Django with Harry Volpe

Django Reinhardt and Harry Volpe – Tutor


Django with Harry Volpe
– circa ‘46 note the added DeArmond Neck Mounted Pickup with control  Pots mounted on the tailpiece. See further pictures below

1946 Volpe arranged a meeting with Django Reinhardt, while he was in New York for the Duke Ellington tour, Volpe used the occasion for self promotion and recorded some music while Django was his guest.  All night long they are involved in a memorable jam session.

Clearly he was influenced by Django as this recording of his confirms.  I Found a New Baby  

Also check these out as a mix of Les Paul and Django styles.

DjangoVolpeAlbum1 djangoVolpeAlbum2



Clearly he was influenced by Django as this recording of his confirms.  I Found a New Baby  

Also check these out as a mix of Les Paul and Django styles.

GretschSynch400Harry Volpe (1906 – 1995) was an early pioneer of the guitar. He was an established teacher, studio and recording musician in New York already in the 1920‘s and 1930‘s. He was the 1st guitarist selected to the Radio City Music Hall staff where he was a featured soloist. A prolific composer, Harry Volpe wrote several pieces for the guitar including his interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# Minor. Among his other compositions are Volpette, June Memories, Two Guitars and Marreqita. The early guitar duets he penned and recorded with Frank Victor in 1936 remain classics of the guitar duet form. For many years Harry Volpe ran a music store in New York where he offered lessons to the young guitarists seeking their fortunes as jazz guitarists.   Among his students were Johnny Smith, Sal Salvador and Joe Pass

Voted for 3 years “Most outstanding swing guitarist” by the American Guild of BM & G. Concerts with the Volpe Quintet.

Gretsch announces the new Synchromatic 400 Harry Volpe jazz guitar. 1941-44 Volpe plays Concerts with his “Strings in Rhythm“, and works with Paramount, RCA.

Writes for musical magazines : Metronome, Orchestra World, Fretted Harmony, B.M.G. 1945 Voted “World’s Greatest Jazz Guitarist” by W.E.V.D. N.Y (Well – perhaps in their eyes)


Compare carefully these 2 guitars from the Gretsch stable –
Volpe has the Patented ‘French’ Triangular Soundhole  flat top without added Pick-ups –
Django the Synchromatic 400 with  Cats Eye Soundholes which were standard and the very Guitar that Volpe poses with in this Gretsch Poster.


If Volpe was simply given these by Gretsch he did not readily lend them or allow Django to practice or tour with them in the Ellington Band. – did the intended Gibson ES-300 have a delivery problem or where was the alleged free Epiphone gift?

Artie Shaw‘s Guitarist – Artie Narvarez it is claimed had the generosity and leeway to lend Django his Guitar to prepare for the Dukes tour.

The Super Jam Session – Django playing Gretsch Synchromatic 400 Guitar and Volpe with a Gretsch Special.

Gretsch Top-of-the-line arch-tops had “cat’s-eye”-shaped soundholes, while high-end flat-top soundholes were triangular. The Synchromatic line had a peculiar-looking “synchronized” bridge with a stair-step extension and a harp-shaped “chromatic” tailpiece. Some headstocks had indents on the sides or a round protrusion at the top and an inlay figure that resembled a Chilli Pepper  crossed with a “Synchromatic” banner. Several ’40s models sported a white finish that today looks like a forerunner of Fender’s famous “Tele blonde” color with wood grain showing through. To set off the finish, Gretsch used tortoise-grain binding everywhere. One white model was pictured in ads featuring such well-known jazz players as Harry Volpe and Django ReinhardtGretsch attempted to go head to head with Gibson and Epiphone in the acoustic archtop market in the ’30s and ’40s. Gretsch failed even with endorsements from famous jazz artists such as Harry Volpe and perhaps Django Reinhardt.

 Harry Volpe‘s instruction booklets containing 12 lessons ranging from “How to Hold the Guitar”, and “How to Tune the Guitar” and “How to Read Music” to playing simple melodies.  Some of his teaching materials are still available through Mel Bay Publications.

Harry Volpe

Although his playing was not purely in the jazz idiom, Harry Volpe remains a significant figure in the history of jazz guitar if for no other reason than that he played with and taught some of the best guitarists of the last century.

1VolpeTriangle904 Born in Sicily, Grotte near Agrigento, at midnight on April 7th.

1919 In New York, playing the Banjo in “Barber shop” trio.

1921 In his first group : “The Aurora Troubadours”, at the guitar.

1922 RKO Circuit Tour

1924-1932 With the Ted Navarre Band

1932-1935 Discovered by the violinist Al Dufy , the NBC invites him for an audition and joins the Radio City Music Hall orchestra as lead guitar , Erno Rapee and Charles Previn directors.

Takes part in NBC and CBS’s broadcasts, also in duet with violinist Al Dufy.

