The Waikiki and Honolulu Music Scene – 40 Years Ago

Scrolling through the page of one of my favorite Facebook groups – “Waikiki & Honolulu in the 1970’s and 80’s – I was inspired by a post by a friend I had previously met elsewhere on the great big World Wide Web. John Charles Watson is a Hawai`i local who shares my passions for Hawaiian music and record collecting. But it was not a recording that John posted that sparked my interest. It was a newspaper page. 

It was on August 13, 2014 that John posted to the group Facebook page the adverts for who was performing where around Waikiki and Honolulu more than 40 years earlier – the week of July 4, 1974 – according to the “Entertainment” pages of that week’s issue of the Hawaii Tourist News. This intrigued me. While this was 40 years ago, it seems like just yesterday to me. The voices mentioned in that paper performing here and there are voices I still hear in my home every day. Because I was a child of the 70s, many of these were the voices which caused me to fall in love with Hawaiian music (despite that I was born in Philadelphia, raised in New Jersey, and have no Hawaiian lineage or other connections to Hawai`i whatsoever). It was and was always about Hawai`i’s music to me, and so I made a life studying it and learning to play it myself. A quick Google search revealed that some of these popular entertainers of the 70s are still alive and active in the local music scene, while a few others are sadly gone. 40 years is a long time. But the major take-away for me was that reminiscing about musicians with newspapers clippings and photos doesn’t fully honor them or our memories. What we need to do is hear these voices and musicians again. Because relatively few local Hawai`i musicians found fame outside of their island borders, their original vinyl LP releases have rarely been reissued as CDs or MP3s because they would not be commercially viable. Almost everybody who had a vinyl record lost them to the ravages of time – threw them away, gave them to the Salvation Army (which ultimately threw them away after trying to sell them for 20 years), or used them to play frisbee with Fido. Despite that I am a record collector (with more than 25,000 titles in my collection), I have never understood the psychology of the record collector. Sure, some of their values have gone up, and others down. But that is not why I started collecting or continued collecting. I collected because I was a musician, and these records were a valuable learning tool – a place to hear songs and voices I could hear nowhere else. But now I understand there was another value to these nearly 10 tons of vinyl threatening the joists on every floor of my home: Sharing these memories with you. 

Over the next few days I am going to explore in music – and perhaps a few words – the artists featured in the July 4, 1974 Hawaii Tourist News entertainment pages. But that is merely the tip of a very large iceberg (or, in the case of Hawai`i, perhaps a volcano is more appropriate). I will then continue to work my way out from that year – both backward and forward – to resurrect from the detritus of time and mind more of these voices and musicians to jog our memories about good times and people and places we might have forgotten, as well as attempt to show how the music of the 1970s is connected to the music of Hawai`i’s past and present. My goal is to weave a lei of the stars of the Hawaiian music scene of an entire century or more but – curiously – by starting in the middle. I will use the magic of the internet to help tell this story by hyperlinking to other articles and more music by artists and songwriters related to the subject at hand. Simply click on the highlighted names or phrases in each article to bring you to similar articles and more music and – hopefully – more memories of a life in Hawai`i – a life I have never known, but which I can know through all of you, if you are willing to share with me as I have chosen to share with you. 

This should be an interesting adventure for me, but more importantly, I hope there is adventure in store for you, too. 

But where shall I start? I suppose it should be ladies first 

Next time: The lady who held court at the Royal Hawaiian and Halekulani Hotels…


Category:70s and 80s -- posted at: 7:22am EDT