Interview Transcripts

Bob Grillo Remembers Meeting John D’Angelico and Discusses His D’Angelico Guitar
Well, at the time, it was in the fifties. I was doing a lot of big band work, mostly on the road, and I wanted a rhythm guitar and I’d heard about John D’Angelico, and I’d played some of his guitars that friends of mine had. And a friend of mine who worked in—he played piano, he worked in a trio and Jimmy D’Aquisto was the bass player. So he introduced me to Jimmy, and we started talking about John, and I remember so warmly and vividly that every time Jimmy talked about John he had this gleam and this smile on his face, you know, and he talked so well about him, and finally I went down to the shop. Jimmy introduced me and we talked about the kind of guitar I wanted.

He had just gotten in a shipment of German maple—it was used on this guitar. I was in my purist mode at the time. I had been studying a little bit of classical guitar, and so it is more of a classical neck and a full-sized body—the old cutaway. It’s not an easy guitar to play for a lot of things, but for rhythm it’s great; love it for rhythm; gets a big sound.

Bob Grillo Talks about the Damage Sustained to his D’Angelico Guitar
After the first ten years being on the road with it, working with it, and suffering; if the drummer’s sometimes behind you—and in those days drummers had lighter equipment, not that heavy stuff they’ve got today, and so the cymbal might fall right here—so I had gouges into the purfling in the side here, nicks on here, and if I smoked a cigarette I’d put it in over here, it would burn down, and the purfling would burn, you know. So in about 1970 or ’71, Jimmy D’Aquisto re-lacquered it. Did the whole thing. Re-lacquered it, and it came out beautiful; I mean, this is his job. That’s why it looks so new, because subsequent to that in the seventies and the eighties I wasn’t doing that kind of work anymore.

Bob Grillo on Each Guitar’s Unique Voice
Every guitar, of course, speaks differently, but these guitars especially. I mean, every voice in a chord speaks. When you’re changing chords, you know, and you hear everything. [plays chords] See, you hear all the voices in the chords. When it’s a fine instrument there’s a big difference, and they’re all different in a special way.

Bob Grillo Explains the Benefit of the Cutaway
It’s so much easier to get up here and do this, you know.

[plays melody]

I don’t have to get up over the fingerboard to get it. So this is one of the greatest inventions since—what?—spaghetti, or something. Make a cutaway.

Mark Knopfler Discusses John Monteleone
Actually, “Money for Nothing” was a situation where I was in a shop and I heard a guy going on—I’m sure a lot of people have heard this story, now, so I’m not going to—but they are characters who you see, real people who you see and you write about them. And there’s a tradition of great violin makers in Italy—Stradivarius and Guarneri and Amati—in Cremona, in Italy. And there’s a tradition of making these f-hole guitars in New York City by Italians. And it’s sort of a strange parallel: D’Angelico and D’Aquisto, and now a man called John Monteleone. And I met John Monteleone and it was like meeting . . . it was like meeting Stradivari. I’m sure it was like that. He’s like Leonardo Da Vinci in a way. And he set about building me a guitar, which was an archtop guitar with f-holes like a violin, like John’s violin. I don’t have it here; it’s a beautiful thing. And but when he was making it for me, he’d send me little emails and he’d say things like, “The chisels are calling.” You know, “It’s time to make sawdust.” And I realized, of course, that he had this compulsion to be with his chisels and his work, and it was inspiring. So I wrote this song and it’s called “Monteleone.”