Composes and teaches for Paramount
Tour with Vincent Lopez Orchestra.
Publishes with Al Rocky acquiring international acknowledgments.
Recordings in duet with Karl Kress .

1936-1941 Opens the Volpe’s Guitar Centre , a meeting point for musicians in New York, frequented, among others, by Tony Mottola, Sal Salvador, Al Caiola.

Founded a musical publishing house (Volpe Music Company).

DECCA Recordings with the guitarist Frank Victor , and with the Volpe Quartet .

Voted for 3 years “Most outstanding swing guitarist” by the American Guild of BM & G.

Concerts with the Volpe Quintet .

Gretcsh announces the new Synchromatic 400 Harry Volpe jazz guitar.

Concerts with his “Strings in Rhythm”, works with Paramount, RCA.

Writes for musical magazines : Metronome, Orchestra World, Fretted Harmony, B.M.G.

1945 Voted “World’s Greatest Jazz Guitarist” by Radio W.E.V.D. New York.


1946 Meeting with Django Reinhardt , in New York for the Duke Ellington tour, guest at Volpe’s. All night long they are involved in a memorable jam session .

Django at Harry Volpe’s Jackson Heights Studio, Harry Volpe front right, Django’s interpreter back left, Harry’s son Joe (Back right), 1946

1948-1953 Makes the music and plays at the prize winner “The time of the Cuckoo” at the Empire Theatre, Broadway , with his quartet; actress Shirley Booth and Geraldine Brooks .

Conducts the Pan-American Orchestra in SESAC-Columbia recordings.

From the department of the state of Washington he becomes the candidate for the “American Specialist” in the musical field for a cultural exchange program.

Town Hall concert .

Because of law questions, concerning the separation from his wife, he loses the SESAC royalties (registered by his wife so as the Volpe Music Company), is forced to reduce the scale of his production centre and (perhaps a “daring” solution of his lawyer!) goes to jail. There the editor Charles Colin helped him acquiring and selling books and all the press machines of the Volpe’s centre.  Released from jail, and recuperates in Florida where he forms a trio and solves his questions by resorting to the law. He settles in Miami.

1954 Concert at Fort Lauderdale with the Symphony Orchestra directed by Vasilios Priakos .

SVolpeEpiome TV shows and jazz clubs concerts while devotes himself to teaching at the Frost Conservatory. Among his most famous pupils, here and at New York: Sal Salvador, Al Caiola, Tony Mottola, Joe Pass, John Colens, Johnny Smith. Publications with Charles Hansen.

Epiphone produces the “Harry Volpe” model .

1955-1960 With Rasha Rodell signs a contract for top shows at the Eden Rock Hotel, Miami Beach, where he plays with Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Perry Como, Jimmy Durante.

In trio, a week, with Arthur Godfrey in a TV show aired coast to coast.

1960-1995 Goes on publishing with Charles Hansen and taking part to the David Williams Hotel’ exhibitions at Coral Gables .

Teaches at the Miami-Dade Junior College .

Dies in 1995, January

The Harry Volpe Master Class?? c.1940
Harry Volpe and his entourage of Gretsch Synchromatic 400 enthusiasts.
Note that all the Gretsch guitars in the front row are slightly different – either Cats Eye, Clef, or ‘French’ sound Holes also some with Headstock logo.


Joe Pass – Joseph Anthony Jacobi Passalaqua


By the time Pass turned 14 years old (born 13th Jan 29), he had joined a band called the Gentlemen of Rhythm that modelled itself after the recorded music of the legendary Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. This group performed at parties and dances, and Pass earned 3-5 dollars per night. His talent grabbed the attention of saxophone player and bandleader Tony Pastor, who let him play with his band at a local concert.  Pastor wanted to take him on the road with him, but Pass couldn’t quit school to do so.

A year later in 1944 Pass’s parents sent him to New York to study with the highly respected studio guitar player Harry Volpe. When Volpe realized that Pass improvised better than he did, he focused on teaching the brilliant Pass to ‘sight read’ music instead. Pass became frustrated with his reading lessons and returned to Johnstown — though not for long. When his father became ill, he dropped out of the 10th grade and moved to New York.

Django & Harry Volpe (8 mm), 1946

  • An home movie filmed by Harry Volpe (American guitar player).
  • Filmed in New-York while Django was there (as part of the Duke Ellington tour)
  • Rumours spread around that the movie was not available (destroyed ?, lost ?), but I doubt it…
  • The movies shows Harry Volpe walking down a street with Django nearby the Henry Hudson Hotel.
  • There is a scene where you see Django and Harry having spaghetti with friends…
  • There is a scene with Django and Harry playing…no sound though
  • There is no soundtrack with it (a real home movie of the days…)

On 6th February 1947, it is claimed guitarist Harry Volpe brought  to N.Y City Harbour where Django boarded a ship (Ile de France?) bound for Le Havre, the departure was filmed by Volpe’s son Joe as Django waived from the gang plank and left the USA and his hoped adulation behind him.