Charles Delaunay 1911-1983
By Fred Sharp

Charles Delaunay 1911 - 1983Charles Delaunay was born in Paris, France in 1911, the son of Robert and Sonia Delaunay, world renowned artists involved in the beginnings of cubism and orphism.

Being born to parents who were involved in European art circles, Charles was raised in an environment of art, music and literature.  Some of the friends of Robert and Sonia that were ever present in the life of Charles as a little boy growing up were, Appolonaire, Wasily Kandinsky, Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Rosseau, Jean Cocteau and others. To say that Charles was brought up in an atmosphere of culture would be underestimating the fact.

Out of all of this cultural upbringing, evolved a man of  great talent in art, writing and music appreciation and he persued that bent until he died with the many honors that France and the World could bestow. One such honor was given by the United States when it invited Charles to lecture on the subject of Jazz at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. in 1976, the 200th anniversary of birth of the United States of America. Charles was honored in this way because of the work that he did in the field of Jazz music in his Hot Discography, a publication listing all the recordings of Jazz  up until that date, most of which was American in Origin.

I was privileged to be a good friend of M. Delaunay from 1966 until his death and spent many happy hours with him in Paris and at his home in Vineuil, France near Chantilly.

The English Charles spoke was learned mostly from American Jazz musicians and his English speech was like,"You see, it came to pass that most of these colored cats were solid gates and played like Pops and Bechet!" That was a typical Delaunayism.

During World War II, Charles was for a time, a member of the French Underground and later served as an Anti-Aircraft gunner in France. The story is well documented, but so is the story about Cole Porter being in the French Foreign Legion.

Although Django Reinhardt started playing six string banjo about 1920, he was "discovered" in the early 30's, playing guitar almost at the same time by Delaunay, Louis Vola and Emile Savitry. Although Vola was the first to hire Django as a guitarist with his band at Palm Beach, it was Delaunay who assembled the "Quintette du Hot Club De France", a group of Violin, three guitars and bass, named after The "Hot Club of France", a club where members listened to recorded and live music and discussed Jazz. It was founded by Pierre Nourry a friend of Delaunay's.

While Charles had a long and fruitful association with the Quintette, which consisted of Django and brother Joseph and Roger Chaput on guitars, Stephane Grappelly (as it was spelled during the war years) and my good friend, Louis Vola on bass, the guitar players changed around during the years to follow and  Grappelli (post WW2 spelling) was replaced by Clarinet player's Gerard Levecque and Hubert Rostaing.

Delaunay was responsible for many bookings of the Quintette and even got Django a performance for the President of France.

It was Delaunay who as recording director for Disques Vogue in Villetaneuse gave Django's son Babik a start by recording his first album in 1967 and helped Babik along the way to becoming a name performer.

In addition to writing The Hot Discography which was published in five editions in England, France and the USA, Delaunay wrote the most accurate biography of Django, titled "Django Reinhardt", also "Hot Incography", a collection of his lithographs of Jazz musicians, "De La Vie Et Du Jazz", "Jazz 47 " in collaboration with Robert Goffin, "Django Mon Frere" in French only, A large type edition of "Django Reinhardt" published in the UK by Ashley-Mark Publishing, which I had the honor of editing the galley proofs and writing the Title Index and lastly the  autobiography he finished at his 72nd birthday titled "Delaunay's Dilemma"   This was a wonderful, cultured man who spent his life doing for others in a way that will be remembered for all time, as long as there is Django, France, Literature, Art and "Le Jazz Hot"

Go back