My final choice for “guitar greats” was difficult to come up with, but in the end, I went with a man who overcame huge odds to be able to play the way he did.
Born into a family of Romanian gypsies, Django Reinhardt invented a new style of jazz guitar technique. With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France.
On November 2nd, 1928, Reinhardt was involved in a fire in his caravan that burned his left hand and his right side from knee to waist. Initially doctors wanted to amputate his leg, but he refused. His leg was later saved, and while he was bedridden for 18 months, he relearned how to play the guitar, creating a whole new fingering system built around the two fingers (index and middle) on his left hand that still had full mobility. Despite the physical disadvantage, his mastery of the guitar was nonetheless peerless.
Listen to “Sweet Georgia Brown” and you’ll hear what I mean. Enjoy,