The Day I Met Django
By Albert Offenbach

This is what happened way back in 1938.

I went to Deauville on holiday. I was eighteen. In those days tea dances were in, so every afternoon I went to the Yacht Club tea dance (run by George Carpentier, the former French boxing champ). Two bands were playing: Maurice Winnick's dance band, and a small Gypsy band.

In the Gypsy band was a guitarist who played in the style of Django. I was not much good at French, but I managed to tell him he played like Django. He was delighted to hear it and told me he was Django’s brother, Joseph. As I saw him every day, we got quite friendly. One day he told me that the Hot Club was playing in London at the State Cinema in a few months time, and said if I came backstage to see him he would introduce me to Django. Well, that could not be missed, could it!? So when the time came I took my young brother (who played very well in those days) and a friend to see the show.

After the show we went backstage to see if Joseph remembered me—he did and was very pleased to see me. True to his word, he introduced me to Django, who was polite but not very interested at first. Then I saw Django’s guitar. I thought I would love to be able to say I have played Django’s guitar, so I asked him if I could. “Sure,” he said. I banged out a few chords in the Hot Club style, and his whole attitude changed; he became very friendly. I asked him if he would like to come for a drink in the pub and he said yes, then told the other Hot Club musicians that we were all going for a drink. Everyone came except Stéphane Grappelli. On the way to the pub, the friend I came with said, “Let’s not go to the pub—let’s go home for a drink,” and Django agreed to join us there.

We got back to my friend’s house (where he installed a great bar, by the way) and we had a few drinks, I asked Django if he would play for us, and he said yes, provided I would play along with him. Off I went to get the two Gibsons I had bought from Len Williams, father of John Williams.

What a thrill to play for Django! My young brother was a much better player than I, and he had learned the solo of “Limehouse Blues” off the Django record. Django was delighted by my brother’s version. He was really very modest and never realized he had such a big following.

After a bit of playing, we stopped, then started to play some gramophone records, one being Chick Webb’s “Undecided,” sung by Ella Fitzgerald. Django loved it and said he would record it. He said he needed a singer for it, so we recommended the singer from the Romany Band, a girl called Beryl Davis.

After a few more drinks, we took them all back to their hotel, said good night, and I thought that would be the end of it. But a couple of days later Django rang me and invited us all to the club that the Hot Club was playing at, called The Nut House. You can imagine how exited I was, a kid of 18 then, to be the invited guest of the great Django.

We went to the Club but the owner would not let us in, as he did not believe we had been invited by Django. I persuaded him to check, and after some time had passed Django appeared and confirmed that we were his guests. He had a front table reserved for us, and from there we watched the show and danced a bit with a few of the birds that were there. At about 4:30 a.m. we all went to Lyons Corner House for breakfast with the whole Hot Club except for Grappelli. I think he was a bit too posh for us in those days.

Django paid the bill for everybody. I tried to pay him back, but he would not hear of it. A short while after that I was in the army and actually landed on the beach in Normandy in full kit, and my guitar in tow, but that’s another story.

(July 2001, from

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