Hawaii Calls – Ed Kenney and Lani Custino

Continuing our look at Ed Kenney and his frequent appearances on the too short-lived Hawaii Calls TV program…   

You have likely already read here previously about the singing sisters of Hawaii Calls in the 1960s – Nina Keali`iwahamana, Lahela Rodrigues, and Lani Custino, all three daughters of original cast member and the program’s song librarian Vicki I`i Rodrigues. And, if you have read all about these sisters, then you know that Nina was groomed as the singer and Lani as the hula dancer. Like Beverly Noa, Lani became known as one of Hawai`i’s finest showroom hula dancers and her hula hands equally iconic for their countless appearances on menu covers, travel posters, and hotel showroom advertisements. But just because Custino was better known for her hula should not imply that she was steered in that direction because she could not sing. On the contrary, Lani is one of the finest singers Hawai`i ever produced. 

Most of Lani’s appearances on the television version of the Hawaii Calls show featured her hula. But, on rare occasion among the too few 26 episodes of the program, Lani’s lovely voice was featured in duet with every girl singer’s favorite duet partner, Ed Kenney. And since you have previously heard here three different duet pairings on the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” by Hawaii Calls cast members, I thought we should add yet another to the canon. 

Some of the most memorable versions of the song were waxed by the cast members of Hawaii Calls. One must-hear recording is the version by Don Paishon and Nina Keali`iwahamana. (At some point I may offer up that version here for comparison/contrast with the version by Nina’s sister with Ed Kenney.) Lani waxed the song once previously – on the debut album by Don Ho, The Don Ho Show, recorded live at Duke Kahanamoku’s at the International Marketplace. So this is a song for which Lani will forever be known both in Hawai`i and around the world. (Perhaps a comparison between the Ho/Custino version and the Kenney/Custino version is in order, as well?) 

As I have written here before many times, the title “Hawaiian Wedding Song” is a bit of a misrepresentation. Penned by prolific composer Charles E. King, the original Hawaiian lyric has nothing to do with marriage. King wrote the original “Ke Kali Nei Au” for a Hawaiian language opera, Prince of Hawai`i, which was first performed at the Liberty Theater in Honolulu on May 4, 1925 and whose cast included Ray Kinney (of Lexington Hotel “Hawaiian Room” fame) as the titular prince. The first recording of “Ke Kali Nei Au” – written as a duet for male and female – did not take place until three years later in a 1928 session for Columbia Records and featured soprano Helen Desha Beamer and baritone Samuel Kapu – the very same Sam Kapu who was with the Hawaii Calls cast almost from its inception in 1935 through the late 1950s (including its earliest LP records). 

But if “Ke Kali Nei Au” is not the real “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” what song would most Hawaiians consider fills the bill? If we knew, perhaps Ed and Lani would sing that one for us instead. 

Next time: Ed Kenney and Lani Custino give us a hana hou and sing the real wedding song… 


Direct download: Ed_Kenney_And_Lani_Custino_-_Hawaiian_Wedding_Song.m4v
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 10:03am EDT