Waikiki & Honolulu in the 50’s & 60’s

Whether in my capacity as musician, record collector, or writer, I have always felt the 1950s and 60s were the golden era of entertainment in Hawai`i. Most of my favorite singers and performers hit their stride in these decades, and because of the increase in tourism spurred by the greater availability (and, therefore, ever decreasing cost) of jet air travel, Waikiki and Honolulu ensured that they rolled out the red carpet – one restaurant or nightclub after another popping up with the aim of serving up food, fashion, and frivolity Hawaiian style. And Hawaiian style begins with music and hula.

Sadly most of the entertainers are gone, but many of their fans are still here to tell the tale. It was with the goal of reminiscing in mind that entertainer Jeffrey Apaka spawned the wildly popular Facebook group Waikiki & Honolulu in the 50’s & 60’s with the mission of sharing pictures and remembrances of the people and places that made the era so very special. I have spent countless hours scrolling the page and learning from its more than 3,000 participants. Invariably when talking about venues that have been lost to the ravages of time and progress like so many grains of sands on Waikiki Beach, up pop the names of the entertainers who made those places so much more special. And then maybe a picture of them to jog the memory. And every time I think to myself… A picture of a musician is like a poem about a great meal. It is the wrong medium to describe such a fully sensory experience. What you really need to do is hear those musicians. But like the venues where they performed, most of the recordings have also been lost with time – many released on vinyl only once and never re-released in the digital era because the master tapes are long gone or their keepers feel that they no longer have any commercial value.

And it is with this aim that Ho`olohe Hou begins a new category of articles with related sound clips which I have simply entitled “50s and 60s.” I have scrolled back through months of activity on the Waikiki & Honolulu in the 50’s & 60’s Facebook page and noted all of the mentions of the great entertainment venues and the names that have been dropped who made those venues famous, and I will offer brief articles about those venues or entertainers with appropriate sound clips included to more fully recreate the era for those who were there to better reminisce and for those of who weren’t to try to put ourselves in that unique and rare moment in time.

I will also be resurrecting a segment that I have not addressed since the days when Ho`olohe Hou was a radio show. Inspired by the old radio program broadcast from the Moana Hotel in the 1960s – Waikiki After Dark – which did remote live broadcasts of the great musicians of the era. There is nothing that recaptures the atmosphere of those nights – glasses clinking, laughter, sing-alongs, applause – like a live recording, and there are many in the Ho`olohe Hou vaults. So from time to time I will offer up these recordings in the segment simply entitled “After Dark” since – after all – some of this magic happened outside of Waikiki , with legendary entertainers performing from Kane`ohe to Waianae to the North Shore, and even Maui, Kaua`i, and the Big Island.

If you’re clicking around www.hoolohehou.org, just click on the decade or topic in the navigation pane – “50s/60s” or “After Dark” - where eventually all of the entertainers from each of these great eras will be represented. And who better to start with than the creator of that fabulous Facebook group himself?...



Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 7:42am EDT