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Musician Vince Chiarelli

Vince Chiarelli

Vince Chiarelli

Not a day goes by that Vince Chiarelli Jr. does not think about his grandfather.

Chiarelli — a Rockford, Ill., native and music enthusiast — has recently taken on the role of president of Vincent Records, an independent label his grandfather founded when he moved to Rockford from Sicily in the 1950s. Also named Vince, Chiarelli’s late grandfather rubbed elbows with some of Motown’s finest to up-and-coming artists in the music capital of the world, Nashville, Tenn., and his innovative work all those years ago is helping his grandson realize his own dreams today.

The elder Vince Chiarelli passed away in April 2013, but his influence endures.

“I have been following in my grandfather’s footsteps since I was born,” Chiarelli says. One of Chiarelli’s earliest memories is being in his grandfather’s arms at 18 months old singing Luciano Pavarotti songs.

Several months before Chiarelli Sr. passed away, he signed everything over to Vince Jr., including the family record business. Not long after, the younger Chiarelli, himself a musician, performed a touching tribute concert with his band to re-launch a modern-day Vincent Records and celebrate the music it was founded on. (www.vincentrecords.com)

His first release on the fledgling label — “Play Play Guitar: The Songs Of Vincent Chiarelli,” a CD of Vince Jr. playing his grandfather’s songs — is available physically and digitally on the website.

The Vince Chiarelli Combo (www.vincechiarelliband.com) comprises like-minded musicians who recreate live some of the original Italian music written and performed over the years by Chiarelli Sr. at weddings and banquets throughout Rockford. To assemble the tribute, the younger Chiarelli combed through a catalog of more than 250 original tracks created by his grandfather, a task the young record exec was more than happy to undertake.

“I had a feeling at the end of last year that I should do this Italian music in honor of my grandpa,” Chiarelli says.

The city of Rockford is an important backdrop for the Chiarelli family tale.

Recently, both Vince Sr. and Vince Jr. were featured in the documentary series “Our City, Our Story,” which showcases influential people hailing from Rockford who have contributed positively to the city. The short about the Chiarellis, titled “The Torchlighter,” sheds light on how this Sicilian immigrant came to Rockford, became a tailor to help support his family, and then found his way in the music business, writing songs and publishing records.

When Chiarelli opened the label, he had several people come knocking at his door for opportunities. These included such before-they-were-famous notables as The Jackson Five, who he passed on to his friend at Motown records, the legendary impresario Berry Gordy. The rest, of course, is history.

Chiarelli Jr. plans on keeping very busy during the next few months. Besides his schedule with the Chiarelli Combo, his latest project with Vincent Records is going through several master tapes that have been unreleased and putting them out for the public to enjoy.

“I love the old history of music,” Chiarelli says. “There was a technology gap from the ’80s until now.” But thanks to the ease of publishing music today, Vincent Records released the first vinyl record out of Rockford in years. This record, also available on iTunes, features music by friends of Chiarelli Sr. and funk singer Joe Irving.

The coming months also mean a seemingly endless schedule of more than 55 shows for the Chiarelli Combo. Chiarelli Jr. is also finishing up his last year as a student at Rockford College, where he’s earning his M.B.A., as well as working as a part-time accountant for the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. He also supervises more than 30 shows on WRCR (Rockford College Radio), and writes a weekly entertainment and music column for the Rock River Times. Plus, he’s currently working with 15 bands at Vincent Records that are also keeping him plenty busy.

With a new generation running the family label, Vince Chiarelli Sr.’s immortal presence will live on in the city where he started it all. Vincent Records has aced the test of time, and Chiarelli Jr. is transforming his grandfather’s dream and love of music into something that will live on for generations to come.

Luckily, Chiarelli Sr. was able to see his legacy was in very good hands before he passed away. “He would be very proud,” Chiarelli says.

About Alanna Chiefari

Alanna Chiefari is a 2007 graduate of Saint Mary’s college-Notre Dame. She has been writing for Fra Noi since the winter of 2011 and is absolutely thrilled to feature young Italian-American adults who are off to a great start. Alanna has been working as a client associate on a wealth management team for Merrill Lynch since May of 2007. In her spare time, she loves exploring Italian culture by reading books, trying new restaurants and meeting Italian Americans who are benefiting the community. Follow her on Twitter at @LannaDionne.