Hawaii Calls – Ed and Lani – Hana Hou

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

You recently heard Ed Kenney and Lani Custino duet on “Ke Kali Nei Au,” which came to be known as the “Hawaiian Wedding Song.” The song became even more popular and more closely associated with weddings after1959 when national singing sensation Andy Williams released his version (which went to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart). This was followed almost immediately by Elvis Presley’s version from the 1961 film Blue Hawaii. But most Hawaiians do not consider it a wedding song because the original Hawaiian-language lyric does not convey a sentiment even remotely related to marriage. The English-language version sung by Williams, Presley, and most entertainers in Hawai`i after them is not a translation of the original Hawaiian-language version. So who knows where the wedding “theme” arose from? 

Then which song would the Hawaiians consider a wedding song? Check out this lyric… 


E ku`u lei / Beloved of mine 

Lei aloha na`u, lei makamae / To me you're precious, I adore only you 

Eia au, ke kali nei / Alone I wait, my heart is yearning 

Ho`i mai kāua, ho`i mai e pili / Come my love, abide with me 


The lovely “Lei Aloha, Lei Makamae” was penned by the same Charles E. King who composed “Ke Kali Nei Au.” But you can see for yourself that this song is closer to a song of betrothal. Still, when tourists request the “Wedding Song,” crowd-pleasing entertainers in Hawai`i will serve up “Ke Kali Nei Au.” But when Hawaiians sing for each other, their first choice is “Lei Aloha, Lei Makamae.” 

It is rare that the same duet partners would team up for both wedding songs, so this was quite a coup on the part of Hawaii Calls creator/host Webley Edwards. (In fact, I cannot think of another singing duo that has given both songs a whirl on record.) And there was no better choice of partners than Ed Kenney and Lani Custino. 

The setting for the scene is, of course, the coconut grove of what was the Coco Palms Resort in Wailuā on the island of Kaua`i. For more than 20 years locals have mourned the loss of the iconic property which was ravaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. But the property is currently under redevelopment by Hyatt and is scheduled to open its doors – and, hopefully, its coconut grove – again in 2017. 

I hope you have enjoyed this retrospective on Ed Kenney and his rare performances culled from episodes of the Hawaii Calls TV show. Of course, Ho`olohe Hou will revisit the man and his music when we celebrate Ed Kenney’s birthday next August. 


Direct download: Ed_Kenney_And_Lani_Custino_-_Lei_Aloha_Lei_Makamae.m4v
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 11:26am EDT