932-1959, and Jimmy D'Aquisto, who worked for D'Angelico in the last few years of his life.

In 1952, he hired D'Aquisto as an apprentice, who would eventually buy the business from the D'Angelico family. D'Angelico and D'Aquisto are generally regarded as the two greatest archtop guitar makers of the 20th century.[8]

In 2011, works by D'Angelico and D'Aquisto were included in the 'Guitar Heroes' exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.[9]

Vincent "Jimmy" DiSerio, was commissioned by Ralph Patt to modify a Gibson ES-150 (six-string archtop hollow-body guitar) to have a wider neck, wider pickup, and eight strings circa 1965; seven strings enabled Patt's major-thirds tuning to have the E-E range of standard tuning, while the eight string enabled the high A.[10]

Musicians playing D'Angelico guitars

See also



External links

  • D'Angelico Guitars.
  • National Music Museum.

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