Django Reinhardt at the Music Hall

On November 4, 1946 Django Reinhardt made his American debut at the Music Hall in Cleveland. Reinhardt, a Belgian jazz guitarist, had been invited to open for Duke Ellington on a small tour of the Midwest United States. Reinhardt, a headliner in Europe, arrived in Cleveland without a guitar. He assumed that music companies would compete for the honor of having him play their instruments. Reinhardt quickly learned otherwise and was forced to buy a guitar.

Local promoters further complicated Reinhardt's US debut and failed to capitalize on the moment, purchasing only a small ad in the local papers - an ad that failed to mention Reinhardt's involvement, simply stating, "Elroy Willis presents Duke Ellington and his Orchestra at the Music Hall." Despite the oversight, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that 1,800 people attended the concert.

After a 45 minute delay - as the musicians awaited the arrival of a baggage car carrying Ellington Orchestra's instruments - the crowd finally heard Django Reinhardt's first US performance. The act was such a hit that Reinhardt and Ellington would go on to play in other major cities in the Midwest before concluding their tour in New York City at Carnegie Hall.

Images

Audio

J'attendrai, 1939
Django Reinhardt performs J'attendrai, 1939. This recording is in the public domain and can be found, along with other recordings by Django Reinhardt, at archive.org.
View File Record

Map