Letritia Kandle and the Grand Letar: Hawaiian Music on Illinois’ Grand Prairie

2017 American Music Month Exhibit

Letritia Kandle (1915-2010), Hawaiian steel-guitarist, music teacher, creator of the first console Hawaiian guitar and director of Chicago’s Plectrophonic Orchestra, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois as the only daughter of Charles and Alma Kandle. Like many children raised Chicago in the early 1900s, her earliest music lessons were on the piano. Eventually, she switched to Hawaiian guitar because of its growing popularity in America during the 1920s. In the late 1930s, Kandle imagined the creation of an electronic, twenty-six string guitar that would use lights to provide a visual display as the instrument was being played. She also wanted to be able to stand while playing and produce rich, mellow tones similar to the Deagan vibraharp. Kandle premiered her innovative Hawaiian guitar while performing with the Paul Whiteman Band at Chicago’s Drake Hotel in 1937. The performances were broadcast by WGN Radio throughout the Midwest. This exhibit of photographs, correspondence, music and news clippings document the creation of Kandle’s Grand Letar, her career as a leading music performer and teacher, and her influence on modern steel guitar performance practice.

For more information, please visit https://archives.library.illinois.edu/sousa/american-music-month/.