Django and that Levin Guitar

Django’s Photo Prop – Aquarium Club

Fred Guy’s Levin De Luxe Guitar


Recognise this Levin Guitar which belonged to Fred Guy in Django’s hands – Looks like the jacket and tie he wore in Oct 46 at the Aquarium NYC when posing for William P Gottlieb and the scratch plate is identical.  Duke did use a rhythm guitarist his long standing associate and former banjo player Fred Guy who later switched to the Gibson L5 and L7 and an Acoustic Stromberg. The distinctive Headstock Name obscured by string ends is Levin and is artistically Inlaid.

Django played Selmer guitars throughout most of his recording career. Although he used very light silk-and-steel strings (probably .010 to .046), the thin, slightly arched tops on these guitars made them surprisingly loud and responsive. In the earliest days of the Quintet, Reinhardt played a 12-fret Modèle Jazz with a large D-shaped sound hole, sometimes called a grande bouche or big mouth. In 1934 Selmer redesigned the guitar, lengthening the neck to 14 frets, changing the sound hole to a smaller oval, and making some interior modifications. This is the style of guitar that Reinhardt made famous, and in 1939 Selmer renamed the Modèle Jazz the Modèle Django Reinhardt. In 1940 he took delivery of a guitar with the serial number 503. This is the guitar he was to play until his death in 1953. This guitar was post death in the Musée Instrumental de Paris. Selmer stopped making these guitars in 1952.

Many of the other guitarists, past and present, who play in this style have followed Reinhardt’s example in their choice of instruments. Matelo, Sarane, and Baro Ferret played Selmers in the ’30s and ’40s. After Selmer stopped making guitars, a number of luthiers stepped in to fill the demand.  Of these builders the most famous is Jacques Favino. In later years Matelo played one of his guitars, and today Favinos are almost as sought after as the original Selmers. Jacques Favino retired a number of years ago. Stochelo Rosenberg and Boulou and Elios Ferré all play Favinos, although Boulou also sometimes records with a Selmer.

Babik Reinhardt almost always plays an electric archtop, favouring a Gibson ES-175 cutaway but when he plays acoustically, he plays an Ovation Adamas.

Bireli Lagrene plays an electric archtop or sometimes a Fender Stratocaster. When he plays acoustically, he currently uses a guitar by a young luthier from Cognac named Maurice Dupont. Dupont’s guitars (available in the U.S. through Paul Hostetter, 2550 Smith Grade, Santa Cruz, CA 95060) are regarded by many players of Jazz Manouche to be the most accurate replicas of the old Selmers.
John Jorgenson recorded his album After You’ve Gone using a 1941 Selmer. He currently plays a custom-made Dupont with a large D soundhole and a 14-fret neck. Paul Mehling of the Hot Club of San Francisco also plays a Dupont and has the distinction of being the 1st American to order one. —Michael Simmons

The Levin

While visiting Göteborg during a tour of Sweden in April, 1939, Fred Guy, guitarist in the Duke Ellington Orchestra purchased a Levin De Luxe at Waidele. This is the guitar that Django Reinhardt is playing in the famous William Gottlieb photos. They were taken backstage at the Aquarium in New York City when Django was on tour with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1946.

Django arrived without his instrument expecting manufacturers to fall at his feet with offers of Guitars – ‘Casserole’ Guitars he discovered.  Guy’s Swedish Levin De Luxe Acoustic Archtop Guitar was used for the Photo Shoot by Gottlieb in 1946

Specifications: 1937-39
Body width: 440 mm.
Body length: 530 mm.
Body depth: 85 mm.
Hand carved top & back.
Romanian spruce top.
4-ply bound f-holes.
Flame maple back & sides.
6-ply bound top with single-bound f-holes.
4-ply bound back.
5-ply bound pickguard.
Flame maple neck – non-adjustable T-shaped duraluminum truss rod.
Triple-bound headstock with mother-of-pearl inlay.
Triple-bound ebony fingerboard with mother-of-pearl block inlay.
Fingerboard ends with a tip.
Grover Sta-Tite or Imperial tuners.
Gold plated hardware.
Sunburst finish.
Ten year warranty.

Vintage Guitars Sweden


1940 Levin De luxe

Levin History

Stromberg Master 400

The father and son team of Charles and Elmer Stromberg built approximately 640 guitars from the thirties until 1955, when they died within a few months of each other

They used their business cards as labels in the guitars, the telephone number on the card helps to determine the approximate year the instrument was made…1932-1945…CA 3174

Late-model Strombergs, particularly the top-of-the-line Master 400, are considered some of the finest archtops ever made, renowned for their sustain volume and exceptional base and treble response.   The guitar is particularly desirable because it is the only known small-bodied Master 400. Most Master 400’s measure 19 inches across the bottom bout, but this one measures only 17 and ½ inches across at its widest point, which suggests that it was built on a special order basis. Adding to the guitar’s value is its cutaway; only seven Strombergs with cutaways are known to exist.

Fred Guy on another date with another Guitar (Stromberg G1-3 or Deluxe?) The Stromberg name, a family that was famous for making acoustic archtops in the thirties and forties. These guitars were sought-after in their pre-amplification day for their ability to be heard over an entire dance orchestra without amplification. Count Basie’s guitarist, Freddie Green, was a well-known player of Stromberg’s. Between 1932 and 1964, Charles and son Elmer Stromberg sold high end, handmade instruments bearing their name.  Perhaps a Stromberg Deluxe – 17 3/8″ wide, Tailpiece with 3 cut-outs and Y-shaped centre section, bound pickguard with stair-step on treble side, bound F-holes, bound ebony fingerboard with pointed end, “Deluxe” on peghead, natural or sunburst finish, gold plated parts.

1947 Stromberg G1 – the much underrated Oscar Moore from Nat ‘King’ Cole’s Trio also played a Stromberg G1 without the pick guard and an added Pick-up,

Oscar laid down the rules for the classic Guitar, Piano and Bass trio

Oscar Moore with The King Cole Trio – Route 66

Oscar Moore with Nat King Cole – Little Girl

A Piece of Jazz History up for Grabs!

Fred Guy’s 1939 Levin for Sale

Levin Guitar previously owned by Freddie Guy of the Duke Ellington band – the 1940’s era.  This is also the same guitar that Django Reinhardt held when he posed for photos with Duke Ellington in 1946 ).  The guitar was gifted by Freddie Guy’s ex-wife Dorothy Guy Lynch over 25 years ago.  The Levin guitar is in its original case, and has some small cracks in it.  If you love Jazz, and want to own a piece of jazz history, this is a rare opportunity for the serious guitar collector.