Django’s WW2

DukePosterDjango and World War II –
The Occupation

In Germany, Jazz and all other American music was banned in the country before and after Americans joined the war. Stalin forbid the playing of Jazz music at the end of the 1945 war throughout the Soviet Union, and banned the use of saxophones. Jazz was called “the music of blacks by Hitler as a reason for the prohibition of Jazz music. Nevertheless, Jazz music was embraced by all who heard it around the globe.
Paris -1939

The reasons Django returned to France whilst Stephane remained in the UK?  Well Django was an incredibly capricious individual and his decisions were almost invariably based on emotion rather than logic. He once said, when asked why he returned to France at the declaration of war, “It is better to be frightened in your own country than in another one”. Stephane was an altogether different personality and I think he would have thought about the situation very carefully before deciding it made much more sense to remain in the UK.  Despite what Stephane said later in life when looking back through rose tinted glasses, there were no real emotional ties between them.  In fact, most of the time I don’t think they liked each other.
Django was actually at his most popular in France during the war. He was almost on the level of Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf in terms of popularity. He survived primarily because he was Django Reinhardt and many Germans loved jazz and were quite prepared to compromise their “principles” when away from their homeland. Django neither collaborated with nor attempted to alienate the Germans and he had the gypsy’s innate ability to survive. Fortunately for him, the Germans in France had a more relaxed attitude to gypsies than in other occupied European countries. I have a couple of photographs of Sarane Ferret, one of Django’s fellow gypsy guitarists, playing in a night club to a group of German soldiers and French collaborators.
I think for much of the time, the war simply passed over Django because he only cared about music, women and gambling. He would only become concerned with the occupation if it interfered with any of these activities. For much of the time, he was not of the real world. – Roger Baxter


Django’s Survival

Parisien Clubs 1942

Propaganda War

With the outbreak of war in 1939 Reinhardt made his way back from England to France, leaving Grappelli in Britain.  Django spent the first winter of the war playing in Jimmy’s Bar in Montparnasse; but in spring 1940 the German blitzkrieg led to the speedy fall of France. He fled the city when the Germans occupied Paris on June 14th, but returned after the French surrender left northern France under occupation. …


The New Quintet in concert circa 1941 Hubert Rostaing, Eugène Vées, Django, André Jourdan, Francis Lucas

Django was considering reforming some kind of quintet. He had hoped right up until May 1940 for Grapelly’s return, but Stephane had decided to remain in England. Django realized that such a project would require organizational skill that he himself did not possess. His first thought of getting Michel Warlop to help in this project, but of course he was otherwise committed. Georges Efrossé, then playing with Django’s friend Sarrane Ferret who was also a first class violinist – or was the true answer to form a new style of quintet? Django eventually decided to install the clarinet of Hubert Rostaing in place of the violin. Regrettably, this new quintet did not last long. Django decided, as he was pretty much a star in his own right, that freelancing was for him the best bet.

During the war, in occupied France, Django kept a low profile. He continued to record, including some superb sides in Brussels in the spring of 1942 for the Rhythme label (unfortunately pressed on inferior material).

There were, though, closet Jazz fans among the German Officers. One of these was Dietrich Schulz-Koehn (the “Doktor Jazz” of the Luftwaffe (one of Django’s most fervent admirers, and who more than once got him out of a tight corner. In any case, the ban on American jazz records only served to boost the value of the discs which the French jazzmen were putting out by the 100’s under the enemy’s nose with camouflaged titles to conceal their American antecedents.

Dietrich Schulz-Koehn “Doktor Jazz” with Django in front of La Cigale, 120, boulevard de Rochechouart, Paris during the war.

Throughout the war he continued to play (with the help of Luftwaffe officer Deitrich Schulz-Kohn, known as ‘Doktor Jazz‘) in the Paris clubs, this time with the clarinet accompaniment of Hubert Rostaing instead of violin.  Reinhardt has often been criticised for staying in Paris during the war and playing to audiences of mainly German Officers, but if you listen to the recordings he made during those war years you’ll hear many references to Jewish Klezmer music that are strong ironic references to the German occupation.

