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1934 D'Angelico, First Model Archtop
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Serial number: 1049, stamped inside back
Body size at lower bout: 16 5/8" Scale length: 24 3/4". Nut width: 1 11/16" Body depth: 3 1/4"
Finish: Sunburst finish, nitrocellulose lacquer type
Materials: Solid handcarved flame maple back, sides and neck; solid bookmatched handcarved spruce top; mother of pearl block fingerboard inlays; ornate floral peghead inlay, three-ply body and headstock binding, bound fingerboard.
Hardware: All original hardware includes open-back Grover tuners, pickguard support and tailpiece; adjustable compensated ebony bridge; triple-bound dark tortoise pickguard.
Notes: The instruments of master builder John D'Angelico are widely regarded as representing the pinnacle of the modern luthier's craft. We are pleased therefore to announce the arrival of an instrument from the very beginning of his illustrious career. Stamped with serial number 1049, this guitar is listed on the very first page of his hand written ledger, and would appear to have been completed sometime in early 1934. Shipped to Silver and Horlund, one of D'Angelico's main retailers, the instrument was built for a guitarist named Mac Goss, whose name is inscribed in graceful cursive script on the pearl inlay at the 15th fret.
This remarkable instrument dates from DAngelico's earliest days as an independent luthier, and represents the only model he offered in those formative years. It also clearly demonstrates the maestro's earliest influence as well: Gibson's pioneering L-5 archtop guitar. Introduced in 1922, Lloyd Loar's L-5 was so widely influential that it was copied almost universally by guitar builders great and small, but by none more successfully than John D'Angelico.
This earliest of D'Angelico's offerings precedes the model names that made him famous. Before the Excel and New Yorker, before the Style A, B and Special, if you went to the little shop on Kenmare St. for a guitar, this is what you got. And the young luthier from Little Italy didn't waste time reinventing the wheel: from the tapered 'snakehead' headstock to the pointed fingerboard finial, this guitar is an unabashed tribute to the Gibson original, right down to the pickguard, over-under tailpiece, block inlays, and the formal 'Cremona' style teacup sunburst. The similarity extends under the hood as well. The bracing, scale length, nut width, and body depth all mirror the L-5 closely: D'Angelico's customizations were limited to a slightly increased body width, and the graceful floral peghead inlay and banner logo.
But while Gretsch and others were content to ape Gibson's cosmetics, D'Angelico had an ace up his sleeve. Blessed with a background in violin making, he would have readily understood the vital process of tap-tuning the top and back plates of this new guitar design, an advantage few of his contemporaries would have grasped. And here is where this simple guitar just leaves the competition gasping in the dust. From the low E to the highest C, this little cannon simply rattles the rafters, with volume and projection that puts the most massive super jumbo behemoth to shame. The guitar's notably light weight, barely 5lb. 8oz, is a factor to be sure. Also it's long playing career, opening the soundboard over many decades. But in the end, a voice like this can only be the product of two essential ingredients: great skill, and good luck.
By common consent, D'Angelico's technical and design abilities were unsurpassed. In fusing the disparate elements of a fretted instrument into a harmonious whole, he clearly had the touch of genius. But as with any builder since long before the Cremona masters, no two of his creations emerged exactly alike. As those lucky enough to have played more than a few of these masterpieces will attest, there are good D'Angelicos, great D'Angelico's, and once a blue moon, a D'Angelico that owns its name unambiguously: 'Of The Angels'. And this guitar, dear friends, is one of those happy few.
It's not just the volume, which could readily drown a horn section. There are other loud guitars, but few with the depth and woodiness of this instrument. The voice is uncannily deep and throaty, with a clarity and definition that simply jumps from the soundbox and fills the room. Across the register, each individual note has a distinct separation that projects brilliantly in an ensemble, yet the guitar is capable of a finesse that makes it ideal for chord melody solos or vocal accompaniment, a rare combination in any fine guitar. And finally, the instrument possesses a dynamic range that is simply phenomenal: the harder it's played, the more firmly it pushes back, refusing to break up or distort under the most aggressive pick attack.
Well played and well maintained, the guitar remains in excellent condition, and showing all original sunburst lacquer finish, without overspray or refinishing. Back, sides and neck are hand carved from handsomely figured tiger flame maple, and the bookmatched quartersawn spruce top shows grain that widens markedly at the recurve, a pattern suggestive of Adirondack spruce. The fingerboard is fashioned from dark clear ebony, inlaid with subtly hued mother-of-pearl. The maker's original registration dots are found on the back near the heel and endblock, as is the custom in these instruments. The original dark sunburst finish shows some normal playwear, with some scattered nicks and scratches confined mostly to the upper lacquer. A short finish crack is visible on the bass side upper bout, but does not go all the way through the wood. Binding is original, tight to the body and in excellent condition, as is the original bound tortoise pickguard. The original gold Grover G-30 tuners are in fine working order, and the tailpiece has its original over-under crossbar, with a correct replacement early 30's trapeze retainer that fits the original mounting holes.
The neck profile is fine and full, with a gentle "C" profile that is neither clubby nor veed. The fingerboard is straight, and the freshly installed vintage style frets are level and immaculately dressed for a low, comfortable action. Finally, the guitar remains nested in its original black plush lined hardshell case, still good protection some eight decades on. The rarest of all the master's creations, these original series D'Angelico's surface but rarely in the marketplace. Simply put, this modest guitar is the most thrilling D'Angelico we've yet had the pleasure to play. Deeply resonant, and pleasing to the eye, this instrument combines unparalleled musicality and historic importance, at the very dawn of the modern archtop guitar.
If you have the ears of a player, and not just a guitar accumulator, you won't want to be second in line. Call now.
Setup: The frets have been precision leveled, crowned and polished as necessary; bridge height adjusted; bridge compensation set; string slots at nut and bridge inspected; bridge foot contour inspected; bridge radius inspected; bridgewheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge oiled; body and neck cleaned and hand polished.
This instrument is strung with medium gauge bronze strings (.013-.057).
The guitar will accommodate lighter or heavier gauge strings, according
to preference. String action is set at 5/64" to 6/64" at the 12th
fret, with moderate relief for acoustic playing with medium strings. The
action may be lowered or raised to your requirements with the adjustable
Case: Original black plush lined hardshell case.
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