Sat, 29 November 2014
Readers will forgive me, I hope, if I am occasionally critical of the way that Hawaiian music and entertainment has (or hasn’t) been documented. It is the primary reason Ho`olohe Hou was launched: To attempt to correct the errors and oversights in documenting this critically important history for future generations.
The only encyclopedia of Hawaiian music, Hawaiian Music & Musicians, refers to singer/composer Iva Kinimaka in several entries. But in this same essential volume Iva’s tremendously talented and successful brother, Kalani Kinimaka, is not mentioned once – neither in the 1979 original printing (compiled by ethnomusicologist Dr. George S. Kanahele), nor in the 2012 update (edited by Honolulu Star-Advertiser columnist John Berger). And I think to myself… How is this possible?
Kalani Kinimaka was an up-and-comer in the Hawaiian entertainment field in the early 1960s – palling around with such fellow up-and-comers as Kui Lee and Alex Kaeck (the latter another songwriter and arranger, formerly of Buddy Fo and The Invitations). Alex dubbed his friend “Prince” because of his somewhat loose connection to the last reigning dynasty of Hawai`i. (Kalani’s great-great grandmother was also the hānai – or adoptive – mother of King David Kalākaua.) Perhaps because of his affiliations with budding songwriters who were trying to capture the essence of Hawai`i’s youth in a trying time when maintaining ethnic identity in the aftermath of statehood was of paramount importance to that generation, Kalani leaned toward the Hawaiian entertainment scene’s more contemporary sounds. So it is somewhat ironic, then, that it was two Hawaii Calls regulars, Benny Kalama and Lani Custino, who encouraged Kalani to come over and do some guest appearances on a show which featured music nothing like what Kalani was performing elsewhere. But he reluctantly agreed to do a few guest appearances on the radio program between 1963 and ‘64, and by 1965, Prince Kalani was a Hawaii Calls cast regular – performing Hawaiian music in the style of yesteryear such as you hear in this set.
Although only a little over a decade old when Kalani Kinimaka performed it on this early 1960s appearance, “Lovely Hula Girl” harkens back to the hapa-haole style popular in the early half of the century. The song was co-written by Jack Pitman (who also gave us such hapa-haole classics as “Beyond The Reef,” “The Sands of Waikiki,” “Goodnight, Leilani E,” and “Lani” which honors Hawaii Calls’ own Lani Custino) and Randy Oness (the bandleader who gave Alfred Apaka his first job in show business as the “boy singer” with Randy Oness’ Select Hawaiians).
Although adopted by the Hawaiians as their own, “Sweet Someone” has its origins in Hollywood. The song was composed by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel in 1937 for the 20th Century Fox film Love and Hisses. Although the lyric content has nothing to do with island life, the feel of the song is not unlike hapa-haole songs of the previous era in Hawaiian music. The song landed in Hawai`i with the duo of Eddie and Betty Cole who recorded the song in 1959 and made it a staple of their sets when they were performing in Waikiki in the 1950s and 60s. Eddie Cole is the singing, piano-playing brother of the somewhat more famous singing, piano-playing Nat Cole. So I am compelled to point out here that a singer related to a king is performing a song made popular by a singer who was also related to a “King.”
Kalani would remain with the cast for a few more years – even appearing on some of Hawaii Calls late 1960s LPs. But he would go on to greater fame in the hotels and nightclubs of Waikiki in the 1970s – performing an eclectic blend of the Hawaii Calls-era Hawaiian music, light jazz, then current pop/rock, a few tunes from Brazil, and even a few of his originals. We will hear from Prince Kalani again when we continue to examine the Hawaiian entertainment scenein the 1970s…
Sat, 29 November 2014
By now everyone who loves Hawaiian music knows and loves Danny Kaleikini. He has been a force on the Hawaiian entertainment scene for more than 60 years – first appearing at the Waikiki Sands in 1952 and only recently wrapping up his tenure as the emcee/star of the show at the Kahala Hilton Hotel which bowed in 1967 and was one of the longest running shows in Hawai`i (as well as – anecdotally – one of the most lucrative contracts ever in the history of local Hawai`i entertainment). (The running joke is that if Don Ho owned half of Hawai`i, Danny Kaleikini owned the other half.) Finally, for his efforts in spreading goodwill and his tireless fundraising for the most worthy of causes, the State of Hawai`i named Kaleikini “Hawai`i’s Ambassador of Aloha.” Who knows what such a position entails, but for Danny, it probably just means being himself. In the words of one of his most famous songs, a Roy Sakuma tune with which he opened his Kahala Hilton shows in the 1980s…
I am what I am
I’ll be what I’ll be
Look, can’t you see
That it’s me, all of me
It was probably Danny’s second professional engagement that brought him to the attention of Hawaii Calls boss Webley Edwards – in the mid-1950s when he was appearing with cast member Haunani Kahalewai in her show at the Top of the Isle. Who knows if it was Haunani who recommended Danny to Edwards or if Danny’s growing reputation simply reached the Hawaii Calls set? The earliest appearances I have heard by Danny on the Hawaii Calls program date to 1957. Here are a few selections from that era – some of the earliest of his work (dating to a year before his debut on record, the 1958 Hawaii Calls LP Hula Island Favorites).
