Django's U.S. Tour 1946 Info wanted...

JazzDawgJazzDawg New
edited February 2011 in History Posts: 264
I know that Django's American tour in 1946 was not the huge success from Django's perspective, at least from what I've read. I am trying to get some info and pics together for that period, but really can't find a whole lot.

Interestingly, Kansas City was one of the stops on the tour, and I did manage to find a bit of info from a DJ here in KC. He tells me that Django actually played 2 nights here, one at the old Pla-Mor ballroom and another at another venue. I'm still trying to find info on both dates in the local newspaper archives, and trying to find first person accounts of the concerts, but largely been unsuccessful.

I was wondering if anyone else, has any info about his dates in those cities he visited beyond, the Carnegie Hall dates?

Any help and info is appreciated.


  • JazzDawgJazzDawg New
    edited December 2009 Posts: 264
    Here's the info I got from a local music historian. It's not much, but gives me something to follow up on. Here's the Kansas City reference...
    According to “Duke’s Diary,” a chronicle of Ellington’s life by Ken Vail, the Ellington band with Django played at the Municipal Auditorium on Sunday Nov. 17, 1946 with a follow up dance on Monday Nov. 18.

    Though, the 2nd date's venue is not specifically mentioned, it was probably the Pla-Mor ballroom, where a lot of big name bands played during that period. The Pla-Mor was a very nice venue, and in later years became a rock and roll venue, too. I actually saw B.B. King open for the Who, during their promo tour of the U.S. for the 'Live At Leeds' album. B.B. King had scored a hit with 'The Thrill is Gone', and a great set. The Who essentially performed their top hits, and most of the 'Tommy' album. By that time, the Pla-Mor was called 'Freedom Palace', and was mostly a shadow of it's former self - reduced from a greatly appointed ballroom to barely a warehouse with a stage. There were no seats, and folks sat on 'fake' astro-turf. Sad, really.

    I don't have 'Duke's Diary', but when I get a chance, there's more research to be done. I just think with the 100th anniversary upcoming, this kind of info would be of interest to other folks. I'm hoping others in those U.S. cities where he played might share what they can find.

    Music periodicals of the day might have some info, 'Downbeat' for example. I've can't remember where I saw it, but there was a video of bits of a Chicago concert.

  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,264
    The photographer who took this picture said it was at the Pla-Mor ballroom:-
  • steven_eiresteven_eire Wicklow✭✭✭✭ Dupont MD50
    Posts: 172
    are the 4 recordings from the chicago concert on integral 13 the only recordings from his trip?
  • WColsherWColsher PhiladelphiaNew
    Posts: 53
    There's some information here (basically what's in the Dregni bio):

    If I have time I'll swing by VanPelt and check into "Duke's Diary" on the way home tonight.
  • JazzDawgJazzDawg New
    Posts: 264
    Thanks for the info folks!

    Teddy, I did locate a link to some info on the 'Pla-Mor' ballroom, and it, indeed shows that same picture of Django at the 'Pla-Mor'. It's one of my favorites!
    "If you want to see some sin, forget Paris and go to Kansas City. With the possible exception of such renowned centers as Singapore and Port Said, Kansas City has the greatest sin industry in the world."

    - Edward Murrow of the Omaha World-Hearld
    I grew up near the infamous 12th Street area, and remember as a kid walking by some of the old jazz clubs and peeking in the windows. Of course, by then, most were run down strip clubs with hardly big name bands or musicians playing there. Still, there was jazz being played, though.

    WColsher, thanks for that link. I've seen that info and that's actually what sparked my interest in finding more about the U.S. visit. The 'Duke Diary' by Ken Vail is actually a 2-volume set, I can't locate it in any of the Kansas City area libraries, though it may be available elsewhere. It probably has more info about that tour, but I'm trying to get hold of a Downbeat magazine that had coverage of it, and checking the local newspaper archives here - waiting for word on my request to access them.

