Letritia Kandle (1915-2010)

Letritia Kandle was born and raised by an upper-middle class family in Chicago, Illinois. After watching Warner Baxter play Spanish Guitar in the film, In Old Arizona (1928), she was inspired to learn the guitar. Kandle’s parents, Charles and Alma, encouraged their only child’s interests in music. Despite the financial hardships many people faced during America’s Great Depression, Kandle was able to pursue a music education with her family’s assistance. As her early Hawaiian guitar skills matured, Kandle’s father, the owner of the Ka-Mo Tool Company in Cicero, Illinois, became supportive of her music studies.  In 1931, she saw a turn-of-the-century double-neck guitar in a music store window.  Swedish luthier August Gerhard Almcrantz built it, and her father purchased it for her sixteenth birthday.  According to Deke Dickerson (Vintage Guitar Magazine, August 2010), Charles then converted it to a “Hawaiian raised-nut instrument with a standard neck and a twelve-string neck capable of different tunings,” and Letritia played it for several years.

Letritia Kandle and her double-neck guitar, ca. 1933.

Kandle met George Kealoha Gilman sometime in 1934 after the Hawaiian Village was completed for Chicago’s 1933-1934 Century of Progress Exposition.  The village included a Schlitz Palm Garden restaurant, native dancing and music by Hawaiian entertainers, and a volcano used as a backdrop for nightly folkloric “sacrifices” to the Polynesian war god, Ku.  Gilman’s theatrical presentations reinforced Kandle’s interest in Hawaiian music, and he agreed to mentor her studies of Hawaiian music, dance, and language. Soon after, she formed the Kohala Girls, an all-female guitar ensemble.

Listen to Kandle and the Kohala Girls play “Chile Blues.”
Photograph of Kandle (second from left) with the Kohala Girls, 1938.

In this image Kandle, with a National Tricone style 4 round-neck resonator guitar, was assisted by three other unidentified guitarists with matching National Tricone resonator guitars, a vocalist, and a dancer.