Wednesday, February 6, 2013

It Was 40 Years Ago Today...

Forty years ago this week, in a 2,000 square foot storefront on Denton Ave. in Lynbrook, NY, 
J. D’Addario & Company, Inc., was born.

In 1969, John D’Addario, Senior and Junior, along with two other partners from, traded their interest in Darco Music Strings, Inc., for stock in the C. F. Martin Company. The guitar was booming and Martin was expanding, acquiring other companies, like Fibes Drums, Vega Banjos and Levin Guitars of Sweden. The promise of being an integral part of the legendary Martin Company on its road to becoming an industry giant was quite alluring.

Unfortunately the vision Martin had for the future hit a few bumps in the road and the D’Addario family did not enjoy being a part of a larger company that, at the time, seemed to be losing its way. Fortunately for the Martin and D’Addario families, both companies found their separate paths to future success.

At the time John, Jr. and John, Sr. had five year employment contracts with Martin, however, Janet and I did not have any obligations. We decided to form J. D’Addario & Company, Inc., first as an advertising agency and printing company, with the hopes that John, Sr., and John, Jr. would be able to join us in 1974 and we could return to making music strings, our family trade for centuries.

I remember vividly what the first week in February was like in 1973.  We registered the company, set up a bank account, electrical service, moved our printing equipment and began operations. We had previously started a small in-house printing operation for Martin. We were able to trade some of our Martin stock for the in-house printing equipment. We also received a promise for two years’ worth of printing work from Martin.

I secured a $5,000 loan from Citibank that my father had to co-sign for me.  We began to solicit accounts outside the music industry and made a modest profit the first year. I was proud that we were able to pay the entire $5,000 loan off before the end of the year.

It was not without tough lessons along the way that we were able to achieve some very modest success in those early years. But 1973 was bittersweet for me. As much as I liked what we were doing, the music business was in my blood and I really missed it. I also missed working with my Dad and brother. After all we had grown up around the string shop and I had been going to NAMM shows since I was 13. Incidentally this was my 50th year at NAMM.

On New Year’s Eve 1973 the decision was made for my Dad and brother to negotiate their way out of their Martin contract and its non-compete clause. We ordered some string winding machinery and began planning the introduction of D’Addario Strings as a brand.

It was towards the end of 1973 that I got the itch to design the D’Addario String Set package. I saw the font that we used for the D’Addario logo (ironically retired this year), on the back of a box of Wheaties. Sample packages for J11 were printed towards the end of 1973, well before we even had our first string machine. This draft was our first set label although it was never actually used. The copy on the back was changed before the strings were introduced.

We then rented a 10,000 square foot facility in Lindenhurst and in August 1974 had a grand opening party to launch D’Addario Strings.

As I look back at all the fond memories I can’t help but feel blessed. Blessed to be given the opportunity to work with so many talented and dedicated people and blessed to know that we have stayed true to our mission.

It is a great coincidence that this year, after forty years, we decided to step back and define what the D’Addario Company and Family stand for. It has been very satisfying for me to see that after speaking with countless staff, customers, artists and partners, our agency, VSA crafted a definition of our DNA and our brand purpose that is not far from the vision we had for ourselves in 1973.

Here’s a copy of our very first ad for D'Addario strings, which then doubled as our catalog cover.

I am proud that the next generation of D’Addarios in America shares the same passion for excellence that we shared with our parents and grandparents. I am very confident with the team we have in place today and continue to build, we are on a path to establish ourselves as the most powerful and iconic brand in the music industry.

I am also proud of the recognition that we continue to receive from the press, from our customers and from our political leaders; but my intuition tells me it pales in comparison to where we are heading.

Personally I want to thank everyone that has been a part of the last forty years.


Jim D’Addario
Chief Executive Officer