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 EST

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 EST

Hawaii Calls – Ed Kenney and Bev Noa

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

For those familiar with the Waikiki entertainment scene of the 1960s and 70s, you already well know that Ed Kenney was not always a solo artist. His most unusual duet partner, however, was not another singer but, rather, a hula dancer. Like Lani Custino, Beverly Noa is considered one of the finest purveyors of showroom hula in the history of local Hawai`i entertainment. Kenney must have thought so too because he made Ms. Noa his wife. 

Together Kenney and Noa headlined shows on the Waikiki strip throughout the late 1960s and 1970s – most notably at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Halekulani Hotel. Who knows if there are any videos from those performances in the pre-Handycam era? But there are a number of performances by the duo from the 1965-66 television version of the Hawaii Calls program. Here is one of my favorites. 

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,” but a few years later, another composer extended Anderson’s analogy to outfit the object of his affection with a lei of stars, a gown woven from the skies, and a rainbow for a shawl. Ed sings while Bev dances that oft-forgotten follow-up, “To Make You Love Me, Ku`uipo.” The song was composed by steel guitarist Danny Stewart who joined the Hawaii Calls radio program in 1960 after the untimely passing of the show’s longtime steel guitarist Jules Ah See. But Stewart was already gone by the time of this mid-1960s television performance – having passed away a few years earlier in 1962. 

We will see and hear more from Ed Kenney and Bev Noa when we celebrate the 80th anniversary of Hawaii Calls next year. But Kenney would have other duet partners along the way. 

Next time: Ed Kenney pairs up with another singing/hula dancing legend… 


Direct download: Ed_Kenney_And_Bev_Noa_-_To_Make_You_Love_Me_Kuuipo.m4v
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 9:37am EST

Hawaii Calls – Ed Kenney – Sweet Leilani

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

“Sweet Leilani” may be the quintessential hapa-haole song. It bridges a gap in the history of Hawaiian song craft between the somewhat corny English-language songs of the godfathers of the genre (like Sonny Cunha and Johnny Noble) and the modern English-language songs from Hawai`i that vacillate between the elegant and elegiac (like Keola Beamer’s “Honolulu City Lights” or Jay Larrin’s “Snows of Mauna Kea”). It is also written with the Hawaiian poetic technique of kaona in mind. Despite that the song is not written in the Hawaiian, it proves that the technique transcends language for the listener may not know – even after repeat listens – that the song is not about a woman with its language of “paradise completed” and notions of jealousy. Not even a full understanding of what a “bower” is will urge the casual audience toward the reality that the song was, in fact, composed for a newborn. 

According to his autobiography, Sweet Leilani: The Story Behind The Song, Harry Owens composed “Sweet Leilani” on October 20, 1934 – one day after his daughter, Leilani, was born. The classic simply flowed from his pen and was completed – just as we hear it today – in just under an hour. Soon the song would become the theme for the orchestra Owens led at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. And, the next year, Owens would become the first musical director for the inaugural episode of the Hawaii Calls radio show. 

From the “Don’t Believe Everything You Read On The Internet” files, some websites claim that Bing Crosby was the first to record the song – that he actually recorded and released a version of it two years before he would sing it in the motion picture Waikiki Wedding. Nope. It was, in fact, steel guitar wizard Sol Ho`opi`i who waxed the first version of the song in a recording studio on October 6, 1935.  And just as you should not believe everything you read on the Internet, sometimes books can be equally dangerous. According to Richard Gudens in Bing Crosby: Crooner of the Century, Owens was reluctant to allow “Sweet Leilani” to be used in Waikiki Wedding and Bing had to convince him. But it was just the opposite. According to his autobiography, Owens had such tremendous confidence in the song – ordering a thousand advance copies of the sheet music – that he hatched a grand plan for putting the song in his old friend Bing’s hands (and vocal cords) strictly for the purpose of the film. 

The friendship between Bing Crosby and Harry Owens – and it really was, not merely one of those things one says in the entertainment business when they hope to call in a favor – dated back more than decade to 1926 when both performed at the same time at the Lafayette Cafe in Los Angeles. To help him prepare for the filming of Waikiki Wedding, the bosses at Paramount Pictures sent Bing and wife Dixie Lee on a cruise to Honolulu. Owens listened to the radio waiting eagerly for reports on when the S.S. Lurline would arrive so that he could nab Crosby and drag him over to the Royal Hawaiian to hear “Sweet Leilani” early and often. It was Crosby who initially refused to hear the song – joking that he couldn’t even pronounce the title! But eventually Bing approached the bandstand and asked his friend Harry to give the song a whirl for him. And at one listen Crosby fell in love with it and wanted to use it in the film. Producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. was adamant that the song would not be used – citing not only that they already had too many Hawaiian songs at the ready, but calling the song “childish” and “lousy.” As a result of this conflict, Variety magazine reported that there was some strife – the cause of which was unknown (at least to its reporters) – on the set and that as a result there was a work shut-down on Waikiki Wedding. The truth is that Crosby retreated to the golf course – adamantly refusing to return to work until Hornblow agreed to use the song in the film. 