Woody Mann Talks about Ordering a Custom Monteleone Guitar
I’d played a lot of other guitars, but when I played John’s guitars there was something very special about them. There’s a certain sonority in the tones, and the way he kind of put it together, it had that—it was just something completely different than I’d played before. It was like a whole different level of instrument making. And then the more I got into talking to John and playing his guitars, I was just floored by just the voicing of the guitar, the intonation of the guitar, and the perfection of it. And to me it was just like another level of guitar making. And it reminded me very much of where Jimmy was at in terms of archtops, but John kind of took a lot of Jimmy’s ideas and just sort of gave it his own twist. And I think, also with John, he was very open to ideas and experimenting, and he was just so—you know, like a great craftsman, he says, you know, “It’s all an experiment.” And he just had this idea that he just wanted to try different things. And so he would talk to me, and we’d go back and forth and discuss ideas, and after a while we just sort of built up this trust, and I just said, “Okay, John, let’s go for it.” And that’s how these guitars came about.

Woody Mann Explains What It’s Like to Play a Monteleone Guitar
You want to be able to play different styles on the guitar, and where John was coming from, his guitars kind of covered all the bases, because they weren’t just, you know, strictly a certain—that old kind of [plays chords] archtop, kind of sharp, direct sound. You know, and it wasn’t just the flat-top sound, it was sort of in between. So to me it was just looking for a guitar that I could play something . . .

[plays guitar]

. . . some kind of raunchy blues, kind of . . .

[plays guitar]

. . . and the guitar would kick back, and then something also very sweet . . .

[plays guitar]

. . . where you’d hear . . .

[plays guitar]

. . . you had that articulation, and the intonation and that perfection of tone, so it kind of, you know, it just covered all the bases. It was a clean palette to work from.

Woody Mann Discusses Monteleone Guitars
For most gigs you can kind of get by with any guitar, but with John now I’m really feeling very privileged to be able to like sit and really listen to the tones, and where it explodes on the guitar and the intonation. And that’s the one thing about John’s guitars that just floors me all the time—it’s just the intonation, the perfectness of in-tune quality of the guitars. And you know, when you play it, a lot of guitars when you play, when you go high, sometimes it gets very thinner, the tone gets thinner, but here when you play [demonstrates], it’s very sharp, very open. So wherever you play, it’s kind of like playing a Steinway; wherever you play on the instrument it just sort of stays with that warmth and that tone, it doesn’t get thinner as you get up top.

Woody Mann Talks about How a Guitar Affects his Playing
Every guitar is very different sounding, so if you’re looking for—like, I used to think “I’m looking for one guitar to cover everything,” and I’m realizing now it’s just not the case. Just like all these guitars have unique voices. So if I’m looking for a certain voice, if I’m recording a song and I’m looking for a certain sonority or a certain sound, I’ll lean to this guitar. If I’m looking for a softer sound or a different kind of tone I’ll go for the Hot Club. So every one’s different. What I find very interesting is that I play differently on each guitar; that’s what I find very interesting. So when I play this guitar it inspires me to play a different kind of music or a different approach to even the songs that I always play. And when I play the other guitars it speaks differently; the tempos are different, the way I play is different. Since I can hear certain notes that come out differently, I might play the song a little differently, in a certain passage. So it’s kind of exciting to play the same song on different guitars and see what happens. You know, it’s kind of a fun process.

Woody Mann Explains How Every Guitar Has a Different Voice
It’s not even better or worse. Every guitar has a really unique voice, and I think that’s the beauty of the instrument making. It’s not a stock: “Here’s the sound, it’s going to be stuck in time, every guitar is going to sound alike.” And with the D’Angelicos, with the D’Aquistos, with the Monteleones, every guitar has a really unique voice, yet it’s kind of connected by this, you know, level of craftsmanship that’s extraordinary and unique.

Woody Mann Talks about the Acoustic and Visual Aesthetics of his Guitars
When I talked to John all I cared about was the sound. And I told John, I said, “Listen, I don’t care what it looks like, the sound is what matters and that’s what we go for.” And even before John, when I was with Jimmy D’Aquisto, the same thing. So the cosmetics never mattered to me. As long as it has enough glue to hold it together and keep it light and easy; it’s just, you know, go for the sound. And so when John was doing his guitars we said, “Okay, it’ll be an archtop, round hole.” So we kind of decided on that.

