John D’Angelico

John D’Angelico was born in Little Italy, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, in 1905 to immigrant parents from Naples. His father, Philip, was a tailor and the family lived on Mott Street. D’Angelico’s great-uncle was the luthier Raphael Ciani, and as a boy, perhaps as young as nine, D’Angelico began working in the shop at 57 Kenmare Street. Ciani died in 1923, and it is thought that the eighteen-year-old D’Angelico took over operations. He also may have studied violin making with the Italian immigrant luthier Mario Frosali, who lived on West Fifty-first Street. By 1932 D’Angelico had opened up his own workshop at 40 Kenmare Street and was building archtop guitars patterned on those made by the Gibson Company and used by guitarists in big bands. He soon became known for his high-quality instruments, which were appreciated both acoustically and visually. He spent his career on the Lower East Side, making nearly twelve hundred instruments, many of which were used by prominent musicians in many genres. Musicians of later generations continue to desire his instruments. D’Angelico died in 1964 at age fifty-nine. He created a variety of instruments throughout his career, for professional and amateur musicians alike.

Featured Instruments

Related Interviews

Jeffrey Mironov remembers buying his first D’Angelico New Yorker (Transcript)

Bucky Pizzarelli talks about the recording use of his D’Angelico sunburst guitar (Transcript)

Related Performance

Bob Grillo plays “Ah, Marie” on an archtop guitar (serial number 1002) by John D’Angelico. Recorded August 11, 2010, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Related Audio

“Black Mountain Rag” by Tommy Magnus

Performed by Chet Atkins on his D’Angelico guitar. Originally released 1953 on Chet Atkins’ Gallopin’ Guitar, RCA. Recording provided courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment.

“Fools Rush In” by Johnny Mercer and Rube Bloom (1940)

Performed by Mary Kaye (and her trio) on her D’Angelico guitar. From the movie Bop Girl Goes Calypso, BelAir Productions, 1957. Courtesy United Artists. Special thanks to The Johnny Mercer Foundation.