And the rest, as they say (and even I say it here at Ho`olohe Hou, trite as it may sound), is history. "Sweet Leilani" won the Oscar for Best Song at the 1938 Academy Awards, the song became Crosby's first gold record, and it is credited for reviving a then slumping post-Depression recording industry by remaining on the Hit Parade for 28 consecutive weeks. And all the while the real-life Leilani was learning to swim from the legendary Duke Kahanamoku and hula from equally legendary hula dancer Napua Woodd (who would soon leave for New York City and her own fame in the Lexington Hotel’s Hawaiian Room). 

Crosby would record a great many more Hawaiian songs throughout his career – both with the Hawaiian Room’s bandleader, Lani McIntyre, and later with guitar wunderkind Les Paul. “Sweet Leilani” would be the start of it all for Der Bingle. But his brand of Hawaiian music would likely not be considered “Hawaiian” in the islands by the culture that gave such music its birth and rise. Hawaiian music is not strictly about melodies and lyric content. Many will tell you that Hawaiian music is a “feeling.” You simply know it when you hear it. It is debatable whether or not anyone but a Hawaiian can generate that feeling in an audience when they sing or play. But as we listen to Ed Kenney perform “Sweet Leilani” on this episode of the Hawaii Calls TV show, it certainly feels Hawaiian, and his performance was likely more what Owens had in mind when he wrote the song – even if Crosby’s take was one of the most commercially successful in the history of music. 

Next time: Ed Kenney sings as his wife dances a hula… 


Editor’s Note: Many of my readers have asked how your writer knows so much about such trivial matters as these in the history of Hawaiian music. The truth is that for over 40 years I have been studying Hawaiian music in a most non-traditional manner – by reading about it, listening to it, and learning to sing Hawaiian songs and play Hawaiian instruments at first by imitating what I heard on records. This is unusual because Hawaiian music is largely considered an oral tradition passed down from one generation to the next – not something you read about in books. But because I am not Hawaiian and was raised so far from Hawai`i, I required an alternate pathway to knowledge – amassing the vast library of more than 25,000 songs and related books and sheet music in the Ho`olohe Hou archives. With all of this material at my fingertips, I probably hadn’t pulled Harry Owens’ autobiography off the shelf since I found it on eBay and read it cover-to-cover nearly 20 years ago. So was I ever pleasantly surprised to open this book today for the first time in two decades and discover that it is a first edition signed by none other than Harry Owens. And that is as close to his greatness as I will ever come… 


Direct download: Ed_Kenney_-_Sweet_Leilani.m4v
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 8:39am EST

Hawaii Calls – Ed Kenney – Pearly Shells

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

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions around the popular song “Pearly Shells.” I thought we could take Ed Kenney’s performance of the song to discuss – and perhaps dispel – a few of these. 

“Pearly Shells” is an adaptation ­– not a translation – of the much older Hawaiian song “Pūpū A`o `Ewa.” When a Hawaiian language lyric is written for a Hawaiian song, unsuspecting audiences more often than not believe the English version to be a loose translation of the Hawaiian, and this is rarely the case. (For example, take the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” – the original Hawaiian having nothing to do with marriage.) As you listen to the song here, it will likely strike you as a sort of child-like or teeny-bopperish love song – something Bobby Rydell or James Darren might have sung in one of their beach-romp flicks. But the original Hawaiian has nothing to do with love at all. “Pūpū A`o `Ewa” is a mele pana, a category of Hawaiian song written to honor a place – in this case, the town of `Ewa on the island of O`ahu. More specifically, this is a song about that place and its then current events – the discovery of pearl oysters at Pu`uloa (or what you might call Pearl Harbor) in the late 19th century. So the only thing that the English and Hawaiian language versions of the song have in common is that in both cases their shells are pearly. 

Next, the composers of the English-language “Pearly Shells” broke the original song form of “Pūpū A`o `Ewa.” They only retained the melody and chords of the chorus – not the verses. According to ethnomusicologist Elizabeth Tatar, the original Hawaiian song follows the musical structure of hīmeni ha`ipule (religious hymns). It has multiple verses and a chorus which utilizes a call-and-response device. “Pearly Shells” has no verses at all – only a chorus – and adds a bridge that is not at all related to the original hīmeni song structure. In other words, what was originally in the structure of church song was redesigned as a pop song – and only the refrain remains. It is almost difficult to assert that one song is based on the other. 

While we are speaking of breaking the song’s original form, while the original “Pūpū A`o `Ewa” has a call-and-response chorus, “Pearly Shells” boasts an echo chorus. How are these different? In call-and-response, the congregants (or audience) since both a different melody line and lyric from their leader. In an echo song, the audience sings exactly the same words (and often even the same melody) as their leader. Need an example? Pull out your copy of Don Ho’s first LP, The Don Ho Show (or pull it up on Spotify). (Don was infamous for his sing-alongs.) Listen to “E Lei Ka Lei Lei” and “Pearly Shells” back-to-back. “E Lei Ka Lei Lei” is a call-and-response song; “Pearly Shells” is an echo song. 

