APRIL 5th — Chris Vallillo, a singer/songwriter and folklorist from Macomb, has restored and collected Illinois stringed instruments for more than 30 years. He will discuss the development of Illinois instrument building as he performs period music on more than a dozen historic instruments – from handmade masterpieces to $3 mail-order gems.
A self-taught musician who learned to play slide on a $2 turn-of-the-century parlor guitar with a warped neck, Vallillo cuts his own bottleneck slides by hand. He typically performs on six-string and bottleneck guitars, as well as harmonica. But Vallillo also has a passion for the past – restoring vintage instruments. His 2013 release, "The Last Day of Winter," featured 16 vintage instruments from his collection.
From homemade dulcimers and fiddles to mass produced guitars, banjo’s, mandolins and pianos, Illinois –specifically Chicago – has been deeply involved in the creation and production of stringed musical instruments. After the Great Fire of 1871, as Chicago began to re-build, it quickly became a national center in musical instrument manufacturing, sales and distribution, particularly with the introduction of the mail order catalogs like Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Wards. From well known name brands like Lyon and Healey, Washburn, Regal, Kay and Harmony to a wealth of small but influential shops such as the Larson Brothers, it was Chicago, more than any other city in the world, that put musical instruments in the hands of players of all levels.
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Made possible by a grant from Illinois Humanities.
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