But as far as all this—the tailpiece and the finish, I had no idea what it would be. He’d call up and say, “You want it blonde or sunburst?” and we said, “Okay, sunburst.” But I had no idea this is what it was going to look like. So when he first delivered the guitar I was totally surprised; I had no idea what it would look like. And in a way it was a little daunting, because it was like handling this art object, and so it took me a while to try to dig into it and not handle it with delicate gloves. It’s ironic in a funny way that the sound of this guitar—maybe it’s because I’ve had it for a while—this is the way it should look. It kind of makes sense after a while, you know. And it’s just so full of surprises. Who would think of designing a headstock like this or a tailpiece like that?

Woody Mann Talks about Guitar Voices and the Skill of Luthiers
When you play one of John’s guitars or one of Jimmy’s guitars it’s like, okay, you’re in another—it’s another thing. It’s not to me a fine difference between a good guitar and a great guitar, it’s just a different guitar. It’s a different approach to instrument making, which I think you can only have when you have one person behind the wheel of doing it all and it’s that person’s vision. And all the things that I now take for granted on John’s guitars—like the perfect intonation, the attack, the tone, the mid-range, the evenness of playing and stuff—I get very disappointed when I play other guitars, everything seems lacking. So it’s an extraordinary experience as a player, and for me, I just enjoy playing and I find myself playing slower and just enjoying [strums] the tones, the way they ring out. With John’s guitar I get such satisfaction on just playing one or two notes [strums], wherever you are. So it just becomes a whole different experience of playing guitar.

Woody Mann Talks About How He Can Learn from a Guitar
Ideas come out and certain things come out that they wouldn’t on other instruments. So absolutely it teaches me certain things. I’ll play and I’ll go, “Wow, I never would play that on another instrument” just because on this guitar, it just works; a certain phrase or something, that just wouldn’t be as satisfying on another instrument. So as a composing guitar, it’s definitely been an inspiration. Oh, totally. I used to call John up all the time, say “sometimes I’ll just play a few notes, it just drives you through a wall.” So, yeah, it’s a teacher in that sense for sure.

Woody Mann Talks about his Visits to D’Aquisto’s Workshop
I had an old D’Angelico, and I went out to Jimmy’s shop because I knew that it needed work, and someone suggested Jimmy and I knew Jimmy’s reputation. So I went out to Long Island and went out to his shop to fix the guitar, to show him the guitar. And then we just ended up just spending the day talking and I played a few of his guitars and then just that day I said, “Okay, I gotta have one of your guitars.” It was the same kind of experience with John; like, we talked and he really understood where I was coming from in terms of the sound, and his guitars were great. And I remember ordering Jimmy’s guitar without having played his guitars.

And so with Jimmy was my first experience with archtops. What is an archtop and how does it work? And he would explain the principles of the f-holes and the archtop and the whole thing. So it was a real—it was a great learning experience and I used to love going out to Jimmy’s shop and we’d spend the day and he’d explain everything to me. He’d always get caught up in the conversation and end up, you know, spending the whole day with me and not making guitars. He was a very colorful guy, and what really struck me about Jimmy and his shop it was just, he wasn’t precious with the guitars. You’d go out to his shop and there was sawdust everywhere and there were all of these D’Angelicos covered with sawdust, you know, on the cement floor, and to him it was just kind of—it was a great experience just feeling how he handled the guitars, and his relationship to instruments and what he thought, what it was about for him, and the stories were hysterical.

Steve Miller Talks about James D’Aquisto
Hi, this is Steve Miller, and I’m here to talk about Jimmy D’Aquisto, James D’Aquisto, the greatest guitar maker of the twentieth century. He gave me the greatest voice I’ve ever had.

