F Sharp

Where is Django’s guitar? The Epiphone that Django Reinhart played when touring the US with Duke Ellington was given to Cleveland-born guitarist Fred Sharp by Django’s son, Babik, in 1985. (The story of Django’s Epiphone, a 1946 Zephyr #3442, can be read here.)

The two guitarsts, Fred and Babik, were brought together in 1967 by Charles Delaunay, noted French critic, Django biographer, and founder of Jazz Hot magazine. (Jazz Hot, started in 1935, may be the oldest jazz magazine in the world.) Fred has written about Babik here and about Delauney here.

I met Charles Delauney when I was 16 years old. I was in France with a teen travel group called The Experiment in International Living, and after spending a few weeks living with a farming family in the Jura Mountains where I learned how to milk cows and bale hay, the Americans and one similarly aged family member from each of the host families took a bus trip all the way down to Nice. Riding down the Promenade des Anglais in the bus I saw huge posters everywhere heralding Le Grande Parade du Jazz, the festival produce by George Wein. To make a long story a little shorter (you’ll have to wait for my memoir for all the details), I ran into Ed Thigpen who arranged for me to see that night’s show, and it was there, listening to Ella Fitzgerald, that I met Delauney. When he learned that I would be in Paris about a week later, he said to call, which I did, and that led to a delightful afternoon at Versailles followed by une crème glacée at a lovely little cafe.

Google led me to an article about Delauney titled Magnificent Obsession: The Discographers, by Jerry Atkins. It seems that the first discographies almost simultaneously sprang into being in 1936 — in Melody Maker (a British weekly), Dalauney’s Hot Discographie (in Paris), and Hugues Pannassié’s Hot Jazz (in the US) — but Atkins writes, “Charles Delaunay is probably the father of discographical format as we know it today. ”

But geting back to Fred, who has played and recorded with Pee Wee Russell, Mugsy Spanier, Miff Mole, Red Norvo, and Jack Teagarden, among others. It was Fred who, in 1946, sent a young songwriter named Joe Bari to pitch his song to Frankie Laine. Bari sang the song for Laine, who said, “What do you need me for? You sing great!” There’s more to this story written up by Joe Mosbrook, but Bari later became famous as Tony Bennett.

Fred also happened to be Jim Hall’s first guitar teacher. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Fred in person (he lives in Florida now), but we do exchange occassional emails. About a month ago he wrote:

When I first moved to Sarasota in 1990, I started teaching guitar ( a big mistake) at Gottuso’s Music Shop. I had a young man, about 15 or 16 come to me and asked if he could study with me. I told him, “I only teach Jazz”, to which he replied, “Oh…I already took that!”