You may recall my speaking of host Webley Edwards’ affliction about not always announcing the singer before – or even after – their performances. As Danny was not yet a star of Hawaii Calls in this period, he is considered simply a member of the chorus and performs uncredited here to open this 1957 episode with “Ka Moa`e.” The Hawaiian word for “tradewind,” the “moa`e” in question here has taken somebody’s love away and the singer longs for when the winds will blow her back toward home. It is a love song rife with kaona (veiled poetic meanings), but we do not get the full story as Danny and the chorus only sing a handful of the songs nearly dozen verses. The fast tempo also belies the lyric’s more intimate nature.
Danny follows that up with the hula staple “My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawaii.” The song, which tells of longing for a town on the Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawai`i, was introduced at a canoe race in Kona on the 4th of July, 1933. You may recall discussing composer/publisher Johnny Noble and the dispute over who really wrote “Princess Poo-poo-ly Has Plenty Pa-pa-ya.” A rival composer’s son, Don McDiarmid, Jr., claims that his father composed that song with friend Doug Renolds and that Noble merely stole it and published it as his own. In a similar story from years earlier, the composers of “Grass Shack,” Bill Cogswell and Tommy Harrison, asked Noble to publish their song, and Noble completely rewrote the music and affixed his name to the co-writing credit. This makes the early publishing industry in Hawai`i sound even more dubious until we add that Noble turned over rights to the song’s future royalties for a $500 advance from San Francisco publisher Sherman, Clay & Co. and gave sole composing credit to Cogwell and Harrison. We cannot possibly know all of these years later if there was a similar dispute between Cogswell, Harrison, and Noble as there was between Renolds and Noble that may have led to such an arrangement, but it would appear that the “right” prevailed in the end.
Danny would remain with the show until its demise in 1975 and would even become the show’s emcee when Webley Edwards fell ill in 1974. But like so many other stars of the radio program in that era, Danny never appeared on the TV version. But we will hear from Danny Kaleikini again when we take a look at Hawaii Calls in the 1970s…
Next time: The rising star of Hawaii Calls also becomes it host and emcee…
Sat, 29 November 2014
I wrote here previously that one of the curiosities of the TV version of Hawaii Calls (which aired during the 1965-66 season) was that Webley Edwards frequently featured performers on the TV show who never appeared on the radio program previously, and this sacrificed precious airtime for some popular radio show regulars who didn’t appear on the TV version of the show even once. This was not the case with Pua Almeida who fortunately did appear on the TV program but unfortunately all too infrequently – in fact, perhaps only twice in 26 episodes. Here is one of those rare performances.
“Bird of Paradise” hails from Broadway, but many are confused to this day – more than 100 years after it was published – about which show the song appeared in. According to one source, “On January 8, 1912 the play Bird of Paradise opened up on at Daly's Theater in New York to rave reviews. It starred Laurette Taylor and featured five Hawaiian musicians who played traditional Hawaiian music to rapt audiences.” But according to the Internet Broadway Database (IDBD), the show – while it featured many traditional Hawaiian songs performed by Hawaiian musicians – did not feature a song by this title. The song was, in fact, written by Broadway composer Max Hoffman - presumably (according to the cover of its sheet music) for another 1912 production, Broadway to Paris, a vehicle for Hoffman’s wife, Gertrude, a vaudeville dancer and choreographer. But referring to the same Internet Broadway Database, while Hoffman may have composed the song for the show, it did not necessarily appear in the show since it is not listed in either Act I or Act II of the show’s original program. (My guess is that it appeared in a medley of songs that the program simple refers to as “The Garden of Girls.”) Whether or not the song actually made the cut for the Broadway show, that was at least composer Hoffman’s intentions.
Interestingly, a Google search reveals that the song was little recorded since it was published in 1912, and the only performer to touch the song in Hawai`i was Pua Almeida who performs it here for the Hawaii Calls TV show. But, a few years later, Pua would lay down the song in almost the same arrangement with members of the Hawaii Calls group for the 1967 Decca Records release Hawaii Stars. And herein lies the curiosity… Webley Edwards’ contract with Capitol Records was still in effect in 1967, and members of the show’s cast were still producing records for the label. But a number of the stars of Hawaii Calls – including Nalani Olds, Haunani Kahalewai, Sonny Kamahele, Hilo Hattie, and Pua Almeida – appeared on this Decca LP while under contract to Capitol. And this may be why Hawaii Stars is not recognized as an official Hawaii Calls LP release. The album does not even reference Hawaii Calls on its front cover, but, rather, refers to this aggregation of stars of the show as “The Nui Nui Six.” If you are trolling through flea markets or other haunts where dusty crates of records can found, dig deep and try to secure a copy of this precious LP for yourself.