Django and the Nazi’s

DietrichSchulzKoenDietrich Schulz-​Köehn (a Luftwaffe officer) aka “Doktor Jazz“, a great admirer of Django who en­abled him to continue to per­form dur­ing the German occupation, in an era where many European gypsies faced the fatal consequences of racial hatred.  Germans went to his room and listened to “Americano negro like jungle music” for hours.  The quote is from Joseph Goebbels, who had banned jazz along with fox trots and the tango. Although repulsed by the “terrible squawk” of jazz, he soon realized that swing between the political harangues held listeners. Eventually there were some German swing bands. The extent of the ban and the definition of the music had both been vague anyway. Nobody has ever really succeeded in defining jazz, which is one reason I love it so much.  Dietrich Schulz-Koehn, a fanatic for “hot swing” and other variations of jazz outlawed as “jungle music” by his superiors. Schulz-Koehn published an illegal underground newsletter, euphemistically referred to as “travel letters,” which flaunted his unique ability to jaunt across Western Europe and report back on the jazz scenes in cities conquered by the Fatherland. The pen name Schulz-Koehn published under was Dr. Jazz.

1942-43 – sleeve notes

Shortly after a tour through Northern France and Belgium, Django and his Quintet embarked upon another trip organized by Charles Delaunay. Delaunay remembered this tour, which included appearances at sea-side resorts in Southern France and Algiers, as a rather chaotic affair that came to an early end with the unexpected departure of the leader. Django had simply refused to play any matinee shows. Delaunay and the other musicians managed to return to the mainland just days before the Allied invasion of Morocco and Algeria on November 8, 1942….

Classic Belgian big bands included Eddie Tower, Fud Candrix, Jean Omer and Stan Brenders. A German label was to reissue the most extensive compilation to date of Belgian bandleader Stan Brender’s swing records, all waxed for Telefunken and Brunswick between 1940-1943.  Brenders was one of few European swing-band leaders to follow in Artie Shaw‘s footsteps and include a sizable string section as early as November 1940 (Germany’s Willi Stech comes to mind as the only other one). Some of Brender’s best recordings stem from his first few sessions for Telefunken: “Ja und Nein” and “Deine Liebe ist ein Märchen” have interesting arrangements and (very) good solos from George Clays (trumpet) and Jos Aerts (drums).  On some later numbers the band sounds at times a bit cumbersome and unswinging (the drummer underpinning every brass accent), but still with, for the time, very advanced arrangements. Numbers like “Trucky Trumps” (a triple tongueing tour-de-force for the trumpets) and “Boogie Woogie” are very well done. This documents how swing music blossomed in continental Europe despite the German occupation. Brenders even went on tour in France (he accompanied Django Reinhardt; Django returned the compliment in 1942 and guested with Brenders in Brussels), which, given the circumstances almost borders on the incredible.

This volume of the recordings of Django Reinhardt, presented in chronological order, opens with the remaining sides with Stan Brender’s big band. These little-known, yet excellent tracks show the guitarist in top form. After the aforementioned tour, Django played and recorded again regularly in Paris. In the meantime, clarinettist Hubert Rostaing had left the quintet following a feud with the leader over money. His replacement, Andre Luis, proves a less suitable partner for Reinhardt, although Django’s own playing is immaculate, “Manoir de mes reves” and “Blues Claire” ranking among his best recordings of the period. In March 1943, Django was able to cut some ambitious, yet fascinating sides with Fud Candrix and his big band, which also accompanied him on a series of concerts in Belgium later that year. In July 1943, Diango made his last recordings before the liberation of Paris. The fine “Melodie au crepuscule” also reunited Django with Michel Warlop for the last time in a recording studio. Django continued to play for the better part of the next year, but was also involved in several perilous situations, a state of affairs that kept him from the recording studios until October 1944.

