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Luthier Phil Petillo Dies at 64

Petillo was a master luthier and inventor in the musical instrument, medical, and alternative energy fields.

Phil Petillo in 1969, photo courtesy
Ocean Township, NJ (August 18, 2010) -- Luthier Phil Petillo has passed away at age 64 of a heart attack. Beyond being a master luthier for Petillo Masterpiece Guitars, Petillo was an inventor who held more than 25 patents, including the first patent on fret design since the 1800s and an acoustic pickup design.

Petillo built, designed, and repaired guitars for more than 40 years, learning the craft from John D'Angelico and John's godson James Diserio. He was a graduate of Columbia University and earned his Doctorate in Engineering Technology from LaSalle University. He built and repaired guitars for Bruce Springsteen, Tal Farlow, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, the Smithsonian and many others.

Petillo's work stretched far beyond musical instruments. He designed innovations in both medical and alternative energy fields, including life-saving surgical instruments and fuel cell technology. He is survived by his wife and five sons.

We were lucky enough to speak with Petillo for a builder profile in our May 2009 issue and with his son, Dave, for a feature on inlay artists in our July 2009 issue. Judging by the proliferation of comments on both articles, Phil Petillo made an incredible impact on those he encountered. Despite his professional excellence in multiple fields, Petillo remained down-to-earth and personable. His artistry and commitment to innovation will be missed.

For more information:
Petillo Masterpiece Guitars

Sources: Our interview, Asbury Park Press obituatry