Django Reinhardt

Jean “Django” Reinhardt (January 23, 1910 – May 16, 1953) was an illiterate, Belgium born, gypsy jazz guitarist.

His unorthodox playing style evolved from a gypsy caravan fire in 1928 where Django suffered severe burns and partially lost the use of two fingers. Ironically his injuries were instrumental in making Django one of the most unique and admired guitar legends ever to walk the earth. After the fire Django locked himself away to convalesce for 18 months. Bed-ridden he dedicated himself to reinventing his guitar playing around his disability. Because of his disabilities he now played solos with only 2 fingers of his left hand, his third and fourth digits helped out only with his chord playing. According to some guitarists it is exactly this reason why Django was such an amazing guitarist. The theory being that Django was nano-seconds quicker simply because he only had to choose between 2 fingers in his lead guitar playing.

Reinhardt joined up with Parisian violinist Stéphane Grappelli In 1934 to form the “Quintette du Hot Club de France”. Joined by rhythm guitarists Joseph Reinhardt (Django’s brother) and Roger Chaput and bassist Louis Vola. They had no percussion section so , they would use their guitars as instruments of percussion as well as Djangos groundbreaking gypsy jazz guitar licks.

Django’s Guitar

Django would play lead and Joseph would provide the groove similar in a way to the brothers Young. Angus and Malcolm have the benefit of electricity and use their Marshalls, Gibsons and Gretsch Guitars to such great effect.

Django played mainly Selmer acoustic guitars strung with 10-46 gauge steel strings, and the thickest plectrums preferably made of tortoiseshell!

Django played a Gibson L5 with a DeArmond pickup for a short time during his tour with Duke Ellington.

“Before the advent of amplification, Selmers had the same kind of appeal for European players that the archtop guitar did in America: it was loud enough to be heard over the other instruments in a band. The “petite bouche” model has an especially loud and cutting voice, and even today it remains the design preferred by lead players in Django-style bands, while the accompanying rhythm players often use D-hole instruments. (This was the lineup in Django’s Quintette du Hot Club de France during its classic period in the late 1930s, and it remains the pattern for bands that emulate them.)”

I would love to build my own Selmer.

The influence of Django Reinhardt

Jimi Hendrix is said to have named the Band of Gypsys because of Django’s music.

John Etheridge played with Django’s old violinist, Stéphane Grappelli.

One Response to “Django Reinhardt”

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