By Todd Houston
Vince Chiarelli: My grandfather Vince Chiarelli is the person who got me started with music. I started singing when I was 18 months old. In a big Italian family, there is always music being played! We’d get together with family and there would always be people singing and playing guitar. From a young age I was drawn to music and would be put up on chairs to sing for everyone. I loved entertaining people and seeing their reactions and emotions. From then on I was hooked!
RRI: It sounds like your grandfather Vincent Chiarelli was a huge influence on you musically and otherwise. What can you tell us about him and the record label Vincent Records?
VC: My grandfather was the biggest influence I’ve had in my life. He taught me about business, life and music. He lived a true “American Dream” story and I’ve always wanted to keep his legacy going. He started Vince the Tailor when he came to Rockford from Aragona, Sicily in the late ‘50s. He was 25 years years old when he came here, which is the same age I am now. He only had a sixth grade education, but created a successful tailoring business, which he passed on to my father and uncle. He decided to continue to pursue his dream of music, while also incorporating his natural entrepreneurial skills. He created Vincent Records, and was one of the only record labels located in Rockford. In conjunction with the record label, he also started his own music publishing company called Vincent Chiarelli Publishing Company.
Throughout the life of Vincent Records, he discovered a lot of talent in the northern Illinois area. While he did promote his own Italian and standard/ballad music, he also delved into the genres of country, rock, funk, soul and psychedelic. Under his label he released many 45 rpm records with artists such as, Joey Irving, Pisces, Harriette Blake, Russ Blackwell and many more. He also published many artists who were then signed to other record labels. I’m continuing Vincent Records and have been signing new artists, releasing my own and other material and rereleasing previously recorded music that my grandfather published and copyrighted.
RRI: Some of the songs that you perform are sung in Italian. Are you fluent in the language?
VC: I do sing and write music in Italian. However, I would not consider myself fluent. I come from a Sicilian family, and Sicilians have their own dialects. So I understand and can read the language well, but I’m not very good at speaking it unfortunately. But, I can keep up a pretty decent conversation.
RRI: Frank Calvagna plays second guitar in the Vincent Chiarelli Band. I first met Frank back in the late ’80s when he owned and operated the Jus’ Jammin’ music store on North Second street in Loves Park. Is there ever a time when you wish he still owned that music store? I bet he would give you a deal on strings. Thoughts?
VC: Frank is one of the best guitar players I know and have ever played with. He is very knowledgeable about instruments and music equipment. He is somewhat of the band’s go to sound guy. I would’ve loved to have seen Frank in his store, so I could give him a hard time like I usually do. We always give each other a hard time jokingly, so he probably wouldn’t have given me a deal on strings!
RRI: Earlier this summer there was a lot of hype surrounding the debut of the Festa Pasta Vino festival. Sadly things were put on hold at the last minute. Can you tell us more about the Fest and if there are still plans to make it happen?
VC: I was asked to be a performer at the Festa Pasta Vino by the promoter Ron Onesti. My band plays at his other festivals in the Chicago area. Being only a scheduled performer, I was not involved with the planning or organization of the festival, but there are still plans to make it happen!
RRI: Favorite album to listen to while gearing up for a show?
VC: My grandfather’s CD or anything by the Italian artist Renato Carosone.
RRI: Breaking Bad or The Sopranos?
VC: The Sopranos!
RRI: Favorite restaurant in the Rockford area?
VC: Being a restaurant owner, I’m going to be biased in saying my favorite is my Italian restaurant Bino’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant. But I really enjoy going to Shogun.
RRI: Gravy or spaghetti sauce?
VC: Spaghetti sauce, or as we call it “Sugu.”
RRI: The Godfather I or II?
VC: The Godfather II.
RRI: What’s next for Vince Chiarelli?
VC: Well I’m definitely going to keep pursuing my music career. It’s hard since I own my own accounting firm and two restaurants in town. But, music is my passion and I’ll never let that die. I promised my grandfather that I would continue his legacy and keep playing his music. We have no plan of stopping anytime soon and just continue getting busier, currently playing over 100 dates a year. We’re doing very well traveling to Italian festivals all over the country. The band is very excited to be going back to San Diego to play at their Little Italy Festa in October. Keep an eye out for upcoming dates and new music releases on vincechiarelliband.com.