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David, I think you may be interested in my "Hagstrom" Story which was published in the "Just Jazz Guitar" magazine last year.

I am also sending photos of my two guitars which are played every day, I play lunchtimes in an Italian Restaurant in the Metrocentre (a shopping mall) and evenings in various jazz clubs/pubs ect. I play solo chordal jazz ala Joe Pass, Johnny Smith, Barney Kessel ect.

I like your web pages.

Best Regards Ron Chapman

The Story of the Hagstrom James L D'Aquisto Guitar (By Ron Chapman) 

(Revised by Ron 17/8/2001)   (See also) Page 2 (FAB PICS)

My quest to find out more about The Hagstrom guitars designed by the late James, L, D'Aquisto started sometime in 1999, I was playing my recently acquired Hagstrom D'Aquisto guitar at the Turks Head Jazz Club in South Shields which is on Tyneside in North East England. The guitar was admired by several of the musicians in the audience.

I mentioned to a pianist by the name of Roy Drummond that I was interested in finding the former owners of the Hagstrom Guitar factory in Sweden in order to obtain more information about the instrument. Roy plays on various RonandJimmy.jpg (68712 bytes)passenger ferries between England and Scandinavia and on visits to Norway and Sweden he will sit in with whatever Jazz groups that he comes across and consequently knows several Scandinavian musicians. Roy told me that he had seen a Hagstrom shop in Bergen, Norway, I knew that it was not the guitar factory, wrong country, but perhaps they could point me in the right direction. After a telephone call to directory enquiry's for Hagstrom in Norway and a few minutes of searching her computer screen the directories girl said she could find no Music shop called Hagstrom however she had a Hagstrom name on the screen, could that be it ?, she gave me the international code, area code and the number for Hagstrom. A child who spoke no English answered my call and after a few minutes of conversation with what sounded like the Swedish cook on the Muppet T.V show her mother came on the line to speak to me, I made my enquiry's, a Hagstrom Guitar Factory ? a shop in Norway by the name of Hagstrom ?. In perfect English she said "no, this is a private house on the outskirts of Oslo, but I have seen a shop in Oslo called Hagstrom, would you like me to get the telephone number for you?," after a few minutes she very obligingly gave me the phone and fax number for Hagstrom music in Oslo.

It turned out that the shop had been owned by the Swedish Hagstrom company who had sold it some 18 years before, however a guy in the shop had worked for the Swedish company and knew quite a lot about the guitar manufacturing and indeed the history of the demise of the factory but best of all he gave me the telephone number of Karl E. Hagström . After two hours of more frustration through wrong area code, one wrong digit in the number, language problems and so on I managed to get Mr Hagström on the telephone and here is some of the history and the background to the James, L, D'Aquisto Guitar put together with a lot of help from Karl E. Hagström who was the final owner of the Hagstrom factory. The Hagstrom factory is now a museum, it is situated in Älvdalen which is about a four hour drive north east of Oslo. Älvdalen which means River Valley in English, lies in a densely wooded part of Sweden with many lakes and rivers. The Hagstrom company was a big name in the Scandinavian music business and from 1945 to 1983 they built up a chain of 48 music stores throughout Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The Hagstrom guitar factory started producing guitars in 1958 with production figures of electric guitars reaching several thousands by 1961 and a total production including electric bass guitars of 128,538 before ceasing production in 1983. James L D'Aquisto was of great interest to me, I knew little of him other than he had been an apprentice to John D'Angelico in New York and I knew that Jimmy D'Aquisto was credited with a great deal of the work involved in the building of these guitars.I also knew that D'Angelico guitars had been sold to millionaire collectors in America and Japan for up to $100,000.00.

I was particularly interested in the Hagstrom James,L D'Aquisto model nicknamed the "Jimmy", and how a very famous American guitar maker had come to design such a guitar for a Swedish company.

Karl E. Hagström had met Jimmy D'Aquisto through Unicord, a Gulf & Western Company who were distributors for Hagstrom in the United States, he also visited him in New York and at his shop on Long Island. James L D'Aquisto first went to Sweden in about 1968 when he was 32 years old. that was four years after the death of John D'Angelico. At that time he was designing a guitar for a company called Bjarton, the company were situated in a town called Bjarnum near Malmö in the south of Sweden, he spent some time designing a guitar to be produced by them out of solid spruce, three guitars were in the process of being built but only one was completed, this was actually hand carved by Jimmy D'Aquisto. However, the factory closed down before any production was completed, The Hagstrom museum have that one and only completed guitar. Jimmy D'Aquisto returned to Sweden in June 1975 and spent about a month at the Hagstrom factory in Älvdalen in Sweden, he supervised the production of the "Jimmy" which he had designed. Apparently it took a great deal of money to manufacture the jigs and to have the necessary tooling at hand before production started a year or so later.

Hagstrom UK Note: This account of Bjarton closing has been found elsewhere too, but it has been confirmed by Torgil Hagman (joint MD during the 1970's) that Bjarton was producing until at least 1980. As for the Jimmy, yes this was transferred to Hagstrom between the initial run in 1968 and the final production runs from 1976 to 1979.  I had also learned there was a mix up with distributor names given out at NAMM at the original launch of the Jimmy in 1968.

