PAUL VERNON CHESTER
Marcel Bianchi - Guitarist
Bianchi was born in Marseille in 1911 to a Corsican family and like so many of
the guitarists associated with the Quintette du Hot Club de France started
playing at a very early age. By the time he was 7 years old, he was learning the
mandolin and moved on to the guitar when he was 12. Although he did not have any
formal tuition, he was soon playing locally in small groups and became known as
"Le Mascotte". It was in the bars of Marseille that he first became interested
in the Hawaiian guitar which he continued to play throughout his career.
Attached is a photo of Django playing Bianchi's Carbonnell
in 1937. - Regards, Roger S Baxter
In Marseille Arthur Carbonell-Torres II was actively producing fine guitars until he ended his very full career in 1975. His father had been a guitar maker in Valencia before he opened a workshop in Marseille around 1922 where he taught his son the craft. After the second world war the son turned to the construction of concert guitars (numbered from about 300 to 580). He taught the craft to Joel Laplane who took over the workshop in 1975.
In the mid-thirties Marcel Bianchi heard Django Reinhardt and immediately began copying his style of playing which may have prompted his to move to Paris in 1937. After attracting Charles Delaunay's attention at an amateur jazz musician competition, he was offered a job as one of the rhythm guitarists with the Hot Club Quintet partly because Louis Vola thought he might bring some stability to the group. Bianchi recorded three times with the Quintet in April, 1937 and his rhythm playing with Baro Ferret elicits very different views as to its quality. It seems he used his Carbonell at these sessions because although, like the rest of the Quintet's guitarists, he was contracted to use a Selmer in public, he actually preferred the Carbonell.
Bianchiís tenure with the Quintet was quite short since he wanted to make his mark as a soloist. He left in 1938 to begin a successful career as a free-lance guitarist playing with many of the famous Parisian jazz musicians of the day. During the War, he was conscripted, captured, escaped and finally fled to Switzerland where he began performing and recording with the Jerry Thomas Swingtette. He also obtained an electric guitar and was one of the first, if not the first, French guitarist to regularly play such an instrument. Once the War was over, he returned to Paris and began a very hectic and varied career which lasted until his retirement some forty years later.
Alf Masselier, Bing Crosby, Arthur Motta Michel Legrand, Marcel Bianchi, 1955
Bianchi is playing a Swiss-made Bale Guitar. Bianchi was taken prisoner by the Germans during the early days of the war. Somehow he escaped and made his way back to Marseilles (his home). Later he found his way to Switzerland, where he managed to get a permit to work. He played regularly with the Jerry Thomas Swingtette and with Fred Bohler and made a few records. He also played his first electric guitar via some American soldier who had one. In 1944 he purchased the Bale guitar which was a copy of a Gibson. He took this guitar with him when he was repatriated, There is a photo of him with this same guitar at "Le Doyen" in 1945 and it is clearly from around the same time. There are several other photos of Sarrane with his Rio, and compared to the plain tailpiece and lacquered peghead on Bianchi's guitar, his guitar had a much heavier and elaborate tailpiece and headstock. These particular blond Gibson-style French guitars are hard to identify in old photos because so many were made by different European workshops. there are some Jacobacci advertisements from the 60s around here somewhere, and they made very similar guitars under several labels. The RV guitars and amps made in the Bramer workshops and sold at the famous Major Conn store in Pigalle back in the 50s also looked almost exactly like the Rio and Bale guitars.
Challain Ferret, Marcel Bianchi, Nice 1940
questions or comments about the format of this web site.