    The film clip that I mentioned earlier from the Chicago concert might actually be in the Ken Burns 'Jazz' documentary, one of them just briefly mentioned Django - a slight in itself (IMHO). Maybe, Django didn't actually come up with 'be-bop', but his work in his later years sure points to it. In fact, listening to Tal Farlow's tune 'Meteor' sure reminds me of Django's 'Swing 48'.
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,264
    are the 4 recordings from the chicago concert on integral 13 the only recordings from his trip?

    Unfortunately yes and these were only unofficial recordings. Amongst other things, union rectrictions prevented Django making any proper recordings whilst he was in the USA.
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 658
    I don't think there is any film from the Chicago concert. I've never heard a word about this. The four tunes from that concert are almost certainly all the sonic evidence from the US tour. Those four tunes were recorded by John Steiner and John Bajo - without permission I might add. John Bajo told me the whole story once and he might even have written it down for me in a letter. I will look for the letter. You can look up a website called "Jazzed in Cleveland" which has some interesting anecdotes from the US tour. There was also a website that had a good story about Django in Detroit. As for details about specific shows, good luck. This kind of music wasn't always written up in mainstream newspapers back then. People were not as obsessed about details in those days either. If there were local music papers that's a place to look. Check the bibliography of Michael Dregni's biography, there are lots of references there. I think that book is the best source for info on the US tour. All the french bios kind of skim over that part of DR's life, and even Paul Vernon's highly detailed book does not have much in the way of specifics regarding the tour. I do have a lot of old clippings and such that John Bajo gave me and I will try to go through them and see if there is anything for you there. Happy Hunting!
  • JazzDawgJazzDawg New
    Posts: 264

    Thanks for your input. I think the relevant Duke Diary entries would be in the 1st volume. Still can't find them in our libraries, but I do see them at some online booksellers, though too expensive for me. I did pickup the Ken Burns Jazz Vol. 7 DVD from the library, but there was little info about Django, though it did mention him, nothing about the U.S. tour. Then, I remembered that I saw the clip in another documentary entirely.

    I watched a documentary, Django: Swing Guitar (I think that's the title), anyway in it there is a bit about the U.S. tour, around the 32 minute into it. In that section, there are a couple of seconds of what is tagged as being from the Chicago Opera House, Duke with Django on Electric guitar.

    The film clip does not show Django that I can see, and a few seconds later cuts to a scene of Django playing electric, but I think that shot is from another concert entirely, and may be from an earlier time altogether. In fact in it, the rhythm player is using a petite bouche guitar, which we know that Django did not have around in the American tour.

    That's why I thought there may be some footage beyond what is shown in this documentary. Of course, it could just creative editing altogether, just using one of the recordings made that you mention and clips of the Elington band.

    Another, interesting bit in that documentary is the quote from Django, something along the lines, '... "You see brother, I prefer being the first in Rome than the second in Kansas City". That quote's been discussed before, but the reference to Kansas City was of particular interest to me. Kansas City was a swingin' place back in those days, and a lot of great players jammed all night long, trying to best each other. While I doubt, Django found himself bested at one such jam, I think he probably was referencing his being 'not so well known' in the States compared to other of the top jazz players here in the U.S., and felt much more comfortable during his stay in Rome where he was very well known.

    Anyway, still searching for info and appreciate any bits others find. I've read the info from various sites about the Cleveland gig, and would like to hear from others in the other cities on the tour.

  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,264
    The film clip of Django playing the white Epiphone with Michel de Villers and Eugene Vees is from May,1946 at the El Rodeo Club in Paris before he went to America. There is no known film of him performing in America although there are various claims about Harry Volpe's home movie footage but this is all I have ever been able to find:-

    I have often wondered exactly what Django meant by that quote about Kansas City and Rome. I am sure you are right about the sense of it but I wonder whether there was something else in his mind, something more specific.
  • steven_eiresteven_eire Wicklow✭✭✭✭ Dupont MD50
    Posts: 172
    i think he just said that as an excuse for not achieving more in america. i don't think django considered himself second to any guitarist, american or otherwise. judging by the accounts of him playing the cafe society gigs he seemed to lose interest towards the end of his trip.
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