This époque of Django’s QHCF ended sharply with the outbreak of WW2. Immediately, Django returns home from his England tour; contrary to Grappelli who decides to stay. At first, Django flees from the occupants to the South of France, not occupied, but soon returns to Paris. Later, he tries again to flee, this time to neutral Switzerland, in order to avoid an impending tour in Germany. The Swiss border guards, however, expel him because his application for political asylum was denied, but luckily nothing bad happens to him, allegedly also because he appeased the guards with his ability to play Guitar. DjangoBabyBabik

Django playing to Babik circa 1944

Stan Brenders would stand on-stage in Brussels in the late ’30s and announce that the next tune was going to be “Sept, et avec un combination avec onze,” knowing full well the Nazi censors wouldn’t be able to follow the pidgin French reference to the real song title, “Seven Come Eleven,” which like most swing numbers had been decisively banned from either radio or live airplay. One of the great victories of jazz against the fascists came in spring of 1942, when the Brenders band backed 8 performances in Belgium by gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, all of the activity organized strictly guerilla style in outright defiance of the Nazi edict against swinging music. But with the defeat of the swastika crowd, Brenders’ music became less and less swinging, with increasing use of schmaltzy strings.

Django with Fud Candrix Orchestra!

Propaganda Swing:
Dr. Goebbels Jazz Orchestra
(Charlie and His Orchestra)
Charlie Schwedler (Karl Schwedler) – In the twisted annals of the 3rd Reich, few stories are so improbable as that of Charlie and his Orchestra.  Even as the Nazis campaigned against degenerate jazz music, persecuting musicians and throwing swing kids into concentration camps, behind the scenes Joseph Goebbels and his Propaganda Ministry were creating a jazz orchestra that would serve up Nazi propaganda backed by the latest swing music. The result was Charlie and his Orchestra, Karl Schwedler, made up of Europe s finest jazz players, whose short-wave broadcasts to English and American audiences soon gained a following abroad and, more clandestinely, within the Reich itself. Combining hit-parade savvy with pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic lyrics, the orchestra specialized in cover versions of the latest swing sensations; among the recordings featured here are the Churchill-baiting You’re Driving Me Crazy, the anti-Roosevelt FDR Jones, and Slumming on Park Avenue ( Let s go bombing… ). As soon as the war ended, orchestra members found themselves in hot demand by American occupation forces, and many become respected leaders of Europe’s postwar jazz scene. In this film, surviving band members (including the late Fritz Freddie Brocksieper) recall their musical collaboration with the Nazi regime with ambivalence and insight, shedding new light onto the contradictory workings of Goebbels propaganda machine.

1989, B&W/Color, 60 minutes, English commentary.
Thanks for the Memory

Hitler’s Reflections on Jazz

NaziSwingLiberation of France – Luftwaffe Oberleutenant Dietrich Schulz-Koehn walked along the rail-road tracks near St. Nazaire with 3 other German officers. Four American officers came down the line towards them. Small arms fire could be heard in the distance.  The winter of 1944 was cold. The men danced and blew on their hands. The day was grey, like an old print of a black-and-white war movie… They had minor roles, this was a sideshow. The main Theatre of war had moved east to the Fatherland.

100,000 German soldiers were cut off and worn out here on the Brittany coast. The Allies were prepared to starve them out, but civilians were starving too and the Red Cross arranged evacuation negotiations along these tracks, an hour a day for weeks now. The opposing sides had begun to fraternize. They took photographs of each other, and traded the prints.  An African American officer who had been admiring Schulz-Koehn’s Rollieflex asked: “How much do you want for that camera?”
“It’s not for sale.” The lanky, bespectacled German liked Americans, particularly African Americans. He was more than pleasant about it, but he liked his camera too.
“How about 3 cartons of Luckies and 4 pairs of nylons?”  No. That was not enough. But as a matter of fact there was something. Why not ask? A few beats went by. The war was almost over anyway. Schulz-Koehn straightened up and adjusted his leather coat. There was nothing to be lost. It was in his estimation worth a try: “Do you have any Count Basie records?”

