Thursday, May 12, 2011

My Guitar Hero

There is a show going on right now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York called Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsman From Italy to New York which I plan on attending in the next few weeks.

They are featuring a luthier I've known about since a child. One who had meaning in my life before I knew what meaning was. One who had made an impact on me even though he died several years before I was born. That luthier was John D'Angelico. And the reason I know his name, and his story, is because my grandfather owned one of his incredible guitars.

In the photo above, you'll see my grandfather playing his D'Angelico. He bought this guitar directly from D'Angelico's shop at 40 Kenmare Street on New York's Lower East Side, at the very edge of Little Italy. It's a 1949 Excel Cutaway model, made by John D'Angelico himself. A man revered in the guitar world. A man who is universally regarded as the finest archtop guitar builder that ever lived. And my grandfather met him. Owned a guitar built by his very hands. And played it; for me.

In the photo below, you'll see me in a spot I was often found; not far from my grandfather's elbow. I loved being with him; from when I was a toddler, all the way up until he passed away in my early twenties; watching him tinker on cars, working on his trainboard, playing his guitar. It was from him that I learned to play my very first guitar chords. He was my guitar hero. My grandfather also met Jimmy D'Aquisto, John D'Angelico's apprentice. Eventually, D'Aquisto bought the business from D'Angelico and continued the tradition of making fine guitars. D'Angelico and D'Aquisto are generally regarded as the two greatest archtop guitar makers of the 20th century.

A third man, John Monteleone, will also be featured in the show. A great guy who gave me a lot of information about the guitar my grandfather owned, was also a friend and student of Jimmy D'Aquisto, and today is a highly respected guitar maker himself. I look forward to seeing the work of these three men, in addition to the history of the other pieces that will be featured in the show.

I don't know exactly when I'll be able to get into the city, but when I do, I'll write more about the experience. And I think I might take these photos with me in case I run into any real enthusiasts; I imagine it'd be quite the icebreaker should I be standing next to someone famous, who just happened to be admiring the same guitar I was!

I think this will be a great opportunity for me to learn more about guitars and guitar making, something I'd like to pass along to my nephew, who at 12 years old, is four years into his guitar playing. Someday, when his appreciation for music and his instrument mature, he'll be able to look at these pictures and know where he got the guitar gene from.

To get more information on the exhibit, click HERE.

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1 comment:

Gil said...

Very interesting! Is the guitar still with a family member?