Django and Chet Atkins –
Finger Pickin’ Good!
Chet Atkins – The first time I ever heard Django was after I got a job professionally in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was working as staff guitarist with a group called The Dixieland Swingsters, and the trumpet player in the group started telling me about Django Reinhardt and also at the same time about Charlie Christian, who I had never heard. He got some old 78 records of Django out of the library and played them, and I was impressed, but at that time I wasn’t far enough along, I guess, to really appreciate it. I was just learning to play myself; I was about 17 or 18 years old. Later on when I had a little more knowledge of the guitar, I went out and bought a lot of his albums and started copying some of the things he did. At the same time I was hearing Les Paul who was one of Django‘s “students”. After a while I got so I really admired his technique. Then there were all the stories, of course, of his problem with having only 2 fret fingers. In 1946, I was up in Chicago without a job, and he played there with Duke Ellington, at the Civic Opera House. Well, I got a ticket and went down. I was in the back seats, so I couldn’t see very well. But he played with Duke and played a great concert. I went backstage and hung around; and he finally came out, and I stuck a piece of paper up in front of him. He felt around and said, “You have penceel?” I said, “Sure,” so I gave him a pencil, and he wrote “D. Reinhardt.” He smiled, and I smiled back, and there was a soldier there that kept asking, “Django, you remember me? I was in that joint one night in Paris, and we played guitar together.” He said, “Yes, yes” he seemed like a really nice guy. Anyway, I wanted to play some for him, because I didn’t think that he would have ever heard any finger guitar like I play because me and Merle Travis at that time, were the only ones doing it. But I didn’t get a chance to do that in the melee
Civic Opera House Chicago – The world-renowned Lyric Opera of Chicago performs in one of North America’s most beautiful opera houses, the Civic Opera House, at 20 North Wacker Drive. The opera house was the vision of utility magnate Samuel Insull who wanted to erect a new opera house as the home of the Chicago Civic Opera – one that would be democratic in scope, and would be housed in and supported by a commercial office building. He mandated 5 requisites for the new opera house: safety, excellent sight lines, comfortable seating, gracious surroundings, and premium acoustics.
From its opening on Nov. 4, 1929 (just 6 days after the stock-market crash) until Lyric Opera of Chicago was founded in 1954 (as Lyric Theatre), the Civic Opera House was home to the Chicago Civic Opera, Chicago Grand Opera Company, Chicago City Opera Company and Chicago Opera Company. Over the years the Civic Opera House has also hosted visiting opera and dance companies, as well as touring operettas, musical shows, and a great number of orchestral, dance, and vocal concerts. The adjoining Civic Theatre, at the north end of the block-long building, was used to present plays (including the premiere of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie), dance performances, and films. For a considerable time it also served as a television studio. The Civic Opera Building is a majestic limestone skyscraper with a 45-story office tower and two 22-story wings. Shaped like a gigantic throne facing the Chicago River between Washington and Madison streets, it was completed after just 22 months of planning and construction. The Civic Opera House seats 3,563.
Chet’s Comment –
Then later on I was talking to Duke Ellington in Denver, and I asked him what happened to Django. He said Django went back to Paris, because somebody at the William Morris Agency had beat him playing billiards, and he got mad and left. I think Django considered himself to be a great billiards player, and he couldn’t stand getting beaten like that. Years later I recorded a tune of Django’s, “Manoir de mes Reves” [Nashville Gold, RCA Camden, CAS2555]. I think literally translated it means “Castle Of My Dreams.” But I called it “Django’s Castle,” and a bunch of jazz people picked it up and recorded it under that title. Also because of that, Gene Goodman, a publisher, put it out with some other Django tunes [A Treasury Of Django Reinhardt Solos, Jewel Music Publishing Co., 110 East 59th St., New York, NY 100221]. So I like to think that maybe indirectly I helped his widow a little by getting that folio out. I still admire Django very much, and I listen to him like I do Bix Beiderbecke. You can listen to Django and imagine a modern rhythm section with him and really tell what a great player he was. Django taught the World