During the war, Django‘s artistic creations are prolific. He rarely records in the studio, but in the evening he has more than enough gigs – jazz being considered a form of protest against the occupying forces’ regime. He founds his own club, “La Roulette“, later called “Chez Django Reinhardt“. He tours Belgium, the Provence, which is not occupied, and Algeria. His wish – his own jazz orchestra, – “Django’s Music” – comes true. Its members unfortunately do not have a permanent position, and go their own way after the war. On the basis of texts by the French poet Jean Cocteau he composes the opera “Le manoir de mes reves“, but it is never performed. He also impresses the experts with an organ mass which he had composed in 1944 in honour of the French Roma’s – Manouche – dedicated to their holy place of pilgrimage, St.-Maries-de-la-mer, on the Riviera.

After the liberation of Paris swing music and musicians re-emerged on the scene within days. Django Reinhardt often worked at various venues the same night – before participating in jam-sessions with visiting musicians from the American Armed Forces who were eager to play with the immensely popular guitarist. In addition, it was again possible to make real jazz-records – many of which featured Django both with new and old friends…..

Tthe 2nd part of “Welcome” by Noel Chiboust‘s orchestra. (Django does not play on part I). This track marks the beginning of post-war jazz in France as it was recorded only 5 weeks after the liberation of the French capital. The same day, Reinhardt was finally able to record under his own name again. In January 1945, a contingent from Glenn Miller’s Band plus Reinhardt turned in a number of fine performances, issued on the rare Jazz Club Francais label. In October 1945, Django often worked with “The European Division Band of the Air Transport Command“, directed by Jack Platt. Better known as “Django’s American Swing Band“, this unit featured mostly little-known, yet highly competent musicians. One of Django’s great admirers, trumpet player Lonnie Wilflong arranged some of the guitarist’s best and most popular compositions for this big band. The resulting records are outstanding! Fortunately, more music by this band, featuring Django, has been preserved and is worth checking out at your CD-store. Tonic as these tracks are, they cannot be compared to the musical reunions with Stephane Grappelly in early 1946. The violinist had spent the war years in England and was now able to play and record with Reinhardt again. Considering the circumstances, next to “Belleville”, a true masterpiece; “Echoes Of France” proves to be one of the most emotionally charged and heart-warming documents from this 44-46 period!

From Here to Eternity, James Jones
‘But when it came to describing for them who had never heard it the poignant fleeting exquisitely delicate melody of that guitar, memory always faltered. There was no way to describe them that. You had to hear that, the steady, swinging, never wavering beat with the two- or three-chord haunting minor riffs at the ends of phrases, each containing the whole feel and pattern of joyously unhappy tragedy of this earth (and of other earth). And always over it all the one picked single string of the melody following infallibly the beat, weaving in and out around it with the hard-driven swiftly-run arpeggios, always moving, never hesitating, never getting lost and having to pause to get back on, shifting suddenly from the set light-accent of the melancholy jazz beat to the sharp erratic-explosive gypsy rhythm that cried over life while laughing at it, too fast for the ear to follow, too original for the mind to anticipate, too intricate for the memory to remember.’

We had to sit on a chair one after the other, and Dr. Ritter compared the eyes of the children and questioned them; his colleague noted everything down. We had to open our mouths and our jaws were measured with a strange instrument, then our nostrils, the roots of the nose, the distance between the eyes, eye colour, eyebrows, ears inside and out, the nape of the neck, the throat, our hands – every single thing there was to measure.   —Josef Reinhardt

In July 1943 he was officially married to Naguine, although they had been living together for 15 years. Later that summer he made a couple of attempts to cross over to Switzerland both of which ended fairly disastrously. On the first occasion he was arrested and only saved by a jazz loving German Kommandant with a collection of his records. On the second occasion he made it as far as the Swiss border, but was turned back by the customs men who presumably hadn’t heard of him, or didn’t care for jazz.

