Leader of the Hot Club of San Francisco and godfather of American gypsy jazz, guitarist Paul Mehling plays Django Reinhardt in this edition of Acoustic Guitar Sessions.

Paul Mehling grew up in what’s now known as Silicon Valley, but he wasn’t tinkering with digital technology — he was listening to Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller records. Then he discovered Django Reinhardt. “Three guitars, bass, and violin,” Mehling remembers of Reinhardt’s lineups, “and they sounded and acted like a rock band. I saw pictures of them and they looked sharp, sophisticated, and mysterious.”

Mehling wasn’t alone in his fascination with gypsy jazz. Another Bay Area musician, Dan Hicks of San Francisco psychedelic-folk band the Charlatans, had also discovered this mysterious music and formed Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks. “I went to see them a lot and listened to their combination of rhythm guitar with jazz violin and tried to figure out how it worked,” Mehling says.


These days, Mehling leads the Hot Club of San Francisco and is sometimes referred to as the godfather of American gypsy jazz. When he dropped by the Acoustic Guitar offices recently he shared some stories about his guitars, talked about how to properly pay tribute to a legendary musician such as Reinhardt, and played a pair of Django tunes, including the familiar “Minor Swing.” Best of all, Mehling shared a interesting anecdote about the genesis of Reinhardt’s  “Improvisation #1.”

If you want to learn to play like Django Reinhardt, watch Mehling’s fingers — and maybe check out AG‘s Swing Guitar Essentials guide.

Enjoy this special New Year’s edition of Acoustic Guitar Sessions. And have a happy 2015!

For more Acoustic Guitar Sessions, check out the archive.