I was always looking for a big archtop guitar and I could never find any. So I was looking around for someone to build me an archtop guitar, and I called up my guitar guru, whose name is Dick Boak. And Dick is a very, very great guitar maker himself—he actually works at Martin guitar. But I called him up and he said, “Well, you should meet Jimmy D’Aquisto.” And I said, “Well, where is he?” And he said, “Well, he’s out in Long Island.”

I went out to his shop, to see him and to see my guitar. And I walked into the shop. And the shop was out in his back yard and it was like a tiny, little dollhouse. It was—you could barely stand up in it. And there was nothing in the shop. There wasn’t any sawdust, there was nothing, you know? And there were three guitars. He says, “Yours is over there.”

And I looked at it and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. And I picked it up and strummed it. And it was drying. It wasn’t quite ready to go, but it was there that I got my first D’Aquisto in my hands. And instantly, I could tell that it was a very, very, very, very special instrument. It was extremely light. The tolerances had been taken farther than most guitar makers would ever do. You know, when you start building an archtop guitar, you get this wood, you start carving it. You start steaming things, you start bending stuff. You get a lot of time invested in it. And as a luthier, then you chicken out. You kind of go, “Well, I got it this—I don’t want to bend it anymore!” Jimmy just, like, went right through all that, way beyond that to where you were just—his guitars almost felt like if you tapped it, if you went [snaps fingers] on it, it might blow up, you know? And so it had all this coiled energy inside it. And the voicing—as soon as I played that guitar, I looked at Jimmy and I said, “Thank you. You’ve given me a new voice.”

Steve Miller Discusses his D’Aquisto Guitar
It took me about two years to get up the courage to say, “Would you build me a solid-body electric guitar, you know, like I play and–you know, regularly?” And he said, “Oh, yeah! Of course, I will.” So we were playing out at Jones Beach and whenever we would play in Long Island, I would always invite Jimmy, and I took him out and I put my in-ear monitors in his ears. I mean, we gave him some generic ones, and I said, “This is the way I work.” He says, “I know exactly what you need.” And he went home and he built me this amazingly beautiful solid-body guitar. And everything about it is really, really special–the way the neck feels, the tone, the way it sounds. And so I really finally–I realized very clearly, this guy is the best guitar maker I’ve ever dealt with.

If I showed you my number one D’Aquisto, I mean, you’d kind of go, “Gee, Steve. Really? I’m just so disappointed in you.” But that’s what happens when you play guitars. You play ’em. You beat ’em up, you know? They’re instruments, you know? And we’re not sitting in a nice little chair like this; it’s like, you know, you got to wear your jewelry, you know? It scratches the stuff up! So that’s the way it is, you know. And that’s the way it was with me and Jimmy–I was playing them, so he liked that.

Jeffrey Mironov Discusses the Relationship between Guitarists and their Instruments
There’s unquestionably and undeniably an interactive relationship, and it’s hard to really say where one begins and one ends, because, you know, at the realm of artistry everything comes alive. And instruments aren’t just instruments, and human beings become more than just human beings. There’s something beyond and past all that in the underlying undercurrent of, you know, this life force that artists bring about, put into their work.

Jeffrey Mironov Remembers Grant Green and his Guitar
Grant Green played an eighteen-inch D’Aquisto New Yorker. And Jimmy loved Grant and Grant loved Jimmy and loved that guitar. As a matter of fact, whenever he would have anybody riding with him in his car, the guitar would go in the front seat and the people would have to ride in the back. I mean, he just revered this guitar and it had a living stature and a living place in his life.

Jeffrey Mironov Remembers Buying his First D’Angelico New Yorker
In a pawn shop window on Eighth Avenue were two D’Angelico New Yorkers, just stunning instruments, that were hanging there with “For Sale” signs on them. And so for like six hundred dollars and my Fender Jaguar, which I was no longer playing, I became the owner of this blonde D’Angelico New Yorker.

The instrument just—oh, my God, it was—you played one note on it and it was so alive and vibrant and so filled with musical promise. And that became a powerful vein of introduction and receptivity for me to go deeper into music than I ever had before. Somehow as I played this instrument, what it gave in return was irresistible.