Dregni’s Django Chronology


Boeuf sur le Toit” this the very place where according to Yves Salgues in “La légende de Django” one night at 2 o’clock in the morning, Django who had just gambled and lost 100,000 francs at the ‘Chemin de fer (shemmy or chemmy game)’ in a clandestine gambling-den came in. The Jo Bouillon Orchestra was playing there. His cousin Eugène Vées rejoined him, then his brother, and then Fouad.- “Champagne, Monsieur Moïses” said Django with a tired voice. The musicians of the Orchestra are packing up their belongings. On the stage lies his guitar. Django looks at it for a moment, he stands up, takes it and rests it on his knees and starts ringing a few notes. Does he realize at this moment that he is improvising something eternal just as imperishable as Handy’s ‘Saint Louis Blues’ or Gershwin’s ‘The Man I Love’? That night, at the “Boeuf sur le Toit” was born ‘Nuages‘…He will receive in less than 3 years, 780,000 francs in royalties for this sole title [15 millions of 1957 French Francs]. Some lyrics will be added to this tune and it will be played even in the smallest French village dance.

Django and Vola


Django Reinhardt, Louis Vola, Palm Beach Cannes

Amazingly, after this unpromising start, Django now emerged as a popular star in a France cut off by the Occupation from its contacts with American jazz. He formed a new “swing” quintet on the Benny Goodman model with the clarinettist Hubert Rostaing which quickly became a hit with the young fans. Paris, one it had recovered from the disasters and confusion of the defeat, was looking for pleasure, for distraction. Suddenly Jazz records were selling in their 1,000’s. The public wanted “Swing”. That (or sometimes “Swing musette”) was the magic word which became a kind of rallying cry for the young. Until now Jazz had been the preserve of a relatively select circle of dedicated enthusiasts. Now it became a general passion, and the Quintet and the Hot Club of France was its focus. According to Charles Delaunay: “When Django and his new Quintet made their first public appearance on the stage of the “Normandie” cinema they were staggered by the reception they got. “This was not simply a conquered population seeking to forget its troubles in dreams; it was also an act of defiance against an Enemy for whom Jazz was a hated symbol or racial decadence. And the Gypsy guitarist, in turn, was a symbol of that defiance.


There are also two intriguing photos (one shown left) of Sarane Ferret at the Shaharazade playing to German soldiers and French collaborators during the second world war that pose interesting questions about the pragmatism of both the gypsies and the occupying forces.

Opinions about Sarane Ferret‘s ability as a solo guitarist vary considerably. He was certainly less “gypsy” than and lacked that “off-the-wall” bravado of his brothers which, to some, may have been a positive asset. However, despite being a measured, tasteful player, the truth is he probably lacked that certain spark required to lift him above the ordinary.

Champagne does not appear to rationed.

Hot Club Frankfurt: Stomp (1941)

The honking enthusiasm of this primitive, soulful stomper harks all the way to the Original Dixieland Jass Band, but the circumstances of its recording could hardly be more different. In November 1941 Germany was at war, and Swing was highly forbidden in the Nazi regime, thought of as ‘Jewish’ and ‘nigger’ music.

Formed by Otto Jung, the Hot Club Frankfurt wore blue shirts with white ties and often battled the official Nazi youth organization, the Hitler Youth. They were one of several highly illegal hot clubs dotted around the country: others included the infamous Hamburg Swings, who were rounded up by the Gestapo during 1942.

The Frankfurt clique had their own nemesis, a Gestapo agent nick-named Ganjo, who hounded its more visible members. In the first two years of the war, there were no major arrests – even though the police used speedboats to chase youngsters playing banned Swing records on small vessels in the Main river.

In countries under Nazi occupation, and indeed Germany, jazz sub-cultures survived in the face of official hostility and persecution. In France, there were the Zazous

Now, here’s a very entrancing phrase,
It will put you in a daze,
To me it don’t mean a thing,
But it’s got a very peculiar swing!

ZazousZazou boys wore pegged pants with baggy knees, high rolled English collars covered by their hair, which was carefully combed into a two-wave pompadour over their foreheads, long checked jackets several sizes too large, dangling key chains, gloves, stick­pins in wide neckties with tiny knots; dark glasses and Django Reinhardt moustaches were the rage.

