Hawaii Calls – 52 Years Ago Today

Now that you have heard of all of the greats of the 1960s-era Hawaii Calls cast independently, we can put the pieces of the puzzle back together and enjoy a complete broadcast from that era. And this one just happened to have gone out over the airwaves exactly 52 years ago today on December 1, 1962. In case you have forgotten some of the voices we have heard along the way on our now three-week journey through a history of Hawaii Calls, I will give you a few reminders along the way. 

As always in that era, the show opens with the show’s singing sisters – Nina Keali`iwahamana, Lani Custino, and Lahela Rodrigues – performing the chant of greeting before Jimmy Kaopuiki launches into the up-tempo “Nani Wale Na Hala,” a song honoring Queen Emma. You may hear her referred to as “Kaleleonalani” in the last verse since after the loss in rapid succession of both her son, Prince Albert (in 1862) and her husband, King Kamehameha IV (in 1863) the queen took the name Kaleleonalani (which means “Flight of the Royal Ones”). (Like many Hawaiian songs handed down through the ages, you may hear “Nani Wale Na Hala” sung to two different melodies. Hawaii Calls cast member Mahi Beamer sings the alternate version of the melody on his LP Hawaii’s Mahi Beamer which was recorded with members of the Hawaii Calls group.) The group then slows down the tempo for a medley with the Gordon Beecher and Johnny Noble hapa-haole standard “Song of Old Hawaii” which features the voice of Haunani Kahalewai with a high harmony by Nina and the steel guitar of Barney Isaacs. I have previously used this space to question some of the artistic choices made the by show’s producers and/or musical director, and here I am compelled to point out that there is no obvious thematic connection between “Na Hala O Naue” and “Song of Old Hawaii.” But as the latter appears on Haunani’s then recent LP release Hawaii’s Favorite Singing Star: Haunani!, recorded as part of Webley Edwards’ contract with Capitol Records, she was likely encouraged to sing the song to plug the LP on which it also appeared.  

Next Nina, Lani, and Lahela – whom host Webley Edwards often refers to as the “High Trio” – performs just a snippet of “He Aloha No `O Honolulu.” Composed by Lot Kauwe, a composer with a wandering eye who often set his dalliances to music, the song speaks metaphorically of a trip aboard the inter-island steamer Maunaloa and a potential lover at each port. But, oddly, the ladies are only permitted to sing one of the five verses Kauwe composed. So in this version the dalliances are never evidenced because we never get out of home port. 

The seldom heard but heavenly waltz-time tune is often simply called “The Winds From Over The Sea” for its first line, but its real title is “A Song To Hawai’i.” The rightful composer has been contested, but as noted by ethnomusicologist Dr. Amy Ku’uleialoha Stillman (in a scholarly article, "Aloha Aina": New Persecptives on "Kaulana Na Pua", The Hawaiian Journal of History, Volume 33, 1999), at least two generally credible sources credits J.D. Redding with composing the song: Jack Ailau’s Buke Mele Hawaii and Charles E. King’s Book of Hawaiian Melodies (1923 edition). Interestingly, despite that the song dates back to at least 1923 - and possibly earlier - I cannot find in my archives or in any publicly available electronic materials (spelled Google) any versions recorded until the 1960s and none recorded since. This song seems to have had a very specific moment of popularity in time, and we can only speculate about the sudden fervor (statehood and the ensuing spike in tourism?) and its just as sudden demise (perhaps the somewhat archaic waltz time which renders the song impossible for the hula). It is all very odd because scores of other hapa-haole songs (songs which extol the beauty and virtues of Hawai’i but written in the English language) remain very popular despite their quaintness in these modern times. The vocal solo here is by Sonny Nicholas. 

Haunani loved to sing songs in a variety of languages. She has been known to record songs not only in English and Hawaiian, but also in Tahitian, Samoan, and even Fijian. Here Haunani regales the audience with “Vahine Anamite,” a song composed by Tahiti’s most popular musician of that era, Eddie Lund, and which honors the hard-working Indo-Chinese women immigrants to Tahiti. The song was already a staple of Haunani’s repertoire when she performed it here as it had also – like “Song of Old Hawaii” earlier – previously appeared on her then recent LP release Hawaii’s Favorite Singing Star: Haunani! 

Next time: Part 2 of the December 1, 1962 episode of Hawaii Calls 


(Click here to listen to Part 2 of this program.) 

(Click here to listen to Part 3 of this program.)


Direct download: 01_Hawaii_Calls_-_12-1-62.mp3
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 5:17am EDT