Jeffrey Mironov Remembers Visiting James D’Aquisto’s Workshop
I had developed a relationship with Jimmy by that time because having three of his instruments required them to be maintained and tweaked seasonally, and so I would go to his shop, which at that time was in Greenport, Long Island, out by Montauk, which was just a wonderful place to go. It was a schlep to get out there, but spending the day with Jimmy in his workshop that was just dripping and oozing those smells of wood and glue and new guitar creations. You know, I would spend this day out there with Jimmy as he worked on my instruments; I’d be playing other instruments that he had or I’d be playing the one he just worked on and our friendship really developed and deepened and became more creative and more compelling and more intimate.

John Monteleone Talks about Learning from his Father
I used to love watching my father draw and the way he used his hands; he used his hands with such economy, and I learned that from him, without him even telling me, I just figured it out, that you could just waste a lot of time with using the wrong strokes or you could just pull it all together and make one stroke count and that was really what is important to a sculptor, what’s important to a painter. Not to waste your time with a thousand different strokes that really don’t add up to anything, but you can take one stroke and make a thousand.

John Monteleone Describes his Early Acquisition of Woodworking Skills
My father developed his own pattern-making business, and that’s industrial pattern making. There was another side of the business that still kept and held on to lamp manufacture, which was plaster castings. My father’s brother took care of that side of the business, and together they had a shop they shared. And when I was a young guy I spent a lot of time in both of those shops, and that’s where I really learned those skills, of how to work with tools, how to read a blueprint, how to project and draft. I also learned a great deal about casting various types of materials, how to make molds, all of these things, including jewelry making–my father was quite a good jewelry maker. So I would pick up on all of these aspects, which was very, very helpful to me, that I would tuck away and store into my memory bank of experiences and I would use them later on.

John Monteleone Talks about Learning How to Build Guitars
I wasn’t aware that you could become a guitar maker at that point. So I was on my own, I was learning what I could, when I could, where I could, and just building up that body of experience. While I was in college I would let people know that if they had something they needed to be fixed, I could probably work on it and fix it, which I did. I got to work on several instruments while I was there. And word would get around that, you know, I could do some things. I still had no training at all, professional training or otherwise. There was no access to information. There was no access to luthiers. I didn’t even know what a luthier was, the term wasn’t there. I didn’t even know that I was a luthier until years later, when somebody said, “Hey, you’re a luthier.” And I said, “Okay, I thought I was a guitar maker.”

John Monteleone Discusses Working for Mandolin Brothers
Mandolin Brothers had offered me a position to repair and restore their instruments, and that’s really where it all began; still self-taught up to that point, still self-taught to this day. I would pick up their instruments, bring them home to my shop, which was set up in the bedroom of my house, and I would do what I need to do and deliver them back again. I was quite lucky to have that position, to have access to these things, and I learned an awful lot from working with older instruments, using that information to decipher what is good as well as what is not so good, what’s better. You learn to decipher the quality of things and the success of an idea; why one instrument might be better than another one, what period of instruments might be better than other periods.

John Monteleone Discusses his Innovations to the Mandolin
I added an arched radius to the fretboard, which is really not a unique idea, it had been done hundreds of years ago on instruments. But to apply it to this kind of a mandolin was a new idea, instead of a flat fretboard, this is a radiused fretboard. And it made sense to me because the nature of the hand, if you move the hand and all the joints and the fingers, they behave in radiuses and not in straight lines, so it was common sense to apply this to a fretboard that felt better to the hand.

