Gitane DG250M (2005)

This guitar was a present from Beth Nielsen Chapman and my Jan in August 2005. It's a Gitane guitar by Saga Instruments. It's a copy of the Selmer Macaferri guitar that Django Reinhardt used to play. 'Gitane' means Gypsy in French. We were in Johnny Roadhouse's music shop in Manchester while Beth was touring. Beth wanted to look at bouzoukis and we had to replace Pete Zorn's percussion instruments which had gone AWOL on a flight from Edinburgh to Birmingham (they showed up later but no thanks to FlyBe's baggage handlers...). While I was looking at the bouzoukis on offer I saw this guitar waving at me. I picked it up and tried it. Lovely. I went over to the bouzoukis again then back to this guitar. When I'd picked it up the third time, Beth said, "You know, sometimes an instrument lets you know that you belong together. That's the third time you've picked it up now." I said, "Yes, but Jan's waiting in the van and if I come out of here with another guitar case she'll go spare." As I put it down I said, "But one day I'm going to have that guitar!"

We didn't get Beth's bouzouki (that had to wait till Cropredy) but we got all Pete's percussion stuff and went off to the gig at Academy 2. We did the soundcheck and I changed my strings. I'd bought some strings for my Sobell as I'd forgotten to bring enough. Somehow they weren't quite so spangly as they should have been though and I was tweaking them throughout the gig to get them to liven up. My mam and dad and my sister Christine came backstage and we chatted till gig time. Great gig. I love playing in Manchester. I could be biased though as it's my hometown. Just before the encore Beth said, "Maart's not been too happy about the sound of his guitar tonight, so we decided to do something about it. Are you there Jan?" I thought, "No, she's at the back of the room." Then the door at the back of the stage opened and there stood Jan with this guitar. It took a few seconds for the penny to drop then my jaw dropped then a few tears. They'd decided to buy the guitar between them without me knowing about it and the staff at Johnny Roadhouse were fantastic, even delivering the guitar after hours. I played it onstage there and then, although it had no pickup on it. I just put a mic on it. That's the least time between getting a guitar and playing it live ever for me.

The guitar has a beautiful bird's-eye maple back and sides and a solid spruce top. The body is bound in solid ebony with maple/walnut/maple purfling on the top and back; bound maple neck with a 21-fret ebony fingerboard (14 frets to the body), marked with pearl position dots; and a bone nut with traditional "zero" fret.

There's an ebony bridge and a trapeze tailpiece. I had ace luthier John Le Voi put a Bigtone pickup on it. That's the one that all the Gypsy Jazzers use. He made a new bridge and inlaid the "moustaches" either side of the bridge.

This is a very loud guitar and it definitely has "that" sound. Endorser John Jorgensen says that it held its head above eight rhythm guitars at the Django festival at Samois and I can believe it! It was in my hotel room while we were at Cropredy Festival and I just wanted to get back there and play it. When I got to it it was late and I couldn't play it as it was too loud! It's great for traditional music too.

There's a picture of Django on the label.

I'd been using Django Light Gauge Phosphor Bronze Strings (11-50) from Malc Newton at Newtone Strings, although when it came back from John Le Voi it had Argentines on it. I now use the brand new silver-wound D'Addario EJ83L Gypsy Jazz Strings, light gauge, 10s to 44s. They're really fab and the quest for the right strings for this guitar is over.

THANK YOU BETH AND JAN! I'm a very lucky boy ¦:¬)

Gitane guitars are distributed in the UK by Gremlin