The girls wore short skirts, baggy sweaters, pointed painted fingernails, hair curled to their shoulders, necklaces around their waists, bright red lipstick… They spent a lot of time in cafes, on the Champs Elysees or in the Latin Quarter… On Sundays they took portable gramophones to little exurban restaurants, played their swing records loud and danced…

The Zazous took nothing seriously. They opposed the regime by ignoring it, which was a political act whether they knew it or not. Wearing long jackets with wide collars and plenty of pleats is a political provocation during a highly publicized campaign for sartorial austerity. From time to time the police would raid a Zazou cafe and take them to the prefecture. They would be questioned and have their papers and addresses checked. Some were sent to the countryside to help with the harvest, after a haircut of course.

One newspaper wrote: ‘We are of the opinion that when the rest of the continent is fighting and working, the Zazous‘ laziness is shameful. The young men without their hair or collars now are going to get healthy sweating in the July sun, the girls will soon have thicker ankles, freckles on their sweet noses and calluses on their dainty hands. And then the world will be back to its natural order.’

CabCallowayPosterCab Calloway and his Orchestra: Zaz Zuh Zaz (1935)

This classic highlighted the facility in negro jive talking for the apparently clanging syllables that were used when talking about taboo topics. One of the most successful negro bandleaders of the 1930’s, Calloway also published the very successful Hepster’s Dictionary, a definitive guide to jive.

Like Minnie the Moocher, Zaz Zuh Zaz encoded drug references within its sibilant clanging. This rhythmic repetition soon found greater expression in the later 1930’s and early 1940’s with the spread of the Zoot Suit period, when jive talk spread from the negro underground into the white youth mainstream.

The phrase Zaz Zuh Zaz was also one of the key inspirations for the Zazous, the young jazz fans who outraged collaborators and Nazis alike in Occupied France. Sporting American fashions and listening to forbidden jazz, they eventually went underground after a series of beatings and forced labour deportations.

Orchestra Swing Joseph Rheinhardt: Zazou-Zazou (1942)
After America’s December 1941 entry into the war, Jazz and Swing were heavily censored in the Northern Zone of France occupied by the Nazis. However a new youth cult in Paris sought to defy the occupier: the Zazous were described as dancing ‘on the edge of the volcano, marking out the tempo with a raised index finger’.

The Zazous set themselves apart by their clothing and attitude. With their straight trousers, long hair ‘oiled like a salad’ and huge crepe soled shoes (male) and suede coats, roll-neck sweaters, and bum-freezer jackets (female), the Zazous blended American, British and continental fashions into something unique.

Although they avoided direct confrontation with the Germans, they mocked ‘Greta Gestapo’. They also infuriated the collaborators with their love of New Orleans Jazz and Swing and refusal to take the war seriously. This March 1942 recording by Django’s brother Joseph is a salute to their instinctive, sarcastic resistance.

1947 proved the last year of regular recording activities for Django Reinhardt : Although the guitarist had again become eminently popular in the immediate post-war period, his kind of playing no longer attracted the same crowds as before. Many of Django’s fans then directed their attention to the many American jazz musicians that were again able to appear in the French capital, gradually ousting seasoned French jazz stars by the late forties.

Two main dates by the quintet featuring the clarinet of Hubert Rostaing. “I’ll Never Smile Again” and “Django’s Blues” are particularly fine pieces. Shortly after the first of these 2 sessions, Django Reinhardt left Paris to tour several cities and US Army Clubs in Germany. It was during an engagement in Mannheim Django composed “Tell Mozart” which he later renamed “Diminushing“. Back from this adventurous and arduous tour the group, this time featuring Maurice and Gerard Leveque on clarinet, recorded scores of tunes for a radio show entitled “Surprise Party” aired on the National French Radio.

Although the bulk of this “Souvenirs de Django Reinhardt” material was ultimately to be released on records, you will find here these that were issued on 78 rpm. Incidentally, these were the very last ones barring the famed “Swing” logotype. Nonetheless, all four tunes are among Django’s best sellers With his extended piece “Gypsy With A Song” Django offers a pun to Ellington’s 1938 “Gypsy Without A Song“, and any similarity here, is quite intentional.  A week after the closing date of this album, Stephane Grapelly and Django appeared in concert at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, and subsequently were booked for a residency at the ABC Theatre a session reuniting the quintet formula of pre-wartime, but with a new twist.