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Author Topic:  Letritia Kandle Update-Carl Dixon
Paul Warnik

 

From:
Illinois,USA
Post  Posted 1 Nov 2007 1:01 am    
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I wanted to let Carl know that I spoke to Letritia on the phone yesterday-She had the misfortune of falling down a few days ago and had to visit the hospital emergency room-It has left her with back and shoulder pain and consequently our plans to meet in person are now delayed somewhat-She is pleased that she is remembered for her contibution to steel guitar especially by a few of her students who are still alive and playing the steel (like Carl Dixon and Ms Kay Koster) I myself have wanted to learn more about her for the last 25 years ever since the time when I first started collecting steel guitars and saw her picture with her "Grand Letar National" in Tom Wheeler's book "American Guitars" (An early "must have" text for guitar collectors) My curiousity was peaked a few years ago when I stumbled upon an original receipt in a National New Yorker lap steel case which had HER signature on it as she had originally sold the guitar through her guitar studio to a young man in Chicago-That is when I realized that SHE TAUGHT HERE IN CHICAGO and was likely from my area-Letritia is now 92 years young and she no longer plays steel guitar-BUT SHE STILL HAS THE NATIONAL GRAND LETAR! Very Happy It has been packed away in her basement behind considerable clutter for many years-I was hoping to get a look at it and take some pictures that I might later be able to post here-I think it is interesting and historically significant and I will do my best to post an update with more info after she gets well enough for us to meet-In the meantime if anyone else here on the Forum was formerly a student at her "Modern Guitar Studio" on Wabash Avenue in Chicago or knows of anyone else who was a student of her's (and is still with us) please send me the name and contact info and I will pass it along to Ms Letritia-I know it could be hard for her at her age but I was hoping that some new found interest might might even compell her to grab her picks and steel and play one of her guitars again!
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Mark Durante


From:
St. Pete Beach FL
Post  Posted 1 Nov 2007 4:50 pm    
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Keep us updated Paul, I went to my American Guitars book and the pic of her with the guitar is way cool, I bet she has some stories..........and to think she still has the guitar.
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Paul Warnik

 

From:
Illinois,USA
Post  Posted 30 Nov 2007 10:17 pm    
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I have a tentative meeting scheduled for Sunday Dec 2nd with Miss Letritia at her home-I am looking foreward to meeting her in person and viewing her instruments and memorabilia-she seems hesitant to have any photos of her taken and she has asked me to not ask her to try and play-I might get some vintage pics of her though which I will seek assistance to post here later-It sounds like she still has a few cool instruments left and of course the "One of a Kind-National Grand Letar" which I may or may not be able to see as it is buried in her basement Whoa!
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Paul Warnik

 

From:
Illinois,USA
Post  Posted 3 Dec 2007 11:24 pm    
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I was able to visit with Letritia in her home on Sunday-It was great to finally meet her in person-She gave me a few photocopies of her with her instruments from "back in the day" I will try to get them posted-but they are just B/W copies-I was not able to see the Grand Letar-I was able to see its wooden case-HUMONGUS (Imagine the size of a refrigerator/freezer set on its side) What I did not understand about the instrument is that the front and side console panels ARE MADE OF GLASS-Sandblasted with etching of the Sunset-AND it has it's own integrated amplification system (thats the National made part) Add to this an internal lighting system THAT CHANGES COLORS! (and I thought Rickenbacker was the only one to make a "Light Show" guitar!) She expained that the concept for it came to her one day as she watched the setting sun-when she retuned home that evening her Mother had the table set for dinner-She said she moved everything off the dinner table to explain to her father what she envisioned and wanted him to build for her-I did however get to see another one-of-a-kind instrument made by her Father that Letritia called the "smaller Letar" I would describe it as something similiar to a quad neck but not having the necks tiered (as we are familiar with) but rather the multiple seven string tunings are in "courses" on the same level-It has tone and volume controls for each set of strings and four amphenol jack connectors-The tuners are "banjo" type and it has a separate case with a "table" stand made just for the instrument-amazing-I am hoping to make a return visit to try and get the Grand Letar out and to check out the "smaller one" with some amphenol connectors-Letritia was gracious enough to sell me a few of her old lap steels and the Multichord pedal steel that Carl Dixon had metioned she had-I plan to keep them as long as I can-I hope God will bless her and her Husband (Walter) with many more good years together
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Paul Warnik

 

From:
Illinois,USA
Post  Posted 4 Jul 2008 1:13 pm    
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The National Grand Letar has been Resurrected!!!
Thanks to the generosity of Letritia Kandle I am now in posession of this truly GRAND instrument!
John Norris of Peterson Strobe Tuners will be assiting me with the posting of pictures soon Very Happy
It is unlike anything I have ever encountered in my (over 25) years of collecting steel guitars
Keep posted Wink


Last edited by Paul Warnik on 16 Jul 2008 11:22 am; edited 1 time in total
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Ron Whitfield

 

From:
Kaaawa, Hawaii, USA
Post  Posted 4 Jul 2008 2:54 pm     What a trip!
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And the story ain't bad either.