Jimmy D'Aquisto describes the guitar as follows; " I designed this guitar with the professional guitarist in mind, it is a functional, quality instrument designed to serve the needs of the knowledgeable, discriminating musician. The size of the guitar is designed to rest comfortably in the hands of the musician enabling him to play for hours on end without fatigue. The ebony fingerboard and bridge enhance the tonal quality of the instrument and promote a clear sustaining quality. This guitar is constructed in Sweden by craftsmen who take pride in their work". Signed James L. D'Aquisto". He goes on to give the technical details of the guitar which was available in F-hole and oval hole. Body. Venetian cutaway design, laminated birch arched top, back and sides. body length 20" width 15.3/4". Depth 2. 3/4" . 20 frets 243/4" scale length.

Karl E. Hagström describes Jimmy D'Aquisto as a soft spoken man, full of humor a very good designer and craftsman and also a very good guitarist, sadly missed. He obviously liked what he had designed for Hagstrom as he purchased 50 of the raw unfinished bodies and guitar necks from Hagstrom to use in the building of his own D'Aquisto guitars when he returned to New York, Unfortunately the guitar necks which had a revolutionary truss rod design developed by the Saab Aircraft Company aeronautical designers were stolen before he got the chance to use them. The Hagstrom Jimmy bodies from Sweden were eventually used in the manufacture of some of his less expensive guitars and that's the reason some of the D'Aquisto guitars have laminated bodies.

For me the really interesting facts about the Hagstrom "Jimmy" is that a total of only 1083 were ever produced, there were 727 of the F- hole model and 356 of the oval hole model , of these 56 of the F-hole and 23 of the oval hole Jimmy models were imported into England during 77/78 by Fletcher Copock & Newman, a total of only 79 of this instrument.

Of the remainder of the production between 1976/79, 80% of the Jimmy's were exported to the USA and sold by the Ampeg/Selmer Company and the remaining 20% were sold and exported to Stage Sound In Australia, Canada Austria, Italy, Norway, Finland, Holland and Belgium. Out of the 56 of the"F"hole guitars that came to England I have owned three. I bought the first F-hole in a cherry sunburst in 1990 for £385 ($620) I foolishly sold it to the guitarist from a German Jazz band called the "Hot House Jazzmen" for £1,000 ($1,600). I thought at the time "no problem" I'll find a replacement. I had no idea at that time that the guitars were so rare in England. I had no luck in finding myself a replacement until November 1997 when I came across the oval hole model, natural finish, near mint condition "Jimmy" in Hanks music store in Denmark street, London, The appearance of oval hole Jimmy is not unlike one of the Koonz archtops or the Bennedetto played by Howard Alden. It cost me £925 ($1,500)

Only 4 weeks later at a guitar show in Newcastle upon Tyne I found an "F" hole model, cherry red sunburst in good condition £1,250 ($2,000) I recently I exchanged the oval hole model for another "F" hole model in absolute mint condition, so I now have only the two "F" hole models which I prefer. They produces a fat warm jazz tone which I would compare to the sound of Johnny Smith who has been the major influence in my music, it can also sound very like the mellow sound of Jim Halls guitar.

I had read Bob Benedetto's article in the premier issue of Just Jazz Guitar magazine where he wrote at length about the benefit of the Ebony tail piece and the Benedetto pick ups for jazz guitars. I was interested in his remarks that if D'Angelico and D'Aquisto had lived longer they would have continued the evolution of the guitars by eliminating unnecessary mass from the instruments including heavy metal tailpieces which are acoustically detrimental to he tone of the guitar. I remembered that article and of course wondered if my oval hole guitar could be improved by a Benedetto pick up and ebony tailpiece. After a telephone conversation with Bob Benedetto regarding the suitability of my instrument for improvement I took delivery in January of the ebony tail piece and the S-6 suspended mini humbucker. The fitting of the tailpiece and Beneddetto pick up by our own well known local luthier Les Tones immediately altered and improved the tone of the instrument, consequently I have recently fitted ebony tail pieces to the F-hole guitars and I am delighted at the improvement.

The relatively low prices of the Jimmy may give a false impression of the instruments, but Jimmy D'Aquisto certainly put his best into their design. I have worked in a guitar shop and have played guitar on and off for 45 years, I have owned or played many of the Gibson, Guild, Gretch, Hofner, Framus, Levin and Fender models but when you buy a Hagstrom Jimmy you are getting the closest thing to a James L D'Aquisto electric acoustic for a price that is next to nothing.

JazzGuitarMag.jpg (48101 bytes)The Hagstrom Jimmy is exceptional, certainly not a "hand made" guitar and not yet a collectable guitar the sound of the instrument proves that Jimmy D'Aquisto's knowledge about guitar design and construction could be incorporated into a relatively inexpensive instrument. Giving a tonal quality normally found only in the more expensive custom made guitars.

From the information that I have there are about 763 of the James,L,D'Aquisto designed Hagstroms somewhere in the USA. and a further 241 world wide.

 

Ron Chapman e-mail: jazzfinger2007@talktalk.net (e-mail address updated Jan 2009)
Ron enjoys hearing from you...

Webmaster: My sincere thanks to Ron for this superb account - "The Ron and Jimmy Story" 
... and he only drives my dream wheels too!


Link to Magazine:
Just Jazz Guitar Magazine 

                       (See also) Page 2

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There must be loads of stories (and pics) around from the last forty years, why not share them with us!

 
 
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There's nothing like a REAL original Swedish made Hagstrom (and there are loads around), but if it 'floats your boat', or you can't find an original then who are we to say?

Plenty has been said already and
will be said forever forward probably.
Only you know what's right for you!