Sat, 29 November 2014
I wrote here previously that one of the curiosities of the TV version of Hawaii Calls (which aired during the 1965-66 season) was that Webley Edwards frequently featured performers on the TV show who never appeared on the radio program previously, and this sacrificed precious airtime for some popular radio show regulars who didn’t appear on the TV version of the show even once. This was not the case with Pua Almeida who fortunately did appear on the TV program but unfortunately all too infrequently – in fact, perhaps only twice in 26 episodes. Here is one of those rare performances.
“Bird of Paradise” hails from Broadway, but many are confused to this day – more than 100 years after it was published – about which show the song appeared in. According to one source, “On January 8, 1912 the play Bird of Paradise opened up on at Daly's Theater in New York to rave reviews. It starred Laurette Taylor and featured five Hawaiian musicians who played traditional Hawaiian music to rapt audiences.” But according to the Internet Broadway Database (IDBD), the show – while it featured many traditional Hawaiian songs performed by Hawaiian musicians – did not feature a song by this title. The song was, in fact, written by Broadway composer Max Hoffman - presumably (according to the cover of its sheet music) for another 1912 production, Broadway to Paris, a vehicle for Hoffman’s wife, Gertrude, a vaudeville dancer and choreographer. But referring to the same Internet Broadway Database, while Hoffman may have composed the song for the show, it did not necessarily appear in the show since it is not listed in either Act I or Act II of the show’s original program. (My guess is that it appeared in a medley of songs that the program simple refers to as “The Garden of Girls.”) Whether or not the song actually made the cut for the Broadway show, that was at least composer Hoffman’s intentions.
Interestingly, a Google search reveals that the song was little recorded since it was published in 1912, and the only performer to touch the song in Hawai`i was Pua Almeida who performs it here for the Hawaii Calls TV show. But, a few years later, Pua would lay down the song in almost the same arrangement with members of the Hawaii Calls group for the 1967 Decca Records release Hawaii Stars. And herein lies the curiosity… Webley Edwards’ contract with Capitol Records was still in effect in 1967, and members of the show’s cast were still producing records for the label. But a number of the stars of Hawaii Calls – including Nalani Olds, Haunani Kahalewai, Sonny Kamahele, Hilo Hattie, and Pua Almeida – appeared on this Decca LP while under contract to Capitol. And this may be why Hawaii Stars is not recognized as an official Hawaii Calls LP release. The album does not even reference Hawaii Calls on its front cover, but, rather, refers to this aggregation of stars of the show as “The Nui Nui Six.” If you are trolling through flea markets or other haunts where dusty crates of records can found, dig deep and try to secure a copy of this precious LP for yourself.
Pua would continue as a Hawaii Calls cast member for nearly another decade until his untimely passing in 1974. So we will hear from Pua again when we explore Hawaii Calls in the 1970s…
Next time: Pua struck down in his prime…