I've somehow mangaged to miss this thread until the new post, Paul, and I gotta say, you are one dedicated and fortunate dude to have simply talked to this woman, let alone see and then buy these great instruments from her.
I knew from memory exactly the lady and guitar you were referring to from Tom's book, and am stoked she's still around, lucid, and willing to share her history. We are all so lucky that you have kept on her trail for us to enjoy this with you.
Keep posting the good news!
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Jon Zimmerman

 

From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Jul 2008 8:32 am     Letritia's Steel...
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Zowie!! ..simply an amazing thread. Your tenacity here approaches that of an archaeologist, Paul. I'm sure may fo-bro's will agree, as the story of this pioneering woman unfolds, thanks to you. JON Z
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Ray Montee


From:
Portland, Oregon (deceased)
Post  Posted 5 Jul 2008 9:50 am     She probably didn't ................................
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This kind lady entrusted him with her cherrished guitar........ possibly because she was unaware he was a steel player, right? You know what they say about musicians?......I saw it on television a couple of nights ago on the Johnny Cash life story.

(you silver tongued devil......Paul)
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Paul Warnik

 

From:
Illinois,USA
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2008 11:47 am    
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Restoration of the Grand Letar has begun!
Only the pickups were found to be in working condition Whoa!
The rest will need some attention to become functional again Shocked
The National-Dobro amplifier has been removed and is now in the capable hands of a tube amplifier expert being totally checked over and dialed in
The two original Lansing field coil speakers are being rewired by Peterson's main repair tech (leads were chewed up and deteriorated)
Once the audio stuff all gets worked out it will be
"On to the light show" to repair all the leads for all the colored light bulbs-24 of them under the translucent fretboard (X-Mas tree bulb size) 12 more on each side in two panels and 16 large colored ones behind the front panel which no longer sprouts the "sunset motif"
The front panel was changed to a stylized musical note and "G" clef motif during the WWII years-
Letritia was playing shows to raise money for war bonds then and the sunrise panel on the front looked exactly like the Japanese flag so it was removed in favor of something that would not be viewed as offensive during the time
John Norris has taken some good photos and videos which I hope to get posted soon-stay tuned!
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Ron Whitfield

 

From:
Kaaawa, Hawaii, USA
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2008 5:46 pm     Banzai!
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Thanx, and how awesome you are videoing the resurection!
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John Norris


From:
Peterson Strobe Tuners, Illinois, USA
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2008 11:46 am    
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I stopped by Paul's home to take a few pics of the beast a few days ago.



The Grand Letar is a quad neck instrument with a one piece fretboard,
(the widest one ever made?) comprising of 3 six string necks and
one 8 string neck divided into two courses of 4 strings each.



Tuning is done with a lever similar to a piano tuning hammer.



Blade style 1930s pickups



While thats an unusual layout, the really unique nature of the Grand Letar is found
behind the mysterious louvre doors on the rear side of the instrument.
Built into the cabinet of the instrument are two 1930s Lansing field coil speakers , a tube amp and a dimmer.



What's a dimmer doing in there, you might ask?
Its there to illuminate the multiple light sources inside the cabinet and below the fretboard
(which is translucent!)



The Bakelite knobs look great!



In addition to the Grand Letar, Letritia Kandle also had a Small Letar...



The Small Letar is also from the mid 1930s, its a 29 string console steel guitar,
thats 3 seven string necks and 1 eight string neck.



The tuning machines are straight through banjo pegs



Thats one long pickup!



Each neck has a seperate output via seperate Amphenol jacks





Letritia who is now in her 90s and retired from performing in 1950, was a classically trained musician and played jazz on these instruments from the mid 1930s right though World War II until 1950.
We will be helping Paul to restore the Grand Letar and hopefully it will soon break its silence for the first time in over 50 years.

