When John D’Angelico died in 1964, at the age of 59, he left behind a line of guitars that he had made by hand, one by one, in his shop above his apartment on Kenmare Street on the Lower East Side. His archtop guitars produced a stirring sound that could stand up to horns and percussion in big bands, and became some of the most coveted instruments in the world.
Half a century later, four stories above Manhattan’s flower district, Mr. D’Angelico’s instruments have been reborn. Rows and rows of guitars bearing his name — smooth and shiny, with curves and arches, in rich tones and with taut strings — adorn the walls of D’Angelico Guitars.
“They’re works of art,” said Steve Pisani, one of the store’s owners, standing in a denlike showroom decorated with big leather furniture and animal prints. Mr. Pisani, 56, has played guitar since he was a teenager and, until recently, worked at Sam Ash Music on a faded strip of West 48th Street that generations of New Yorkers remember as Music Row.
Mr. Pisani and the brand’s two other owners, Brenden Cohen, 30, and John Ferolito Jr., 27, have spent the past few years researching Mr. D’Angelico’s craftsmanship to resurrect his artistry. They have reproduced two of Mr. D’Angelico’s original guitars, following his exacting design: a 1943 Excel and a 1942 Style B. They have also produced a line of guitars under the D’Angelico name with a more contemporary influence, basically “our take if D’Angelico was still alive,” Mr. Cohen said.
Mr. D’Angelico made about 1,160 guitars, mostly for jazz musicians. According to the book “D’Angelico, Master Guitar Builder: What’s in a Name?” by Frank W. M. Green, Mr. D’Angelico once said: “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!” His guitars are cherished by collectors and musicians and are so highly regarded that 11 of them were part of a 2011 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Among the visitors to the exhibition were Lawrence D’Angelico, the guitar maker’s great-nephew, and his young daughter, who plays the instrument. He said he appreciated the continuing brand, “especially in an era not as dedicated to craftsmanship as my great-uncle was.”
After past efforts foundered, the current resurrection of the D’Angelico name began with a 1943 Excel and Mr. Ferolito’s father, John Ferolito Sr., a businessman, guitar player and guitar collector. The older Mr. Ferolito, who had bought the rights to the D’Angelico brand from a guitar string company in 1999, sold it several years later to the current owners. He also owned a 1943 D’Angelico Excel.
Then, at a 2012 trade show of music merchants, Mr. Pisani ran into Gene Baker, a master luthier who had worked at Fender Music on Music Row, and told him: “Man, have I got a job for you.”
“I had been waiting for this all my life,” Mr. Baker recalled in an interview. (Continued )
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Marshall described securing the exclusive distribution rights for the two brands as ‘a major coup’.
Marshall Distribution sales manager Michael Clapham said: “The addition of Lag and D’Angelico to our portfolio significantly widens the product range we are able to offer our recently restructured dealer network. Both brands fit right in with our integrity and core values. After spending time with the good people at Lag and D’Angelico I can say without doubt that both companies share Marshall’s energy and passion for producing world class products – products that embody a spirit of innovation.”
D’Angelico, renowned for their archtop guitars, will have a UK distributor for the first time. Marshall Distribution will bring the D’Angelico Standard and USA Series to the UK as part of the exclusive agreement.
Lag had previously been distributed in the UK by Barnes & Mullins. Brian Cleary, Barnes & Mullins joint managing director said: “Although we are sad to lose the Lag line, we do understand Lag’s increasing concern at the growth of Faith Guitars. Lag is a good line, and we wish Marshall the very best, and remain good friends with Algam, Lag Guitars’ parent company.”
Lag will mark the launch in September by bringing a new series of high concept, French made electric guitars called ‘Roxane Racing’ to LAGS featuring Electric Live.
The new instruments feature solid American Poplar bodies, mahogany necks, engraved aluminium headstock & back plates, high precision stopbars, Bigsby tremolo systems, Seymour Duncan pickups, Graphtec Tusq nuts and vintage and racing car inspired aesthetics.
