D’Aquisto, James L.
- Paul Schmidt
(b Brooklyn, NY, 1935; d 1995). American guitar and mandolin maker. He was born in Brooklyn to second-generation immigrants from Palermo, Sicily. His career began when he became apprenticed to master luthier John D’Angelico in 1952 at 40 Kenmare Street, New York. D’Aquisto’s early tasks at the D’Angelico workshop were necessary but mundane—picking up tuners, taking necks to the engraver, and the like—but by 1960 he was doing many of the refined tasks previously performed by D’Angelico.
Upon D’Angelico’s death in 1964, D’Aquisto acquired the business and created his first instrument in 1965. His early instruments were very similar to previous ones made at the shop, maintaining D’Angelico’s model designations Excel and New Yorker. Soon D’Aquisto was making his own discoveries during the process and incorporating them into his designs; these innovations were to reshape the entire philosophy of arch-top guitar construction. D’Angelico had been building instruments that were increasingly designed to function with an electric pickup, as was in keeping with their role in the musical styles of the day. D’Aquisto began experimenting with ways to make the instruments livelier and more responsive acoustically. He introduced modified sound holes (rather than conventional ...