Hall of Fame – 1990
Christy Hengel (1922-2007) of New Ulm, Minnesota is a concertina maker. In 1947, Hengel started his own five-piece band called the Chris Hengel Band. He had new music stands painted, the painter put Christy Hengel Band and he was known as Christy from then on. In the 1950s, Hengel played with the Six Fat Dutchmen and the Jolly Brewers, which toured extensively throughout the Midwest and traveled as far south as Texas. He also had the opportunity to play with Whoopee John Wilfahrt’s band.
When the world-renowned Patek concertina factory became available for sale after the death of its owner in the early 1950s, Hengel bought all the equipment, the blueprints, and spare parts, and set up his own business. It was 12 years before Christy considered his product good enough to be emblazoned with the “Hengel” name. He made a number of improvements in the instrument, including easier lever action, lighter weight, and the impeccable tuning for which his concertinas became famous.
Since 1955, Hengel made more than 350 concertinas. In 1989, he received the National Heritage Fellowship supported by the National Endowment for the arts.