Pua would continue as a Hawaii Calls cast member for nearly another decade until his untimely passing in 1974. So we will hear from Pua again when we explore Hawaii Calls in the 1970s…
Next time: Pua struck down in his prime…
Sat, 29 November 2014
At various points in my life Pua Almeida has been my raison d’etre. He is one of the most influential Hawaiian musicians of all time – with a unique voice possessing just enough affectation that it is immediately recognizable, having developed his own unique style on every instrument so that his playing is unmistakable, and having gone against the tide to revolutionize Hawaiian music by incorporating elements from jazz, rock, and Latin music into the traditional Hawaiian idiom throughout the 1950s and 60s. A few years ago, while perusing the reboot of the seminal book on Hawaiian music, John Berger’s update of Dr. George Kanahele’s Hawaiian Music and Musicians which has been the bible for fans and students of Hawaiian music for over 30 years, I recoiled at the reality that this veritable encyclopedia of the history of Hawaiian music inexplicably did not contain an entry on Pua Almeida except as a footnote to the entry on his hānai father, legendary composer and entertainer John Kameaaloha Almeida. Such an omission is criminal given Pua’s importance to Hawaiian music and how universally beloved he is by Hawai`i’s musicians of all generations.
This oversight in Kanahele’s original 1979 edition was the impetus for the first Ho`olohe Hou podcast in 2007. And discovering that this grievous error was repeated in the latest edition was the inspiration to relaunch Ho`olohe Hou as a blog in January 2013. That is how important Pua Almeida is to me, and Ho`olohe Hou continues to strive to right such wrongs for the many legendary musicians that time has somehow forgotten.
But, anyway, I tell you this because there is little more that I can tell you about Pua Almeida now that I didn’t already recount in a length series of posts dating back to February 2013. (You might visit the Ho`olohe Hou home page and scroll back to this period to read about the man and his music and hear many of his recordings – all sadly out-of-print in this era.) What you need to know as we examine the period during which Pua became a member of the Hawaii Calls family around 1957 is that by that time he was already a 15-year veteran of the Hawaiian music scene and had recorded hundreds of sides across more than a dozen labels - not only as the featured artist, but also as a much in demand sideman for both his amazing rhythm guitar work and his unique steel guitar stylings. You have read here previously about the recording contract show creator Webley Edwards forged with Capitol Records which featured such artists as Alfred Apaka, Haunani Kahalewai, and Mahi Beamer. If you are listening to one of those albums, you are no doubt hearing Pua Almeida’s work – either as a rhythm guitarist or, in the case of Mahi Beamer’s second album (simply entitled Mahi), as steel guitarist. (Few know that was Pua playing steel guitar – along with future Hawaii Calls steeler Danny Stewart – since their names do not appear on the album covers.) And like his Hawaii Calls bandmates Jimmy Kaopuiki, Sonny Kamahele, Benny Kalama and Sonny Nicholas, Pua was also present for the recording sessions which featured the show’s guest stars like Tennessee Ernie Ford and Ethel Nakada.
In other words, Pua Almeida was ubiquitous in Hawaiian music for decades and a guiding force in the last great period of Hawaii Calls. So we owe it to ourselves to hear Pua in a context in which he was not previously featured at Ho`olohe Hou: As a member of the Hawaii Calls group.
If the lei is the most precious symbol of affection the Hawaiians can give, what could be more precious than a lei of flowers? A lei of stars, perhaps? In 1949, composer R. Alex Anderson published the now classic “I’ll Weave A Lei of Stars,” one of the most beloved of all of the hapa-haole songs sung by Hawai`i’s singers. Anderson composed so many hapa-haole songs that it is impossible to recount them all, but along with “Lei of Stars,” “Lovely Hula Hands” and “Haole Hula” are probably my favorites.
Johnny Bond was a country-western singer/songwriter from Oklahoma who turned out many a hit not only for himself, but also for such country music stalwarts as Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers, and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. This may be why his “Jim, Johnny, and Jonas” does not have much of a Hawaiian feel to it. And yet it became a staple of the Hawaii Calls show when it was performed time and again by its singing star of the 1950s, Alfred Apaka. (It was even included on one of the Apaka LPs that he recorded with the musicians of the Hawaii Calls group.) But after Apaka’s untimely passing, would Hawaii Calls audiences still want to hear the song? Host Webley Edwards tested those waters by handing the song that Apaka previously owned instead to Pua Almeida. From this 1962 episode, this may likely be Almeida’s first ever performance of the song since we can hear him fumble the lyrics that he had probably never sung before. As Benny Kalama and Nina Keali`iwahamana recounted in a 1980s interview with KCCN Radio about their time with the program, in live radio such mistakes abound, and Hawaii Calls was no exception. But the show must go on!
Hawaii Calls outlived Pua, but not by much. He passed away much too young at the age of 52 in February 1974. Given how little of Pua’s music is available in the CD or MP3 era, I hope you have enjoyed hearing two selections by Pua that he never recorded or released for his own albums. Like the other Hawaii Calls stars of that era, it would be great, too, if we could actually see Pua perform since there is as little video of him in circulation as there is audio.
Next time: Pua Almeida strolls and sings for us for the first time since his passing more than 40 years ago…