If you’re making an instrument feel better to the musician, that’s what your real advantage is, and you’re gaining ground there. So, the next detail of the mandolin that I went to improve was the pickguard, because on those instruments they were so large, by the time bluegrass musicians started playing them they took them off, because it obscured the treble sound hole—the f-hole on the right side. The other reason they took them off was because they probably got loose and rattled and fell off. So I designed an abbreviated kind of pickguard that is made out of wood instead of plastic that can deteriorate. I made it out of ebony, which is a more natural product to the rest of the instrument. Then the third point that I got into improving was the tailpiece. The tailpieces, I felt, were always a little on the flimsy side, so it was a good idea to damp that off from ringing. Then the hitching of the strings; I simplified that. I came up with a tailpiece that was cast in one piece instead of all of these other parts and pieces—it was just one simple piece that could be applied to the instrument, and that’s it. The fourth area I felt could be redesigned was on scroll model mandolins. Half of the scroll on these commercially made mandolins was solid, and to me I took that opportunity to hollow it out and extend the scroll a little bit longer, to try and add as much internal cavity of air volume to the body as I could, to try and actually lower that resonate frequency, microscopically, but just every bit helps. So you have more air capacity, more volume inside the instrument, which will favor a little bit more the low end.

John Monteleone Discusses How Musical Needs Affect his Work as a Luthier
It is music that really supports the relevance of any of these instruments; it always comes down to the music that places the demand for the instrument. Rarely does that happen in reverse, where you have an instrument that begins to create a demand for music. When I approach building an instrument or designing an instrument to be a guitar or mandolin, I always have to have obedience to the foundation. And what I mean by that foundation is that relevance to the music and the musician.

John Monteleone Talks about Mario Maccaferri
One day he handed me a blueprint of a guitar that he had drawn, a classical guitar that he intended to build but he never had the time to do it. And he asked me if I’d be interested in building it. I said, “Yeah, sure.” I think he was testing me to see what I could do with it.

I followed the drawing to the T. And I knew as I’m building the guitar that it was a little bit overbuilt in design, but I stuck with it. I stuck with the plan, the drawing, and I made it right to the end. I used my finest rosewood and other materials on the guitar.

I called him up I said, “It’s done.” He actually drove down to my shop in his lovely large Cadillac and he showed up in a suit and tie. He was always impeccable, and he was dressed to the nines, and he sat down and played this guitar. And he liked it but I could tell there was a little hesitancy, but he confirmed my thoughts about the drawing, and he said, “We’ve got to do something.” So he said, “Bring tools.”

I brought my skill saw with me knowing that we had to operate, like, quick. We operated immediately on this guitar, cut the back right off, cut the tone bars out of the guitar, made some new tone bars, and it turned out that guitar—he pronounced it, like, really good.

John Monteleone Discusses Knowing James D’Aquisto
When I was working on these guitars for repairs and restorations at Mandolin Brothers, I was quite commonly coming across D’Angelico guitars for repair. To learn more about them, I would call Jimmy D’Aquisto. As I would visit, he would show me what he was working on. It was just thrilling to watch the man work, in doing something that I felt very passionate about.

By that time I had already started to make some archtop guitars of my own. And I think what I was able to do was to use that information as best I could in helping to make my own instruments, because there’s a lot of similarity there, certainly in the basics. Where the differentiation comes into it is somewhat like a personality. As you construct an instrument it begins to have a personality that really comes from its maker. It’s like your signature.

That’s how I feel like I got to know John D’Angelico. I never met him in person. I met him through his guitars. I know him through his guitars. I feel a closeness to him.

John Monteleone Explains his Inspirations for the Radio City Instruments
You go to a place like Radio City and you see this amazing architecture, and I would sit there and just kind of look around and I couldn’t help but absorb some of the designs. The way that they could treat things thematically. In their day they would take the idea of speed and power and light, color, and texture, and they would come up with all of these very interesting geometric forms that would really express those ideas. And I thought, well, Radio City’s really got the design mojo that really inspired me because I could align to the Art Deco nature of it. I would use some of the lines that I would see and just kind of embellish some of those ideas to try and bring them into some of the design work ornamentally on the Radio City guitar. But I always liked the idea that the guitar should be celebrated for sharing those great stages and being a part of the great music and the great performances that happened on the stage, so that’s really the connection and reference.

