Stephane Grappelly and a young Swing fiddle fan, Jim Moss 

Stephane Grappelly and a young Bluegrass/Swing violin player/fan.
On the day the top photo was taken I almost got him to go to a
High Country show that I had to play that night.
Paul Masson Winery Saratoga California  ( 1977 )
I heard a few days ago that Stephane Grappelly died and decided to dig out these pictures.  Jim Peva suggested that I put them up on the web site, so here they are. 

Everyone who has met Grappelly, I am sure, have very colorful stories to tell.  He was a very gracious and 'F'riendly person. Knowing that he was one of the great Swing Jazz players, I made a point of getting to know him.  One could learn a lot from Grappelly, but not as much as could be learned from Kenny Baker or Bill Monroe.  This is because Grappelly sheltered himself behind a persona.  This persona kept you from asking direct questions like "lemme see how you did that again?" 

Grappelly had his persona that he never let down.  He was like a never ending entertainer... host...?  .. personality!  that's it.  Well, he always seemed "ON".  At one point I felt pretty confident with the way things were going and decided to test this persona.  I said something so that I pissed him off  then watched for his response.  This image cracked and I could see a real personality glaring at me.  I could see that his guy could be down to earth 
if he wanted. 

I think it was the time I spent with him that made me begin to notice that the phrasing of a music often can be found to follow the player's language structure.  When I listen to 70's and later Grappelly recordings I hear French syllable rhythm structures.  I have also heard this in Irish music. There had always been something understandable about Venuti's playing. This was not the case, for me, with Grappelly's. 

I would bring my fiddle along and play swing tunes with him... well,... he Played them while I struggled with most of them.  He said that I could go to any of his shows, record them through the sound system, at any time for free... as long as I didn't bring a woman with me.  After that I always brought a woman with me!!!

I bet some of the dawgies have stories they could tell. 

I once asked him if he had heard of Kenny Baker... He said that Grisman had sat him down and played a (Red) Baker record to him.  I don't think he understood Bluegrass.  When I would play a tune around him he would look 
at me like he wanted to break the fiddle over my  head...   I don't remember that being the typical response that I got from an audience during that period. 


...Ever wonder how the big biscuits decide what they will play at a show? 
Here George Shearing and Stephane Grappelly work out a set list by the 
pool, cracking jokes as they go along. 
Paul Masson Winery Saratoga California  ( 1978 )

I asked him a lot of questions.. one was how did he get started playing jazz 
violin?  He answered that once he heard a Joe Venuti record, he knew what 
he wanted to do with his life.  He said that he had been given a violin by 
( I believe ) his father.  That he then after a year started playing in theaters. 
It was here in one of these theaters that he met Django. 

I asked him if he had studied music in a conservatory, his answer surprised 
me..  He said "Are you kidding?", "we had no money to go to a conservatory".  I had heard that he did something at the Paris Conservatory of Music. 

Another time I asked him why did he quit Django, he got really mad and said, 
"I never quit Django".   There are a lot more stories... I can tell you.

There was an interesting discussion about being Italian.  Grappelly at one point was talking about a show he did in Italy with Joe Venuti.  He said, "Venuti, Grappelli, an all Italian show in Italy... The crowd went crazy!"  I always thought Grappelli was from France. 

What is interesting is the spelling of his name, Grappelli or Grappelly.  If you look on the old Django records you see Grappelly yet if you look at later solo projects you see Grappelli.  I asked once why the two different spellings of his name, to which he said it was Italian and French.  That is what he said and I didn't push it.

Jim Moss 12/3/97


 CLICK HERE TO: Return To PHOTO Page Listings

 CLICK HERE TO: Return To The INTERVIEW Listings

Visit the Limehouse Blues (Swing Jazz) page
Jim Moss and  Paul Squyres

 BOOKMARK THIS SITE ! ...then get on the email list

Again, your comments and suggestions are encouraged.

Click Here To Return To Bluegrass Menu Page



All Rights Owned by Mossware LLC.
Any use of these materials must be approved of in advance and in writing.