D’Angelico Guitars, the finest builder of archtop guitars and iconic brand in the music space, announces the introduction of its new guitar lineup for 2014. In response to the tremendous success of the D’Angelico Standard Series, the company has expanded the product line with the introduction of the EX-59 and EX-175 models. D’Angelico Guitars also welcomes the Style B model to its “stunningly crafted” (Guitar Aficionado) USA Master-Builder Series.
Originally built in 1959 by legendary guitar maker John D’Angelico, the reproduced D’Angelico EX-59 showcases every bit of craftsmanship and attention to detail featured in the original model. This magnificent hollow body archtop guitar with P-90 pickups, features vintage gold hardware set against a rich sunburst finish of laminated flame maple. Another new addition to the D’Angelico Standard Series, the EX-175, features dual Kent Armstrong humbuckers and Bigsby vibrato. This retro-styled guitar features a laminated spruce top and laminated flamet maple back with chrome hardware and is available in black, cherry, or natural. Introduced last year, D’Angelico’s premier bass model, the EX-Bass, is now available in a cherry finish and the EX-SS, D’Angelico’s most versatile model, is now available in black and vintage sunburst finishes.
The D’Angelico Style B and Excel models, part the USA Master-Builder Series, are the result of extensive historic research and MRI scans of the original instruments and offer players the opportunity to own some of D’Angelico’s most historically sought-after instruments. After testing the Master-Builder Excel, guitar legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Eric Clapton worked with D’Angelico to design the new Style B model to fit his own specifications perfectly. He then graciously signed that Master-Builder Excel to be auctioned off at the upcoming John Varvatos 11th Annual Stuart House Benefit, of which D’Angelico is a Patron Supporter. These limited run models are being built by acclaimed boutique luthier Gene Baker.
Although the D’Angelico archtop was originally considered a jazz guitar, the brand has attracted a wide following of devoted players beyond jazz musicians including the aforementioned Eric Clapton, Chet Atkins, John Mayer, Nile Rogers, Pete Townshend and Susan Tedeschi to name a few. “Our team at D’Angelico promises to build instruments that respect and honor John D’Angelico’s legacy of excellence and carry on the tradition of one of the world’s finest guitar brands,” said CEO Brenden Cohen. “Our 2014 models are replicas of John D’Angelico’s legendary aesthetic, attention to detail and the level of excellence established long ago by this master luthier.”
About D’Angelico Guitars
Founded in 1932 in Little Italy, Manhattan, John D’Angelico’s handmade guitars quickly attracted the attention of the New York music crowd. NYC gave him access to numerous professional guitarists who appreciated not only D’Angelico’s high level of craftsmanship, but also the opportunity to work directly with a maker who built guitars with custom specifications. During peak production in the late 1930s, approximately 35 guitars were made per year – establishing D’Angelico as a master maker of quality and coveted instruments. In 2011, with a new management team in place, the D’Angelico brand was revitalized with a new, state of the art manufacturing, warehousing and distribution infrastructure. The desire to continue the legacy of making premium guitars provided the backbone for successful relaunch of the brand. The new models were enthusiastically embraced by a growing number of serious players and professionals. Today, D’Angelico guitars are embraced by an increasing number of professional guitarists and serious enthusiasts. For more information on D’Angelico and its rich history,
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Guitar shop and revived brand bloom in the Flower District
By Teddy Kim (New York Observer)
Above an otherwise nondescript Chelsea street bustling with typical city traffic sits a showroom tucked away on the fourth floor. There the celebrated brand of D’Angelico Guitars has come bursting back to life after a half century underground.
In the 1930s and 40s, luthier John D’Angelico hand-crafted guitars in his small shop on Kenmare Street. These guitars became the stuff of legend, attracting players like Barney Kessel and earning the luthier the title “finest builder of archtop guitars.” But D’Angelico worked deliberately and by the time he passed in 1964, he had made fewer than 1200 of the famed hollow-body electrics that bore his name.
The name lived on through obsessive collectors who’d pay up to $100,000 at auctions for the rarely glimpsed beauties and that’s where it stood until a trio of music-lovers-slash-businessmen entered the picture.