John Monteleone Discusses the Sun King Guitar
The Sun King guitar is an interesting one because it was one of those exercises in design that really came out of just playing with two different pieces of wood on my workbench. I was trying to make a small pattern that was like a fan. And you would see this pattern inlaid on the heel of the guitar neck. If you turn the guitar around the back side and you look at the heel you’d see just a kind of a curvature piece of wood or plastic, and in this case I wanted something that had maple, ebony, maple, ebony, maple, ebony in a fan pattern. And the only way I could do it was to make these long wedges of ebony and maple, tapered, that I could eventually glue them up all together, and I made a design that had on the very tip of it the fan that I wanted. And I cut that out and I put that on the back of the guitar.

And then I was playing around with all these other leftover pieces that were scraps, basically, and just playing with them in different arrangements just gave me ideas for the rest of the design almost immediately. The headstock, the pickguard, the tail piece, I just—I saw it, I visualized it right away. And that guitar happened very rapidly, just out of the pure excitement of the design just flowing out of it. It just came right out of the guitar.

John Monteleone Discusses the Four Seasons Guitars
What it really pointed to was my own personal relationship with the seasons that I know, that are around me. How would that be put into guitars?

And I found myself putting pieces of wood and materials aside that would speak to me in certain ways, that would be like really special and beautiful. You know, I didn’t quite know what I would do with them at that time. So over a period of years I would have a collection of these very interesting pieces of wood that when I thought about it in terms of, “Well, this kind of material could really work in a winter setting,” you know, the bleakness of winter, the black and white of winter, and the contrast of light and dark.

I started to do the inlay work on it, which was an assemblage of mother-of-pearl and sterling silver to really give the iciness of winter and icicles, sort of. And it was really starting to work so well. It became very exciting. I did a pen-and-ink drawing on the interior of the guitar of a night scene, a winter night scene in the mountains with a skating pond. And then I included a lone skater inside—you can hardly see it off to the side, just a mysterious little guy skating across the pond.

And at that point I knew that there had to be three more guitars coming.

John Monteleone Talks about the Guitar as an Art Object
In composition, when you look into a painting and you look at its composition, your eye is drawn to an area or a spot. Now your eye, the way I like to see it, your eye can move around, move around the object. It may come back to central, but it still wants to move, and this kind of an idea is very important I think in a guitar when you look at it visually. I like the guitar, if you’re able to just look at it, and not play it, to vibrate. That to me is like an instrument that is already in motion, without even touching it. And now visually, that’s what the excitement is all about, and now you walk up and you play this instrument and it gives you this other dimension. It’s incredible that an instrument is so unique in that, really, if you pare everything down to one essential, it’s got to play music, that’s what it does: it’s a music box. And that’s what makes it as an art object really unique because it behaves like no other art object there is. It’s not like a painting, it’s not like a sculpture, a statue, a piece of jewelry. In that sense where it’s a one-dimensional kind of an item, a guitar is multidimensional.

Bucky Pizzarelli Demonstrates the Use of a Rhythm Guitar
D’Angelico made a great rhythm guitar, that’s what we called them then. This is one of them right here. This is probably a 1932, and it was used in the big band just to play chords.

[plays chords]

The bass would play one note on the first beat, the second beat would be accented on a guitar like this. And that’s what the people danced to and they never realized that it was the rhythm section that they were dancing to more so than the band.

