As a harp guitar historian, collector and generally obsessed nut (not necessarily in that order), nothing floats my boat more than discovering another heretofore unknown maker. And there seems to be no end in sight!
The latest is Antonio Grauso, an Italian instrument maker in New York in the 1920’s. This rare catalog page (kindly submitted by guitar historian Lynn Wheelwright) shows a nice double-neck instrument firmly in the New York Italian immigrant tradition. It was offered with 4 or 6 subs.
Note how the headstock design and bridge are reminiscent of another Italian/New York maker, Gaetano Puntolillo (right).
Literally a week after that discovery, I stumbled upon a second Grauso, undergoing restoration at John Bernunzio’s shop. This one is about as rare and unusual as it gets!
John’s listing states: “fresh from a local estate, this is an enormous rare HARP GUITAR with six string fretless neck and eight string fretted neck. The fretted neck has the top two strings doubled. The guitar was made in NYC by Italian immigrant Antonio Grauso known for ornate mandolins and simple guitars. This most likely was a custom made instrument with an 18-1/2″ wide back and 5-1/8″ deep mahogany body. The spruce top has four sound holes including two round holes in the lower bout. It is ornamented with marquetry trim and a large pearl and wood star . There is an original, large pickguard that is highly decorated and in the shape of a man-in-the-moon.”
Wild! Thanks to John for giving me a sneak peek at it. This is one I’d love to see in person (if not own) – it’s just got so much…stuff! The unique 8-string neck can be almost overlooked through all the craziness (this is taking “sound ports” a bit too far). Grauso then piles on the accoutrements: fancy trim and pearl, vines, wood marquetry inlays, and (presumably) the owner’s initials “A.V.” in the neck.
The single, errant F-hole brings to mind that outrageous archtop by Michael Iucci, another Italian builder of flamboyant New York harp guitars.
Thanks for sharing, gents – this stuff is priceless!