CEO Brenden Cohen, President Steve Pisani, and John Ferolito Jr., comprise the new ownership, which bought the brand from John Ferolito Sr., co-founder of Arizona Beverages, who had purchased the brand 17 years ago but not developed it very much.
Renewed popularity of the archtop design coincided with a major 2011 exhibition featuring John D’Angelico at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsmen from Italy to New York) and ignited a wave of interest in the brand just as its new owners were working on its relaunch.
Mr. Pisani talked about the “amazing, welcoming response” the relaunch received, which he attributes to the D’Angelico name’s longstanding reputation for excellent quality, which emerged untarnished from the period during which the brand was allowed to languish. About the merchandise, Mr. Pisani said it “takes your breath away. People love the guitars.”
Since its recent resurrection, D’Angelico has attracted a wide following of devoted musicians including John Mayer, Nile Rogers, Robert Randolph, Susan Tedeschi, John Sebastian, and guitar legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Eric Clapton to name a few. Mr. Pisani gloatingly confided that a D’Angelico model is one of the few guitars that Mr. Clapton keeps in his home.
“Our team at D’Angelico promises to build instruments that respect and honor John D’Angelico’s legacy of excellence and carry on the tradition of one of the world’s finest guitar brands,” said CEO Brenden Cohen. The team went to great lengths to recreate the authentic quality of the original instruments. To ensure the accuracy of the recreations, the original models were put through an MRI machine, so the luthiers could see exactly how they were constructed and reverse-engineer forgotten techniques.
Guitars in the $1200 range are manufactured in South Korea while fabrication of the handmade line, which go for up to $12,000, remains in the US, where they are handmade in California. While the latter is geared for the higher-end market, they are good value for the money compared to the original D’Angelico models, which can go for around $50,000 at a Sotheby’s auction.
“Our goal is to have a full line, not only archtops which we are already so famous and well-respected for,” said Mr. Pisani, who added that the company plans to bring out a line of acoustic and solid-body electric rock guitars having already introduced a line of hollow-body bass guitars. The company aims to provide “instruments for every player and at every price point with the common thread of quality,” said Mr. Pisani. While the brand was originally popular among jazz players, it is becoming more and more sought after by country and rock musicians.
Even while the company’s production now spans the globe, the brand remains rooted at home, close to where D’Angelico created his master works. As for the brand’s Chelsea headquarters, Mr. Pisani describes the aesthetic vision from the start as very “Keith Richards’ living room.” Decked out with distressed leather couches, a bar, and a full soundstage with a live streaming video setup, the showroom-cum-lounge is surrounded by an array of amplifiers of all sizes, the walls adorned by a panoply of beautifully lacquered guitars.
The unique space has become something of a Mecca for D’Angelico enthusiasts and guitar fans in general who stop by to see what has become of the storied brand. Located near Madison Square Garden, the showroom attracts many professional musicians who come to check out the latest offerings and often end up leaving as newly satisfied customers.
“We wanted a place for people to be able to play. Especially in New York it’s not easy to do something like that,” said Mr. Pisani, noting that the showroom’s size also allowed them to hold private clinics and performances, which with the comfortable, cozy décor give off the feel of having a live band in a very chic home, if not your own.
It is an unexpectedly magical sanctuary for the true lover of guitars and the music they make. Mr. Pisani, formerly a 30-year veteran at legendary music shop Sam Ash, is certainly one, radiating an intense passion for his products. His eyes light up as he dashes from room to room, showing off his favorites to potential customers and asking them what they think. He all but insists that visitors join him on stage to run through songs on the immaculately tuned instruments and perfectly pitched P.A. Mr. Pisani himself joins and appears to know every Top 40 song from the past five decades by heart.
Gazing at the stunning pieces lining the walls of the D’Angelico Showroom, even the non-player cannot but help feeling awe and perhaps a bit of niggling regret for never having learned. As one of the company’s programmers put it, “being in this store and not knowing how to play is like being in a garage full of Ferraris and not knowing how to drive.”
Read more at www.observer.com