Bucky Pizzarelli Explains the White D’Angelico Guitars
The group was called The Three Suns, and the guitar player was Al Nevins, and he played on a painted D’Angelico. They had a white organ, a white accordion, and a white guitar. Unfortunately, Al Nevins had a bad report from the doctor, and he wasn’t allowed to play anymore. So they asked me to step out of the band and play with them. So I knew what they were doing, so it was very easy. I looked liked them and wore the same tuxedo he had, the same size and everything. Well, I played the show, you know, and then they asked me to stay with them. I stayed with them about two years. This is the guitar right here, and it was painted all white like a refrigerator. When they broke up they said, “Well you want that guitar? You can have it.” I know there was another one around that was on the same truck that we used to travel around with—it was an eighteen-inch, a bigger body, and it was painted white.

Bucky Pizzarelli Talks about the Recording Use of his D’Angelico Sunburst Guitar
I did a Frank Sinatra, a couple of Frank Sinatra dates, I used this guitar, and some Tony Bennett, I had this. I made a lot of rock and roll records with this too with Dion and the Belmonts, and I played a rhythm like [demonstrates], one of those things. I made Ray Charles’ “Georgia on my Mind” with this guitar. Les heard it and he asked me, “Is that you playing the guitar on ‘Georgia on my Mind’?” It’s a good instrument and if it’s played correctly, for a great artist, it’s going to make the record. It really has that quality about it.

Bucky Pizzarelli discusses the Importance of the Rhythm Guitar
The sound is always there in this particular guitar, see [plays chords]. And that’s the sound that every good recording, especially Frank Sinatra recordings, Tony Bennett—they have a rhythm guitar in there, that makes the record. That little throb. And if you got the right guitar player and you got the right guitar, it’s gonna be great.

Bucky Pizzarelli Talks about how Tony Mottola Loved Pizzarelli’s D’Angelico Sunburst Guitar
Well, we used to share this guitar on The Tonight Show. We were both on staff, and I would keep it in my locker, and Tony fell in love with this guitar. He used it on a couple of Frank Sinatra sessions. I let him use it. So I had this one, and he went to D’Angelico and asked him to make one for him, a new one. So, the day that the guitar was ready we drove down to 40 Kenmare Street. And Tony went [strums]. He said, “It doesn’t sound like Bucky’s guitar.” So D’Angelico grabbed the guitar out of his hands, he says, “I’ll make you another one.” That one strum.

Bucky Pizzarelli Remembers Visiting D’Angelico’s Workshop
It was small, just a lot of wood, all you do was smell sawdust. They’re carving out tops, and they’re making all kinds of different angles, and they’re shaping up a neck, and the master, D’Angelico, was at work. And that’s the way he worked. D’Angelico did show me the shelves that he had with the wood aging, 1936, 1937, and so on, right down the line. So when it was ten years old, he made a guitar out of that wood, and today you don’t know how old the wood is.

Bucky Pizzarelli Shares a Story about Les Paul’s Reaction to Playing Pizzarelli’s D’Angelico Sunburst Guitar
That same day that I brought it home, Les stopped by the house. He pulled in, I said, “Les, I got to show you something. I just got this guitar from George Barnes.” And I went like [strums chords]. He grabbed the guitar out of my hands and took it home to his house and he kept it for a year! Les was an expert on rhythm guitars, even though he was an electrical genius, but he knew a good rhythm guitar, and he heard this one and he went bananas. I had to call him back to get my guitar back.

Paul Simon Discusses James D’Aquisto
I knew Jimmy D’Aquisto, but I didn’t have any of his guitars. He was beginning to have the reputation of being the next-in-line person who was going to be considered in the same league as D’Angelico. We began to talk about him making a guitar for me, and he said he wanted to try and make one that was an acoustic guitar that was an archtop and a round-hole acoustic guitar, which was something that he hadn’t made before.

And I was intrigued by the idea that, you know, a great guitar maker was going to try an experiment on an acoustic guitar. So I said, “Sure, I’m… You know, I’d love to see what comes out of your work.”

I really love the guitar. I think he made a beautiful instrument. I like the way it looked; it’s so simple and elegant. I always have the same feeling: it’s either like for soloing or for that kind of tight-rhythm guitar.