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About D’Aquisto Guitars
James D’Aquisto is arguably the finest arch-top guitars maker in the history of the instrument. Succeeding his mentor, John D’Angelico, D’Aquisto consistently produced instruments with such craftsmanship and innovative refinements at the highest level.
James D’Aquisto was born on November 9, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York. His grandfather was a custom tailor who originally emigrated from Palermo, Sicily in Italy during the first decade of the 1900’s. His father, Vincent, was a skilled caster/toolmaker and his mother, Mary, was a highly skilled crafter. At age four Jimmy began displaying amazing abilities to create almost anything with his hands. One day a doctor found the very sick, six-year-old with a fever of 103 degrees carving a model at the kitchen table all wrapped in blankets.
His childhood was filled with music! The sounds of guitar, mandolin, violin, piano and singing at the traditional Italian family gatherings had a major influence on young Jimmy. As Jimmy grew older he became fascinated with Jazz. His focus soon switched to guitar and he began taking lessons from Anthony Antone, the prominent New york guitarist. By the time he was 17 he was playing at night clubs in New York.
Around 1953 James met a player who mentioned that all the best Jazz guitarists played D’Angelico guitars. This inspired James to visit the D’Angelico workshop where John D’Angelico himself offered him one of his guitars to play. James was so impressed with the guitar that he knew from that moment he would become a luthier.
James demonstrated such intense passion and adept skill that John accepted him as a paid apprentice, earning $35 a week. He started off running errands, picking up parts, cleaning windows, sweeping floors and learning how to build guitars from John himself. Mr. D’Aquisto respected and idolized the master luthier, who was never dictatorial but eager to help James improve and search for his own methods and techniques.
1n 1959 D’Aquisto had more responsibilities in the guitar making process. During that year the building that the workshop was is was condemned, forcing the shop to close. James went back to playing music full time until they managed to move the whole operation across the street and re-open the shop. James alone remained to help D’Angelico, who was falling ill. D’Aquisto was responsible for the entire process and perfected his luthier skills.
John D’Angelico unexpectedly passed away on September 1st, 1964, at the age of 59. James was devasted emotionally and professionally.
The D’Angelico family offered James the business for $3,000, which he had to borrow from a lawyer/partner. There were many challenges that James had to overcome in the years that followed. In 1965 his workshop was robbed and all of the instruments, including several newly finished D’Aquisto guitars, were stolen.
In 1966 James became the sole owner of D’Aquisto Guitars. With the help of his family, he was able to buy the same machinery and tools that D’Angelico had used and focused once again on building finer instruments.
In 1967 only a dozen D’Aquisto guitars were played and seen in the city but the word began to spread and the brand name gained recognition and respect among players. The number of orders grew rapidly.
His workshop was relocated to Farmingdale, Long Island, and then eventually to Greenport, Long Island. Always devoted to his family, these moves were made in the pursuit of finding a suitable environment to raise his children in.
James D’Aquisto had dealt with epilepsy throughout most of his life, and the symptoms started to become severe as he got older. During a visit to Fender in Cornoa, California, James suffered a fatal epileptic seizure and was pronounced dead on April 18th, 1995. He was 59, the same age as John D’Angelico when he passed away.
D’Aquisto logged 371 guitars on his ledger between 1965 and 1995.
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