Archtop Guitar, Excel model, 1951

Excel model (serial number 1871)

John D’Angelico (American, 1905–1964)
Archtop Guitar, Excel model (serial number 1871), 1951
Spruce, maple, ebony, brass, celluloid, mother-of-pearl; sunburst finish; 10 7/16 x 3 11/16 x 35 15/16 in. (26.5 x 9.3 x 91.3 cm)
Private Collection

The archtop guitar and mandolin incorporate a number of traditional violin features into a guitar. The original idea for a guitar body with an arched (carved) top and back like a violin was created by Orville Gibson of Kalamazoo, Michigan, who obtained a patent in 1898. Lloyd Loar further refined the design for the Gibson Company and in 1922 introduced the L-5 model, which also includes f-holes and a floating bridge and tailpiece like a violin. John D’Angelico used the Gibson L-5 as the model for his archtop guitars.

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Related Performance

Bob Grillo plays “Come Sunday,” by Duke Ellington (1943) on a 1960 Excel archtop guitar by John D’Angelico. Recorded August 11, 2010, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Related Interviews

Bob Grillo explains the benefit of the cutaway (Transcript)

Bucky Pizzarelli remembers visiting D’Angelico’s workshop (Transcript)