I have no idea why Quentin Tarantino used the “Django” for the title character of his new slave-revenge western.
But today is Django Rheinhart‘s birthday so let’s take a moment to honor one of the most innovative and memorable guitarists of the 20th century.
You can start with the Pearl Django-triggered station I listen to quite frequently on Pandora:(Yeah, I know, I was just ragging on Pandora for its limited playlists yesterday, but this one is pretty good, especially if you’re not all too familiar with this type of music. And I hope the link above works for you, Pandora is apparently pretty touchy about how sharing its links works. The link seems to be working in Safari, not so much in Firefox.)
I am suddenly recalling the first time I ever heard the name “Django Rheinhardt.” It was in the fall of… oh, 1966 or ’67 would be a good guess. My step-father was a Yalie, and every year he took us to the Yale-Princeton football game. He also made us wear a jacket and tie to the game. Things were different in those days…
Whatever year it was, that year I was driven to the game by the son of one of my step-father’s college roommates (from the class of 1930-something). I remember the driver’s name was Raymond Londa, and, despite being a lawyer and a Yalie himself, Raymond Londa was kinda cool: he drove us to New Haven in something that was rather novel for its day – a VW Camper.
Raymond somehow knew that I’d just started playing guitar (I still have my first chord book, dated April, 1966). And he asked me if I’d knew about Django Rheinhardt. Nope, not a clue. And since my taste at the time leaned more toward the Beatles and Jefferson Airplane, I don’t think I was all that interested. Gypsy Jazz? Not a clue.
All of which I’m recalling now because lately I’ve been hearing a lot of Django and Django-influenced music, and I wished I’d paid closer attention when I first heard the name. I’m paying closer attention now, and will be listening to Django and his descendants as much as I can today.
Postscript: I’ve just been advised that the name “Django” has a long history of use in “spaghetti westerns.”