Fifty years ago anyone who liked music and was old enough to stay up and watch the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th had their head spun around. In fact mine was almost spun off. That was the day that changed my life completely. From that point on, I was obsessed with learning to play guitar and learning to play every Beatle song that was already released and was to come out for the next seven years.
I was 14 years old and suddenly the family business talk at the dinner table became more relevant to me. I wanted to sound like the Beatles. I wanted an electric guitar like George’s. I wanted a Vox amplifier. Learning to play guitar was the mission. All along the way, the goal of learning and performing Beatles songs (and Stones, and Kinks, and Yardbirds and Byrds…..) never changed. Suddenly “the dog ate my homework” almost every day as I snuck after school to my friend Bob’s house to practice with my friends. Eventually we started to sound like a band.
Unlike today we were able to earn money playing gigs. People didn’t pass hats around, they actually paid the band a fee to play a party or a school dance. Imagine that! After each dance, the money was counted and as soon as we had enough, we begged one of our Mom’s for a ride to Sam Ash in Hempstead to see what new or used gear we could trade up to. I probably saw Jerry Ash as much as I saw my parents at that time.
Part of the process was also testing string ideas my Dad would bring home. He was a tinkerer. He didn’t have the scientists, engineers, laboratory equipment or time that we have to devote to research today but he had the curiosity; something that runs through the veins of the D’Addario Company to this day.
What he was doing was not too different from what we do today. He tried everything that was available through trial and error processes. Today, we have scientific methods to qualify what we are hearing, feeling and experiencing and more. And now we have the resources to develop new and superior raw materials of our own!
In 1965, I bought a used Stratocaster at Sam Ash and it needed new strings. It still had the standard, dead-sounding, semi-flattened, pure-nickel, original equipment strings on it. My Dad brought home some of the electric guitar strings that he was making. They were a pure round-wound string with a nickel-plated steel winding; the same round-wound formula he used to make Danelectro’s guitar and bass strings, and I was blown away.
The guitar woke up. It was bright, brash and loud, but balanced and clear. Suddenly it was easier to cut through and be heard.
I remember when the Stones released “Satisfaction.” Effects pedals were just starting to be developed. We didn’t have one and we had no idea how they got that sound on the guitar. In fact, at first we thought it was a saxophone. We had an Ampeg Rocket amp that we would turn up all the way to 10 (it didn’t go to 11) and overdrive the hell out of it to get the distortion we needed. It actually sounded great. Later, we used the same setup to play “Think for Yourself” by the Beatles.
But the strings were a critical component to the tone. They made my dead sounding Strat come alive. My Dad experimented all the time and this formula was tweaked to be the nickel-plated steel wrap wire that would eventually be introduced as Darco Funky Strings in the sixties and ultimately become D’Addario XL’s in 1974. The formula would also be adopted by every significant guitar string maker in the future. The most popular competitors’ electric guitar strings are direct descendants of this string specification.
Over the years all the string companies tinkered with different string constructions and alloys. Flat windings, Half-RoundTM windings, stainless steel windings, monel windings; you name it, we have collectively tried them all. Some of them have gotten traction and are an important part of the string selection today. But none have had the impact of those nickel-plated, round-wound strings that John D’Addario, Sr. created in the early sixties.
Two years ago, we challenged ourselves to re-invent the electric guitar string and we have succeeded. We have created a new winding alloy, and have completely re-engineered the process of making music wire for the plain strings and hex cores of our wound strings. We didn’t grab something off a supplier’s shelf. With the help of the Town of Babylon, Suffolk County and New York State, we built a wire mill, right here at 540 Smith Street, Farmingdale, NY. You’re welcome to visit.
In the next few months, you will see the release of the next generation of electric guitar string. D’Addario NYXL, the strongest electric guitar string ever made. Named after New York because New York drive, determination and curiosity are what made it happen.
Recently we have sent out thousands of beta test samples tagged, #xlformula3. The consensus is coming in and the reaction is very similar to mine when I restrung my Stratocaster with Dad’s formula2 round wound strings in 1965. Check out the unfiltered Buzz yourself.
Soon the experience will be available to you. So standby as we fuel for the launch. Sign up for our newsletter so we can give you a heads up when they hit the street.