Inside D'Angelico Guitars' Secret Manhattan Showroom
Drop the name "D'Angelico" to any group of experienced guitarists, and you'll hear a chorus of similar responses: legendary, incredible, unmatched. All fair assessments. After all, when Eric Clapton considers you to be one of the best, you are indeed, one of the best.
The storied brand of custom, hand-built guitars was launched in New York City back in 1932 by its namesake, the luthier John D'Angelico. His designs earned a loyal following and became the go-to for big-time jazz guitarists during that era. Unfortunately, D'Angelico, as a brand, all but died when John passed in 1964.
But a few years ago, a trio of music-minded entrepreneurs acquired the rights to the name and brought it back to life. Recently, they invited us to check out their semi-private showroom space in New York, which is now a hotspot for exclusive post-show parties and daytime drop-ins from marquee names.
Tucked on the fourth floor of an unassuming building in Manhattan's Flower District, there's no mistaking what you're walking into, as the first sight off the elevator is the wall-sized close-up of the iconic axe body.
A few steps in on the left is the first in a series of grand lounges. It feels as much like a shrine to the history (those are photos of John D'Angelico mounted above the couch) as it does a comfortable place to take a seat and test drive a guitar from the new collection.
Unlike the original D'Angelicos, of which only 30 or so were made every year (quite a lot when you consider just one dude was doing it by hand), it now turns out roughly 700 per month. D'Angelico didn't wing it on recreating the feel and sound of the legendary originals, either; the new models were designed using 3D scans and MRIs taken of older models.
It's no secret that D'Angelicos are a favorite among the biggest players out there, though in order to re-introduce the brand, they had to get clever. Our tour guide, CEO Brenden Cohen, who rebooted the label along with Sam Ash alum Steve Pisani and John Ferolito, Jr., explained their tactic: leaving guitars in backstage dressing rooms.
The strategy worked, and they've attracted the attention (and received commissions from) a whole bunch of elite strummers in every genre, including legends like Eric Clapton and The Doobie Brothers's Jeff Baxter.
Besides working with living legends to build custom $10,000+ touring guitars, the compound's often visited by premier customers when they're in town. Recent visitors while we were there included Gary Clark Jr., Susan Tedeschi, and Joe Bonamassa.
You don't need to make world tour money to afford one, though. The higher-end models are pricey (between $10,000 and $11,000), but they also produce a full series of high-quality models in the more affordable, sub-$2,000 range.
The company also branched out with a whole collection of acoustics, kept protected in a special climate-controlled room.
Cohen's office is incredibly comfortable and casual. It's easy to see why musicians would feel right at home stopping by.
Across the hall sits a team of on-site luthiers, expert craftsmen who can tweak, modify, and repair any and all pieces when necessary.
The space also functions as an after-hours hotspot. Other than hosting private parties for bands (The Billy Joel band has been known to hang here after their shows at nearby Madison Square Garden), the place is equipped with a legitimate stage and sound system to accommodate intimate performances. Recently, it served as a special venue for the CMJ Music Marathon.
And it wouldn't be a proper party spot without a fully stocked bar, complete with built-in and completely functional Marshall amps.
No doubt Mr. D'Angelico would be pumped to see his legacy resuscitated with such flair.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor. He plays a mean Guitar Hero.