b. William C. Disley, 27 May 1931, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Disley grew up in Wales and the north of England, where he learned to play banjo, switching to guitar at the age of 14 when he heard Django Reinhardt. Among his earliest jazz gigs was a period with the Yorkshire Jazz Band. In the 50s he lived in London, working as a newspaper cartoonist and playing in a variety of bands. Although many of Disley’s engagements in the 50s and 60s were with traditional bands, he also played skiffle and folk music. Eager to restore the place of the acoustic guitar in the face of the pop-scene successes of its electric counterpart, he gradually developed a substantial reputation as a leading mainstream guitarist.
In the early 70s Disley began a fruitful association with Stéphane Grappelli, persuading the organizers of the Cambridge Folk Festival to book the violinist. With the group rounded out by guitarist Denny Wright, who had worked with Grappelli in 1944, they were a huge success and Grappelli’s resurgence was assured. Later, Disley added Len Skeat and continued to accompany the violinist on some of the most memorable moments of his career comeback. On and off, Disley was with Grappelli for about a decade, a period which also saw record sessions with Teresa Brewer and others, and tours of Australia, Europe and the USA. Undoubtedly, Disley’s acute business sense, allied to his impeccable musical taste and dedication to Reinhardt was a significant factor in the renewal of Grappelli’s career. Subsequently, Disley formed his own group that worked mostly in London through the 80s. He continues to play, bringing wit and invention, allied to an urgent unflagging swing to all his sessions.