The man who became the 1st European jazz giant was born Jean Baptiste Reinhardt on January 24 1910 in a Gypsy encampment at Liberchies Belgium. His father was a traveling entertainer so he lived with his mother and her tribe. His early childhood was spent in and around Liberchies. At age 8 he moved with his mother and her clan to France and settled in a camp outside the gates of old Paris. He first started playing music on an old banjo/guitar at age 12 and soon started playing in cafes and dance halls in Paris accompanying and accordionist. He made his first recordings under the name of Jiango Reinhardt when he was in his late teens.
On November 2nd, 1928 a fire destroyed the caravan that Django Reinhardt shared with his wife together with all their belongings and severely burnt his left hand and his right leg. Despite initial hesitation to seek medical attention on his part and talk of amputating the leg by the first physician he saw, proper care received in a nursing home helped save his leg but permanently scarred his left hand.
During the 18 months spent convalescing he created a new technique in playing the guitar that made up for the extremely limited use he had of his 4th and 5th fingers. In 1934 Django and other musicians including Stéphane Grappelli, whom Django had met during an intermission when both were playing at a local hotel, Louis Vola, Roger Chaput and Django's brother Joseph formed the Quintette du Hot Club de France. They recorded their first jazz sides under that name and these early 78s propelled them into stardom. They created the concept of lead guitar backed by a rhythm guitar and they also used their string instruments to create percussion like sounds since they lacked any percussionists or drummers in their group. After this initial success they continued to record and tour Europe. They started recording material composed by Django himself and American standards. Django did not know how to read and write music and only later in life taught himself how to read and write French. They also played and recorded with expatriate and visiting American musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Rex Stewart and Louis Armstrong.
When World War II broke the Quintet was touring England. Django and other returned to Paris but Grappelli stayed in England thus ending the first incarnation of the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Clarinetist Hubert Rostaing was hired to replace Grappelli. Django somehow survived the dark years of Nazi rule when many of his people perished in concentration camps. Jazz was banned under Hitler.