Vintage Guitar - June 2018 - open - 93

through the sound and fury of a full band. Guitar
makers were experimenting with inventions and
innovations ranging from bold to bizarre. Believing
bigger was better, Gibson, Stromberg, Epiphone, and
John D'Angelico vied with each other to build everlarger archtops. Meanwhile, John Dopyera unveiled
his radical, complex, and expensive National tricone,
with three stamped-aluminum resonating cones serving as crude speakers amplifying the strings. Other
inventors were creating electrically amplified guitars,
experimenting with everything from gramophone
needles to crude radio transmitters. At the same
time the Selmer was launched, visionary Lloyd Loar
was ousted from Gibson and started his Vivi-Tone
Company, offering an electrically amplified guitar.
But the technology was still exotic, and acceptance
slow; Vivi-Tone was bankrupt months after it was
founded.
In this quest for volume, Maccaferri's guitar
excelled. He learned to build mandolins as an
11-year-old apprentice to Italian luthier Luigi
Mozzani, and aspects of mandolin design were
central to the success of his later guitar. Maccaferri began designing the prototype of his
novel guitar after he immigrated to London in
1928 and established a lutherie in the back of a
furniture shop. He showed his creation to the
managers of Britain's largest music shop, the
London branch of Selmer; impressed, Henri
Selmer immediately charged ahead in licensing the Maccaferri design.
Maccaferri's ideas were oldfashioned yet ingenious.
Taking cues from mandolin
construction, his guitar
had an arched soundboard
glued to the sides, under
pressure, with the tailpiece
attached to the back of the
guitar. The body was built
around a unique resonating
soundbox hidden within;
this created more volume
while retaining the
purity of tone. In
addition, the body
had a cutaway,
for facile access
to upper frets.
A short fretboard extension ran over
the soundhole,
prov iding a
wider palette of
notes with twooctave range on
the high E string.

The author with a '50s
Sonora D-hole possibly
built by Busato, in Paris.

COUP DE FOUDRE
ENCOUNTER

H

olding a guitar like Django Reinhardt's
Selmer, one expects something to
happen. Perhaps a flash of musical
inspiration, a sudden dancing brilliance
coming alive in the fingertips, a cold
shudder running down your back.
Or maybe it's a coup de
foudre, as Django might
have said - a thunderbolt
striking you down where
you stand, your hands
sacreligiously grasping
this guitar.
None of that came
about when I had the
opportunity to play his
1940 Selmer Modèle
Django Reinhardt,
serial number 503,
which is housed at
Paris' wondrous
Cité de la Musique,
an ensemble of
museum, concert
halls, and more.
I certainly had
a Wayne's World
moment: "I'm not
worthy!" But the most
intense sense was that
this is just a guitar. The

Screw holes in
the top of #503 are
remnants of Django's
having affixed a pickup.

June 2018

93

VINTAGE GUITAR

genius, the electricity,
the magic was all Django.
Coming back down
to earth, the first thing I
noticed was its simple
beauty. The instrument
is worn and darkened
with time, the cigarette
smoke of a thousand
jazz clubs, and the scars
of Django's itinerant
journeys. Above all, the
neck and fretboard struck
me; they're worn smooth
like a French cathedral's
steps from praying
penitents. And they're
exquisitely patinated by
his scarred hand and the
two fingers he used to
fret guitars after the 1928
fire that destroyed his
caravan and threatened
his fledgling career.
When an English journalist looked down his nose
at the condition of the
guitar, Django responded
in perfect Gallic nonchalance, "C'est le guerre."
Hopefully, this was
accompanied by a shrug
and the lighting up of yet
another Gitane cigarette.
I couldn't resist
strumming an A6 chord
- Django loved sixth
chords; their sound must
have spoke to his sense
of the alchemy of Gypsy
music and American jazz
that he stirred up. I then
picked the intro to one of
his famous early compositions, "Djangology."
The guitar is impossibly light, it's tone
lustrous, rich, and alive.
My playing, however,
sounded trite and clichéd.
But I'm not alone; other
famous Roma guitarists - Boulou Ferré, Biréli
Lagrène, Stochelo Rosenberg - have remarked
about how daunting and
terrifying it is to even
attempt to play this
guitar. - Michael Dregni


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