- Django Reinhardt (1939) – Video Down!!
Where has all that beautiful music and those great old musicians gone?
Actually, their music didn’t all “die with them” because many of the best and even some of the “less best,” (but still interesting) musicians of his grandparents generation managed to park themselves in front of a recording horn and / or a microphone and a small staff of studio studs long enough to make the magical 78s that currently live somewhere below the Maginot-Dixon Line at R. Crumb’s house, in the south of France. Even though those old souls are ALL legally deader than a dozen doornails, they are all still alive and well, dozing in the grooves of his fabulous 78 collection–his own private, personal on-call 24 / 7 pantheon of musical Muses. His access to those Muses have a whole lot to do with his genius and why he has been so creative all his life. Thomas Edison famously said “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, but then as a deaf and dumbshit, he wouldn’t know, because he wasn’t known for listening to records or even live music so 1% inspiration was all he could ever muster. That is no doubt why he rejected Bessie Smith’s audition because her voice was “no good.” As the inventor of the modern corporate research facility, 99% of the perspiration came from his research staff, the fruits of whose work, in exchange for a salary, were patented, credited to and owned by Edison. At Crumb’s crib, they are ready to play and sing for him just as soon as they get hit up with a (phonograph) needle. No heroin is necessary to get him “high,” because what’s in the grooves will put him “in the groove” instantly whenever he finds himself in need of musical “fix.” Records and this website can do the same for you.
Another place these old masters live is in the musical film clips that started with the experimental sound films of the early 20s and continued on into the talking picture era, when musical acts were filmed for shorts, newsreels, Soundies, feature films, TV Transcriptions, kinescopes and video tape, which unfortunately was usually erased for re-use until it became cheap enough to be shit-canned by TV stations and networks and in at least one case, dumped into the Atlantic Ocean. Still, some of this cultural treasure managed to survive.
Great music was filmed and sometimes accidentally preserved as a by-product of the effort of the mostly musically-clueless film industry to make money. Since most of it was American popular and vernacular styles and wasn’t Mozart (or one of that crowd), there was no real concerted effort made by our own institutional archives to collect and preserve this kind of material. Fortunately, the private collectors did what they do better than anyone else (so far) and though much of it has surely been lost (or is about to be lost), some of it has been at least collected privately, which is the first step in the chain of preservation. You can’t preserve anything that you don’t have to begin with but interesting material is still being turned up as more and more collectors are looking at film for the music. We started collecting music on film over 40 years ago.
The cream of the cream of these musical masters will find their way onto this page. Since everybody everybody knows plays guitar, let’s start out with those cats and with a few other string instruments. Check out Glenn’s Picks archives for more film-flam fun!