Django in UK 1934-48

Django’s Itineraries in Britain 1934 – 1948


Django played at many of the very large Theatres –

Hackney Empire, Shepherds Bush Empire, Gaumont State Cinema, Trocadero

Can anyone elaborate on this information?

London Dance Places


Django Circa 1928

Jack Hylton (Bolton’s Paul Whiteman) led a travelling big band that already included a guitarist, Noel “Chappie” d’Amato, who played a number of instruments. According to all of the accounts I found, Hylton wanted to hire Django to play in that main travelling band. It is possible that since Hylton also had secondary bands — like “farm league” bands that travelled around the UK’s Dance Halls — he was a major European Agent and may have envisioned having Django play in one of those bands and work his way up through the ranks.  Within a night or so of being hired by Hylton, a fire in Django‘s caravan ended that opportunity and damn near terminated outright his newly established career as a musician.

As far as is known, the hiring was a verbal contract. The Jack Hylton Archives didn’t have any record of a written contract with Django, which, according to Hylton‘s Biographer, was pretty typical of Hylton. Most all of his business deals were verbal, made with a shake of the hand. So from all the accounts, Hylton and Django made their deal to work together, and it was either that night or several nights later that the caravan fire occurred.

He must have been then 18 or 19 years old, and during part of that time, he was in the Free Hospital for the Poor of Paris and most likely living with his mother in their caravan for the other part. She made jewellery and sold homemade lace, and was probably able to provide enough of an income for them. It is also possible that his brother Joseph was playing music around town to earn money. It isn’t likely that they needed a huge income in that caravan, and I think that is one reason Django was able to stay with music through the ups and downs of the years, whereas many of the Frenchmen who played in his band would have to leave because they weren’t making enough money to support themselves.

Django’s 1st  UK Visit 1934  – Aged 24

Django20sJean Sablon had found Django working in the newly opened “Boîte à Matelots” in Paris. “The musicians, wearing striped sailors’ jerseys, were installed in a mock-up of a fully-rigged ship. Among them was a guitarist who really stood out: Django Reinhardt. I went back often to listen to him and became friends. Sometimes I would go by late to pick him up and we would go together to the “Croix du Sud” in Montparnasse to hear the best saxophone player in Paris, André Ekyan.” It was at this very club, a favourite hangout of the jazzmen of the day, that the historic meeting took place between Django and Stephane Grapelli.


Jean Sablon is credited with arranging Reinhardt’s debut in a fashionable cabaret in Paris 1933. He is also recognized for his talents as a lyricist and a composer. Sablon appeared in a number of motion pictures and television films performing as a vocalist or pianist.  Jean Sablon is credited with arranging Reinhardt’s debut in a fashionable cabaret in Paris 1933. He is also recognized for his talents as a lyricist and a composer.  Sablon appeared in a number of motion pictures and television films performing as a vocalist and or pianist

JeanSablonApril 16, 1934 ~ London
Jean Sablon (vocals)
acc. by André Ekyan (cl); Alec Siniavine (p); Django Reinhardt (g)
A 3 week gig in April 34 at the “Monseigneur Club” in Piccadilly accompanying Jean Sablon. Sablon used the traditional French cabaret chanson into his own individual sound. In his time was often referred to as the  “French Crosby”. Was also a lyricist and composer of songs. One of his well-known songs was “Sur Le Pont D’Avignon from 1939.  Although the “Melody Maker” reviewer thought Sablon was good, he felt the accompanying group, which also included clarinet/saxophonist Andre Ekyan, was a waste of time.
Django possibly made his 1st radio broadcast during this visit.

Sablon with Django, Grapelli and Andre Ekyan Orchestra 16/01/34

Sablon & Django

Roy Fox Band at the Monseigneur Club London  with Al Bowly on Rhythm Guitar –  A Selmer Maccaferri – was it an Eddie Freeman Tenor – perhaps!


Above – Al Bowlly and Grande Bouche Selmer Maccaferri at the Monseigneur Club

May 29, 1937, ~ Broadcast from Paris for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

Quintet of the Hot Club of France
Stéphane Grappelli (v); Django Reinhardt (g solo); Joseph Reinhardt, Pierre “Baro” Ferret (g); Louis Vola (b)

Bricktop, Exactly Like You, Fat, In The Still Of The Night, Pennies From Heaven, St-Louis Blues, Sweet Chorus
Django Reinhardt (g solo) – Improvisation #1, Improvisation #2,

June 12, 1937 ~ C.B.S. “Saturday Night Swing Club” Broadcast, “The Big Apple”, Paris

Stéphane Grappelli and his Hot Four
Stéphane Grappelli (v); Django Reinhardt (g solo); Joseph Reinhardt, Gusti (g); Louis Vola (b)Titre Inconnu, Djangology, Limehouse Blues, Breakup


One of the Sound Engineers asked why they kept changing songs between takes. The Ultraphone director decided to lower the volume of the remaining songs (after Dinah), he was worried about defective recordings (too much dynamic…), that was a bad move according to Panassié since the volume of the remaining 3 songs is quite low compared to Dinah.  According to Panassié, Dinah was the best-recorded piece of the day