John Norris
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Peterson Strobe Tuners
- Celebrating 75 Years of Tuning Products in 2023!
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Drew Howard


From:
48854
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2008 12:27 pm    
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Stunning. THANK YOU for sharing!!!
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post  Posted 18 Jul 2008 3:22 am    
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John Norris wrote:
We will be helping Paul to restore the Grand Letar and hopefully it will soon break its silence for the first time in over 50 years.

What a story! What an instrument, and what a creative mind. Piano tuning pins! Are those fireplace doors in the rear?
This is magnificent deco, before deco was retro.
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David L. Donald


From:
Koh Samui Island, Thailand
Post  Posted 18 Jul 2008 6:07 am    
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What a truely magnificent instrument.
The national amps can sound really fine too.
This is an amzing piece of post Bauhouse,
30's design that is deserving of a museum setting
just on the design work alone.

Form and function melded to true beauty.


What and amzing find.
And I am glad she decided it was better in loving
ands,
than in a box in the basement.
Definitely scann the back in the day photos.
And I hope to see amp pictures too.

Try and do the amp as close to original as possible.
_________________
DLD, Chili farmer. Plus bananas and papaya too.

Real happiness has no strings attached.
But pedal steels have many!
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Peter Nylund


From:
Finland
Post  Posted 18 Jul 2008 8:29 am    
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Jee, now that is a good lookin' grill. Don't mind me, it's happy hour here
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Karen Lee Steenwijk

 

From:
Pennsylvania
Post  Posted 18 Jul 2008 9:01 am    
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I have never seen anything like that! So nice of you to show those pictures.Thank-you!

Karen
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Karen Kaylee <-- click
Kaylee Records
Nashville LTD SD-10 3x4,Fender Steelking,Sho-Bud pedal,Washburn 6-string,Morgan 6-string,Yamaha 6-string
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Ron Whitfield

 

From:
Kaaawa, Hawaii, USA
Post  Posted 18 Jul 2008 11:05 am     I am now forever sick with awe!
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Thank gawd 1)these guitars were made, 2)kept in great cond., by the original owner, 3)she's still around to tell the story, 4)that someone competent and caring now has control over them, 5)that they will be faithfully restored, 6)that we get to hear the story and see the current evolution, and on our favorite forum!

The down side (for me), I had nothing to do with it, and I'll never get to see them in person, or play them.

This makes 2 superb postings so far today that have me doing the SGF happy dance!

Thank you, John & Paul!
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Blake Hawkins


From:
Florida
Post  Posted 18 Jul 2008 11:10 am    
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Paul, I join with the others who have comended you
on bringing this beautiful, unique instrument to life.

Are there any recordings of Ms Letritia playing the
Grand Letar?

Blake
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Ron Whitfield

 

From:
Kaaawa, Hawaii, USA
Post  Posted 18 Jul 2008 12:48 pm     Excellant question, Blake!
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Now that would be a special addition to this remarkable thread!
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C Dixon

 

From:
Duluth, GA USA
Post  Posted 19 Jul 2008 6:17 pm    
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Letritia (Kandle) Lay,

Was my "Hawaiian Guitar" teacher in the years '46 thru '48 as best I recall. She had a massive studio in downtown Chicago, 306 S. Wabash in the old "Kimball" building. I believe I heard her once say she had 14 teachers. And I think she occupied the entire floor. Not sure.

As Paul said, she was a finished musician, and I know she could sight read ANY thing. I imagine even "Full Score". She was the most thoroughly trained musician I have even known. And the most articulate. She had a teaching style that was awesome.

She could transpose music instantly while playing better than most who read it can read the notes as is. She was an accomplished arranger, and conductor. And to top it off, she played the "steel guitar" with a unique touch. She also played regular guitar and a number of other instruments, all with her classical touch.

I was in the studio, when she received her first Harlin Bros "Multi-Kord". It was the talk of the studio for sure. Always on the cutting edge, made her an incredibly up to date musician.

Interestingly however, she never used anything but a Steven's (Dobro type) bar. Also, she planted her little finger on the fret board and UNLESS she was playing harmonics, the tip of that finger did NOT leave that fret board. She taught that helps to maintain accuracy.

One caveat. When you took lessons from her, you played from sheet music, and you played WHAT the music called for. NOTHING more, NOTHING less! Or she would snap you with her baton. Most never tried it a second time. She was a sweet, kind person, but it only took once to know she WAS the boss in that studio!

Her motto was, "It is not your job to rewrite what a composer has written!" Something I often wish more musicians would recognize and appreciate.

