James D’Aquisto was born in Brooklyn in 1935 to an Italian American family, both sets of grandparents having emigrated from Palermo. D’Aquisto was a skilled musician who studied jazz guitar and played the bass. As a teenager, he was taken to visit John D’Angelico’s workshop and was immediately entranced by the idea of instrument building. He was offered a job as a shop boy in 1952 at age seventeen. D’Aquisto spent the next twelve years learning every aspect of guitar making. For the last five years of D’Angelico’s life, D’Aquisto was the only other worker in the shop, and he gradually took over more of the production of the instruments, eventually purchasing the shop. After a series of unfortunate business deals, D’Aquisto, like many other Italian Americans at the time, moved to Long Island, where he established himself first in Huntington, then Farmingdale, and finally Greenport. Initially, he continued to build high-quality instruments in the same traditional style as D’Angelico, but later introduced his own ideas to instrument construction, culminating in the introduction of his modern-style guitars in the second half of the 1980s. These instruments represented a radical departure for guitar players and collectors alike and would open the door for other luthiers to experiment.
Steve Miller talks about James D’Aquisto (Transcript)