Sun, 2 November 2014
In 1962 – long before Don Ho would become famous – Hula Records’ owner Donald “Flip” McDiarmid II heard about the magic that was happening at Honey’s Waikiki every night. So he went over there one evening with a portable tape recorder and captured part of the magic of an evening at Honey’s exactly as it happened. The material recorded that evening was eventually released on the Hula Records label under the title “Waikiki Swings” despite that the recording was of subpar sound quality. It sounded like what it was – a “bootleg.” I spoke to Flip in his home shortly before his passing in 2010, and this tape was one of the topics I broached. According to Flip, he had taken the recorder in to capture some of the magic that evening so that he could review it to see if he had an album in the making in order to offer a deal to the participants in the band at Honey’s. If the deal had come to fruition, Flip would have returned with a professional remote recording crew and made an “album.” No such deal ever came to fruition. Don held out for a national deal – which came after his show moved to Duke Kahanamoku’s at the International Marketplace in Waikiki just a year or two later. However, according to others familiar with the situation, there was no such deal in the making; the recording was a bootleg – pure and simple – and when Don released his first two live albums nationwide for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records label in 1965, Hula Records released the bootleg from Honey’s in 1966 to capitalize on Don’s burgeoning success. Making the accusation even worse, some involved with the performance captured that evening claim that they were never paid when “Waikiki Swings” was released. I am not an investigative journalist. So I chalk up these conflicting tales to there always being “two sides to every story.” And if time has the capacity to heal many (surely not all) wounds, it may merely be because memory invariably fades and, with it, the scars.
Regardless of McDiarmid’s motivations, nobody can deny that he captured an important moment in Hawaiian music history – a pre-fame Don Ho and possibly the only extant live recordings of some other Hawaiian entertainment legends. Moreover, nearly every song performed that evening – regardless of who took the stage – was written by Kui Lee.
I hope you enjoy these sounds of a forgotten era – a simpler time when fun was cleaner and the consequences less dire. This record is long out of print – as it should be since many involved claim they were never paid for its release – but it is historically important nonetheless as it offers us a rare glimpse of some multifaceted entertainers and dynamic personalities before they were famous – and one, sadly, who was cut down in his prime and would never know the fame he so justly deserved.
Category:50s/60s -- posted at: 4:57am EST