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 composition 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 around the age of 10 and started his studies at the Conservatory of Paris (university level) at age 13.
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-1940s. Warlop got called up for military service in September 1939 and left Paris. Soon after hostilities started between Germany and France he became a German prisoner of war. He was later released because of his tuberculosis and returned to France late in February 1941.
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 (including Warlop), 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 wrote almost of the Septour's music which was in a style that blended a classical string setting with Warlop's jazz abilities. In 1942 he recorded his own 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.
Another violinist, Pierre Darrieux, recorded the same work with the same orchestra on the Columbia label about a year later. It was released to the public but did not sell in the hoped for numbers. The same session that produced Warlop's performance of Swing Concerto also produced Le Noël du Prisonier (A Prisoner's Christmas), another longer work that was released on both sides of a Columbia 12 inch/30 cm record rather than on Disques Swing. Both Noel du Prisonier and Darrieux's rendition of Swing Concerto only sold a few hundred copies each and both discs are highly sought after by collectors today as they have never been re-issued.
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. Late 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, singers and film stars were accused of supporting the enemy for appearing on German-controlled radio, playing for German troops or touring in Germany. Many were banned from working for various periods of time. Warlop had to sit out for two months and Legrand for one year. He never played again in Paris or recorded after this incident in 1945.
Despite 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, France in the Pyrenees Mountains near the border with Spain. His tuberculosis had finally caught up with him along with his heavy consumption of alcohol and cocaine.
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 distant cousins are alive today, living in or near Douai, France. He is buried in the left (when coming from the center of Luchon) of the three cemeteries (all are next to each other) on the outskirts of Luchon, France.