Django's career came to a screaming halt on November 2, 1928, when he was 18 years old. Due to an accident, Django Reinhardt ignited a fire ball that engulfed the trailer house where he and his first wife Florine "Bella" Mayer lived. Florine made and sold imitation flowers with paper and celluloid, both highly flammable. Returning from a gig, Django knocked over a candle and the fire quickly spread...
WIth the help from neighbors and family, they both barely scrambled to safety. Django was seriously burned, his right leg was paralyzed and the third and fourth fingers of his left hand severely damaged.
It was during his period of convalescence that he again demonstrated man's propensity for perseverance against all odds. With his third and fourth digits badly mangled by the burns, shrinking the tendons, he could only use his first two fingers to fret notes, while his burnt fingers were barely able to fret notes on the first two strings only.
Initially doctors wanted to amputate his leg but Django refused. He was moved to a nursing home where the care was so good his leg was saved. Django was bedridden for eighteen months. During this time he was given a guitar, and with great determination Django created a whole new fingering system built around the two fingers on his left hand that had full mobility. His fourth and fifth digits of the left hand were permanently curled towards the palm due to the tendons shrinking from the heat of the fire. He could use them on the first two strings of the guitar for chords and octaves but complete extension of these fingers was impossible. His soloing was all done with the index and middle fingers! Film clips of Django show his technique to be graceful and precise, almost defying belief.
For about a decade after Reinhardt's death, interest in his musical style was minimal, with the fifties seeing bebop superseding swing in jazz, the rise of rock and roll, and electric instruments taking over from acoustic ones in popular music. Reinhardt's friends and sidemen Pierre Ferret and his brothers continued to perform their own version of gypsy swing.
There was a revival of interest in Reinhardt's music from the mid sixties, with acoustic music having become popular through the folk movement. Several of Reinhardt's near-contemporaries recorded for the first time in the sixties and seventies, for instance Paul "Tchan Tchou" Vidal
In 1973 Stéphane Grappelli formed a successful Quintette-style band with British guitarists Diz Disley and Denny Wright. Grappelli would go on to form many other musical partnerships, including John Etheridge, Nigel Kennedy and David Grisman. He was also to acquire his own emulators, for instance Dutch violinist Tim Kliphuis.
New generations began to emerge, for instance, Jimmy and Stochelo Rosenberg, Paulus Schäfer and their relatives from the Netherlands. Another musical clan is the Reinhardt brothers and cousins from Germany, distant relatives of Reinhardt's. Boulou Ferré, son of "Matelot" Ferret, was a child prodigy who entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 13, and studied under Olivier Messiaen. He continues to perform, with his brother Elios, and can mix bebop and even classical music with gypsy swing. Biréli Lagrène and Angelo Debarre were other prodigies.
Most of the above-mentioned are Roma who learned music by the 'gypsy method', involving intense practice, direct imitation of older musicians (often family members) and playing by ear, with little formal musical study (or, indeed, formal education of any kind). Since about the late 1970s, study materials of a more conventional kind such as workshops, books and videos have become available, allowing musicians worldwide to master the style.