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Resurrecting the Artistry, and the Name, of a Singular Guitar Craftsman



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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From: I Heart Guitar Blog

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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GOLD PLAYER’S CHOICE AWARD - For Best Archtop Guitar

Thank you Acoustic Guitar magazine and all the players who voted for D'Angelico! We are honored to accept the Gold Player’s Choice Award for best arch top guitar. The awards are listed in the August issue of Acoustic Guitar, on sale 7/1.

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