I last saw her in the early 50's, right after she got married, in her late 30's. She was to me (at the time) a very beautiful woman. I often felt she was my second mom.

While I never saw her "Grand Letars" in person, she had many pictures of them when she played with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra (during the heyday of the "Big Band" era) in the 20's and 30's.

The word "Letar" is a contraction of the words (LE)tritia and Gui(TAR). Her dad made the Letars for her. She was the light of his world. National guitar company assisted in the creation and the buildings of her Letars.



I became a proud member of this orchestra in 1947.

After I graduated from HS, I lost all contact with her, and after 40+ yrs had passed, I felt she had passed on. Thanks to friend and fellow forumite Paul Warnik, she is as he states, very much alive. She turns 93 this November. Her mind is still very keen, but of course age does take its toll.

Come the Wednesday before this Labor day, my wife and I are going to visit her in Chicago. I am making a sweep through Nashville to visit some steel guitar buddies and see friend Bobbe Seymour's store, on our way to Chicago, then to St. Louis at the ISGC show, to pick up my new Excel, and assist Mitsuo Fujii in the Excel room.

When I first heard her voice, after almost 60 yrs of not talking to her, I lost it. It was an extremely emotional time for me. Sadly, she did not recall me. But after I sent her my HS picture, then she did.

I can not wait to see her. Only Jesus knows how much I love her and how much she meant to me. She was a comfort to me as a very troubled young lad in the late 40s'. Often times in a 30 minute "lesson", she would stop teaching music and teach me about things I should have gotten at home. Several hours later I would leave the lesson. I shall treasure that always.

Thank you Paul. Thank you sooo much for putting me in touch with her.

May Jesus richly bless you, her and all of you, always,

carl

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Steve Alcott

 

From:
New York, New York, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jul 2008 7:08 pm    
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Carl, I know how you feel about your early and influential music teacher. My musical career began in Electra, Texas in 1962 when I was started on cornet by junior high band director Howard L. Smith. When I went through Electra in 1974 on my way back to the Eastman School of Music, I stopped by the high school where Mr. Smith was now the guidance counselor. He remembered me, and after consulting a small ledger-type book, told me I was one of a surprising (to me, anyway) number (I can't recall the exact number-it was in the 20s) of students he had started who went on to one of the "big five" conservatories.
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David L. Donald


From:
Koh Samui Island, Thailand
Post  Posted 19 Jul 2008 9:41 pm    
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Carl thank you for that wonderful post.

Are you in that orchestra picture?

God bless you, and may you have a great reunion
with your mentor and friend from so many years past.
_________________
DLD, Chili farmer. Plus bananas and papaya too.

Real happiness has no strings attached.
But pedal steels have many!
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C Dixon

 

From:
Duluth, GA USA
Post  Posted 20 Jul 2008 6:25 am    
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Quote:
Are you in that orchestra picture?


No David. I began taking lessons from her in August of '46 after this picture was taken in June of '46.

The finale' of the concert was "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin.

She received several standing ovations. To my knowledge, that concert hall never (other than her orchestra) had a stringed instrument only concerto. It was totally her idea and everything about it was inspired by her unprecedented musical gifts and genius.

Thanks for asking dear friend,

c.

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David L. Donald


From:
Koh Samui Island, Thailand
Post  Posted 20 Jul 2008 8:02 am    
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Carl, thanks for the reply.
Maybe one more question, if you please.

Being classically trained she might have had
different views on tuning than would have been
typical for most steel players at the time.

If you know how she preferred to tune her instruments,
this might be quite enlightening.
Both tunings across the Letar necks,
and intonations of those tunings.

I am NOT in ANY SENSE trying to ignite a ET vs JI food fight,
This is not about opinions, but historical fact,
Earlier I wasjust wondering how this highly
educated musician decided to do it.

Did she record with Paul Whiteman also?

Ok three questions! Very Happy Very Happy

PS. have a wonderful time at ISGC
and with that new Excel too.
_________________
DLD, Chili farmer. Plus bananas and papaya too.

Real happiness has no strings attached.
But pedal steels have many!
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John Norris


From:
Peterson Strobe Tuners, Illinois, USA
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2008 12:22 pm    
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We're still working on getting the Grand Letar back to original condition.
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John Norris
Peterson Strobe Tuners
- Celebrating 75 Years of Tuning Products in 2023!


Last edited by John Norris on 1 Aug 2008 12:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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