Michel Warlop

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Michel Maurice Armand Warlop (23 January 1911 – 6 March 1947) was a French classical and jazz violinist professionally active from 1929 to 1947.

Michel Warlop (Michou to his friends) was a child prodigy and won every award and prize that existed for the violin in France before attaining the age of 18. Warlop started his musical studies with his mother, a music professor, and entered the Conservatory of Douai, the second oldest in France, at age six. There he was a student of Victor Gallois who had won the Prize of Rome for the violin in 1905. At age seven, he played his first public concert accompanied by his mother on piano in Douai. At age eight in 1919 he played his first concert in Paris, to benefit victims of WW1. He transferred to the Conservatory of Lille and started his studies at the Conservatory of Paris (university level) at age 13. After making a name for himself in classical music he changed over to jazz around 1929 and started recording in 1930. He played with all the greats in France in the 1930s and 1940s; Django Reinhardt, Alix Combelle, Louis Vola, Stephane Grapelli, Roger Grasset, Noël Chiboust, Pierre Allier, André Ekyan, Guy Pacquinet, Max Geldray, Alex Renard, the Ferret brothers, Phillipe Brun, Georges Jacquement-Brown, Louis Richardet, Grégor and others. He also played with a number of visiting American musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Garland Wilson, Eddie South, Charlie Lewis, Josephine Baker plus many others that appeared or lived in Paris during the interwar years. He led his own small band for most of this time and was very much in demand as an accompanist for many of the most popular singers of the day such as Maurice Chevalier, Danielle Darrieux, Johnny Hess, Josette Daydé, Pierre Dac, Georges Guétary, Tino Rossi, André Claveau, Elyane Célis, Léo Marjane, Lucienne Boyer, Mireille, Charles Trénet, Édith Piaf, Lucienne Delyle, Jean Tranchant, Pierre Mingand and Irène de Trébert. During this time he made a number of recordings for Disques Swing (Swing Records), the world's first label dedicated only to jazz which was started in Paris by Charles Delaunay in 1937. He also recorded for a number of other companies, especially when playing for Raymond Legrand (Columbia) and while backing up popular vocalists.

In mid-1939 Warlop started working as a permanent member of the Raymond Legrand Orchestra, the most popular big band in France during the early to mid 1940's. Warlop got called up for military service later in 1939 and left Paris. Soon after hostilities started between Germany and France he became a German prisoner of war. He was released because of his tuberculosis and returned to France late in February, 1941 because of his health problems with tuberculosis. After a visit home he went to Paris and took up his old chair in Legrand's orchestra. He also recorded with the Jazz Dixit and his own Septuor a Cordes (string septet) from time to time. Both of these units were made up of other musicians in the Legrand organization. The septet was very unusual in having four violins, two guitars and a string bass as its basic makeup. From time to time there was also a piano, drums and even a harp but not all appeared on each recording. Warlop most of the Septour's music in a style that blended a classical string setting with his jazz abilities. In 1942 he recorded his Swing Concerto, which was made with a large concert orchestra. It took up both sides of a 30 cm/12 inch 78 RPM disc that ran for seven and a half minutes. Disques Swing did not issue it and it sat in the vaults until it was finally released on a CD in 1989. The work showed off Warlop's skills in both the classical and jazz realms but Swing feared that the mix of classical and jazz styles would not be well received. Oddly enough, another violinist recorded the same work with the same orchestra on the Columbia label about a year later. It was released to the public in 1943 but sold only a few hundred copies. The same session also produced Le Noël du Prisonier, (A Prisoner's Christmas) another longer work that was released on Columbia rather than on Disques Swing. Legrand's orchestra was extremely busy during the war years with recordings, broadcasts and touring around France for personal appearances. During 1941 Legrand's orchestra made a movie called Mademoiselle Swing (released in 1942) with Irène de Trébert. Warlop was the middle of the three violin players in the band for the film and can be heard on short solos in several instances. The film is available on DVD in France and only in French. In July and August 1942 Legrand's orchestra went to Germany and played for French war prisoners and laborers that were working there. They did not play for the German public or military during this tour or on German radio. In 1943 Warlop made his last recordings as a leader but stayed active in music, continuing on with Raymond Legrand. After the war many French musicians and singers were accused of supporting the enemy for appearing on German-controlled radio, playing for German troops or touring in Germany. Many musicians were banned for various periods of time. Warlop had to sit out for two months and Legrand for one year.

Warlop never played again in Paris or recorded after this incident. In spite of his abilities in classical music which would have gotten him a good position in any classical orchestra in France, he preferred to tour as a jazz soloist and in small groups in the south of France until he died at the age of 36 in 1947. His last engagement was with Jimmy Réna's small group at the Grand Hotel Superbagnières above Luchon. His tuberculosis had finally caught up with him along with his heavy consumption of alcohol and cocaine. Warlop played on around 400 different recordings while he was active. In most of them he was just one violinist in a large orchestra, usually backing a vocalist. On some of these records he got to solo but he was otherwise inaudible as an individual. His jazz records were quite different. Warlop played with a distinctive tone that set him apart even while playing with his peers Eddie South and Stephane Grapelly. Warlop also had an uncommon intensity and passion that never failed to come through in his own recordings, at least from the Polydor session of 17 April 1936. Warlop's best known jazz recordings under his own name are Magic Strings, Crazy Strings, Christmas Swing, Taj Mahal, Tea for Two, Retour (Return, to celebrate his return to music after returning from captivity), Kermesse, Tempete sur les Cordes (Storm on the Strings, his best seller), Nite, which was named for his favorite aunt, Modernistic, Loubi and Elyane. He also recorded two tunes as a guest artist with the Quintet of the Hot Club of France (Swinging with Django and Paramount Stomp) plus as one of the three violins on Lady Be Good released under the name of Trio des Violons. Both of those recording dates were in late 1937.

Warlop was married to and later divorced from Fernande ('Nandette') Richard but there were no children. He also had no brothers or sisters. A few of his cousins are alive today, living in or near Douai, France.

Given what is known about Warlop's life today, it is not unreasonable to conclude that he suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Trouble Deficit d'Attention et Hyperactivité (TDAH) in French.

Warlop's father owned the Pâtisseire Warlop (Warlop Pastry Shop) at 160 rue de la Mairie in Douai, France until his retirement in 1944. The shop has passed through several different owners since then, keeping the Warlop name. From 2009 it has been known as the Pâtisserie Cucci. The Cucci's are well aware of the shop's heritage and you will see a publicity photo of Michel Warlop taken for Disques Swing in 1938 hanging over the entrance to the kitchen.


  • Film, Mademoiselle Swing, 1941
  • Michel Warlop Discography by Jean-Claude Alexandre and Pierre Carlu, unpublished as a book but available online here: http://perso.numericable.fr/pcastera/Douai/WarlopDisco.htm
  • Daniel Nevers on the liner notes of various LP's and CD's issued on Pathé, EMI and Frémeaux & Associés from about 1983 to the present.
  • Jazz Hot, number 13 (new series), April, 1947.
  • Jazz Magazine, number 25, March, 1957.
  • Michel Ruppli, AFAS Discographies Volume 1: Disques Swing, AFAS, 1989. ISBN 2-905343-05-2.
  • Amis de Douai, revue de l'Office de Tourisme, Tome XII-No. 7, June–July–August 1997.
  • Gérard Régnier: Jazz et société sous l'Occupation. Editions L'Harmattan, 2009, ISBN 978-2-296-10134-0.
  • Pierre Guingamp: Michel Warlop (1911-1947) – Génie du violon swing. Editions L'Harmattan, 2011. ISBN 978-2-296-56137-3.

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