D’Addario
founded: 1974
United States
In 1905 Charles (or Carmine) D'Addario packed up his belongings and immigrated to Astoria, Queens, New York.

Charles enjoyed his new home more and more, and as his family grew, so did his business. In 1918, Charles would begin manufacturing his strings stateside in a tiny garage shop behind the family home on 14th Street in Astoria.

As this was a family business, most of its members learned the trade and worked in the shop, completing whatever tasks were needed. Even the children were recruited to help during busy periods, doing such chores as labeling, packaging and sorting the strings.

Charles personally marketed his strings to violinmakers and musicians, never hesitating to travel to make demonstrations. He was obsessed with the quality of his product and often sought the advice and opinions of the great musicians of the time.

Beginning in 1936 and excluding only his time spent as an enlisted man in WWII, John D'Addario Sr., Charles and his wife, Anna's, only son and youngest of five children, would work side-by-side with his father. At that time the company was renamed C. D'Addario & Son, and it would be John's interest in alternative synthetic substitutes for the unreliable and messy animal gut that would mark another considerable milestone for the trade. The war had brought with it many technological advances, and it was Dupont that developed the first nylon monofilament for things like hair and toothbrushes, brooms., etc. In 1947, when Dupont shipped a sample to the D'Addario shop, Charles and John, Sr. immediately began working with it and found the diameter of the early nylon was perfect for treble harp strings.

As was his growing tradition, Charles consulted his friend, the world famous harpist Carlos Salzedo, for his opinion of the synthetic substitute. Mr. Salzedo was very encouraging and so the D'Addarios began developing ways to apply this new material to more and more instruments. John, Sr. was responsible for developing a method to polish the nylon, which would allow him to reduce the diameter, thus making the nylon useful for a greater variety of instruments, such as the lute and classical guitar. Most of the guitar strings that C. D'Addario & Son manufactured were made to order for musicians or private labels.

John, Sr. was very encouraged by the growing popularity of the guitar, which had been on a steady incline from the 1930s through the war with bands like The Glen Miller Orchestra and Tommy Dorsey. The guitar was being used in rhythm sections, a clear hint of things to come, things like Elvis Presley and The Beatles to be specific.

John, Sr. was anxious to include this burgeoning instrument beyond the classical guitar strings that they made to order, but Charles was reluctant to expand the family business. In 1956, with his father's blessing, John, Sr. entered into a partnership to produce steel strings and electric strings for the guitar and bass. The new company would be named Archaic Musical String Manufacturing Co. and would be run by John D'Addario, Sr., Albert Morante, and his brother-in-law, Gino Burelli.

For some time the two companies, C. D'Addario & Son and Archaic Musical String Mfg Co., would operate separately, with Archaic manufacturing strings for such companies as Gretsch, D'Angelico, Martin, and Guild, as well as C. D'Addario & Son. When Charles retired in 1962, John, Sr. decided to merge the two companies together under a new name, Darco Music Strings, Inc. By now, the guitar was the single most popular instrument in the country, and its impact on the changing world was unmistakable.

Darco grew quickly due to innovations and breakthroughs led by John D'Addario, Sr. The company would lead the industry with the first automated equipment to wind strings, the first round wound electric bass strings, and many other innovations still in use today by manufacturers around the world.

The late 1960s brought another generation of D'Addarios into the family business, with John D'Addario, Jr. the first addition to the fold. John D'Addario Sr.'s five children were no strangers to the string business. Just like the generations before them, they too had helped even as children. All can recount stories of warm nights spent sitting around the kitchen table, drinking coffee and watching The Honeymooners, helping to coil the strings and stuff them into marked envelopes.

As the years rolled by and John, Sr. watched his children grow, their interest in the family trade grew as well. Even as a teenager, John, Jr. had a keen interest in the business side of the company. He would watch and learn not only how to make strings, but also how to negotiate a deal with suppliers or retailers. He developed a business sense and sales skills that made him a welcome addition to the family business. His knack for developing beneficial business relationships, all while keeping an eye on the company's bottom line, helped ensure the company's financial stability.

John, Jr.'s younger brother, James, was an avid guitar player with a shaggy Beatles haircut and a penchant for tinkering with all things electronic. It would come as no surprise that he would eventually be responsible for many of the engineering developments that would further automate and efficiently alter the manufacturing process. James joined Darco's efforts in 1969, while he was still in college. He would work as a dealer and advertising coordinator for the company, while also running the new printing department. John, Jr. and James wanted the company to become as self-sufficient as possible, and eliminating the need for outside printing was a step in the right direction.

Under the ever-present guidance and experience of their father, John, Jr. and James would bring nothing but success to Darco. As the company grew more and more successful, the D'Addarios were eventually approached by premier guitar manufacturer C.F. Martin & Co., Inc. to pool resources and share development efforts. The two companies merged, and after a few profitable years together, the D'Addarios decided it was time for them to separate from Martin to develop their own product under the name that would endure until today, D'Addario & Company, Inc. After eight generations of string making, the first strings bearing the D'Addario brand name were introduced; the year was 1974.

D'Addario's first factory was in Lynbrook, New York, and the initial staff consisted of only five employees. As always, it was a real family operation with John, Sr., John, Jr. and James leading the company's growth and business plans. James' wife Janet helped to design packaging, heading up what would eventually become the company's art department. The printing facility was still a strong support for the fledgling company, providing a steady source of income as the family developed their superior line of strings. The D'Addario reputation for service and quality served them well as they tapped into the market with their own products. Aggressive marketing strategies would help their product line gain popularity, and the staff of five quickly multiplied to fifteen.

John, Jr. and James were intent upon expanding the company's product line. John, Sr. was a little cautious about growth and recognized that it was probably a sign that he should retire, as his own father had, and let his capable sons take the reigns. It was around this time in the early 1980s that D'Addario would complement its successful fretted line with the acquisition of the Kaplan Musical String Company, a long-established manufacturer of classical instrument strings.

The brothers embarked on a rigorous program of research and development. They created a world-renowned line of products in the field, establishing D'Addario as a premier manufacturer of bowed instrument strings. D'Addario's guitar and bass strings were already a great success. The brand was continually gaining in popularity and securing a sizeable share of the market.

In 1984, the company would relocate to a larger facility to handle the increased demand for their product, and the production staff ballooned to 150 employees. This would not be the last time the company would find itself busting at the seams of its factory space. Operations have expanded on several occasions since, with the largest expansion in 1994, when the company relocated to a new 110,000-square foot facility in Farmingdale. Today D'Addario & Company, Inc. occupies a total of 190,000-square feet at its Farmingdale headquarters, an additional 51,000-square feet at the Rico manufacturing facility in California, and employs more than 900 people, each one of them making an invaluable contribution to what has always been a family business. A distribution center in California handles shipments to the West, and satellite offices in Chicago and Los Angeles cater to musicians across the nation. D'Addario Canada is a third distribution center, providing D'Addario products to Canada, while satellite sal es offices in Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and France help service the rest of D'Addario's global customer base.

The research and development arm of D'Addario is one of its strongest assets. Headed by James, the engineering department has accumulated many important manufacturing and product patents in the field. The company prides itself on identifying problems in their production and implementing solutions. This includes the work they've done on their newest product line additions, such as Evans Drumheads (1995) Planet Waves, an accessory line (1998), HQ Practice Products, drum silencing and silent practice products (2004) and Rico Reeds (2004).
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