For these reasons, despite that I am not an ethnomusicologist, I staunchly disagree with Tatar’s assertion (from the 1979 edition of Hawaiian Music and Musicians) that “Pūpū A`o `Ewa is one of the few Hawaiian songs to be successfully adapted into English (as Pearly Shells).” This can only be true if the sole criteria for “success” is royalties since Don Ho likely sold more copies of “Pearly Shells” than all other artists combined sold copies of their versions of “Pūpū A`o `Ewa.” A truly successful adaptation would have translated the original lyric content of the Hawaiian as closely as possible into English (even if the Hawaiian poetry were lost in translation). A truly successful adaptation would also have retained the call-and-response structure – not replace this with a somewhat dumbed-down echo response. And the snippet of melodic and harmonic concept of the original – the chorus – that was retained by the English-language songwriters was not even a traditional Hawaiian song to begin with but, rather, a haole Christian song form. In short, since the music form was never Hawaiian in the first place and since the English-language lyric is not a retelling of the original Hawaiian language lyric, after the adaptation the song is essentially no longer a Hawaiian song. That it is beloved by Hawaiians should not define the song as “Hawaiian.” “Sweet Someone,” “Blue Darling,” and “For The Good Times” are well loved by Hawaiians too, but that does not make them Hawaiian songs. By contrast, the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” – which I eschew in this space every opportunity I have – should actually be considered a far better adaptation of a Hawaiian song – “Ke Kali Nei Au” – into English. At least its composers retained 100% of the original melodic and harmonic structure (which was composed by a Hawaiian, Charles E. King), and the song that began as a love song in the original Hawaiian at least ended up a love song in English.  

And the final misconception… Hawaii Calls’ creator/host Webley Edwards is often credited for writing “Pearly Shells.” It turns out this was not a solo endeavor. The published sheet music (dating to 1962) credits both Edwards and Leon Pober (who composed the equally un-Hawaiian “Tiny Bubbles”). But according to Tatar, others had a hand in its creation including Hawaii Calls musical leader Al Kealoha Perry and composer Jack Pitman (of “Beyond the Reef” fame, among countless others). 

By his performance here, Ed Kenney – in his tongue-in-cheek way – indicates that he is not fond of the material either – putting on a little of his Broadway in the middle of the song with a mock Midwestern accent. And, not merely as an aside, not only are these shells not shiny in the way that oysters are, but these are, in fact, the cowries of which Ed Kenney’s mentor, Nona Beamer, wrote and Nina Keali`iwahamana sung in “Pūpū Hinuhinu,” another clip from the Hawaii Calls TV show in which the producers chose a completely different type of shell than the ones of which Beamer wrote. 

Next time: Ed Kenney sings a true Hawaiian classic…


Direct download: Ed_Kenney_-_Pearly_Shells.m4v
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 7:41am EST

Hawaii Calls – Ed Kenney - Kalalea

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

You previously heard a few selections from Kenney’s second Columbia Records LP, The Exotic Sounds of the Spice Islands. Here on this episode of the Hawaii Calls TV show, Ed sings a song that for him dates back a few years earlier to his first Columbia release, My Hawaii, from 1959. But the song is, in fact, much, much older than that. 

The song was a staple of Kenney’s repertoire – likely because it honors the area of Anahola on his home island of Kaua`i. Kalalea is a peak overlooking the town of Anahola. According to a translation by singer, composer, and Hawaiian scholar Kainani Kahaunaele: 


Ki`eki`e Kalalea`a i ka makani / Kalalea stands majestically in the wind 

`O ka pali kaulana o Anahola / Famed cliff of Anahola 

Noho iho e ka `ohu noe i nā pali / The mist rests upon the cliffs 

A he nani maoli nô mai `ō a `ō / Simply exquisite from end to end 


A ke aku la e`ike / I yearn to see 

I ke kai nehe a`i Hālaulani / The rustling sea at Hālaulani 

`O ka pā kolonahe a ka makani / The gentle breeze 

I laila māua me ku`u aloha / That's where I am with my sweetheart 


The literal translation would make this appear to be a song about the topography of the region. But look again. In Hawaiian poetry, the technique known as kaona allows the composer to conceal the true meaning of places, weather events, even people. In other Hawaiian mele, a cliff or peak can be a reference to the male anatomy (“exquisite from end to end”), and mist, rain, or sea spray are almost assuredly references to love-making. Why else would this song make the unexpected leap in the last line to refer to a sweetheart? But as I am not a Hawaiian language scholar, perhaps I am completely off track about all of that? If you really yearn to know the truth, you might ask Kainani Kahaunaele whose great-great-great grandmother Keali`ikua`āina Kahanu composed the song. (It appears on Kainani’s debut album, Na`u `Oe.) 

I opened up our look at Ed Kenney with this clip because it shows every aspect of what made him famous abroad (the good looks, the voice, the smile, the fashion sense) as well as at home (his careful use of the Hawaiian language and his graceful yet masculine hula). Every time I have watched this, I have been mesmerized over and over again. 

Kenney was the real deal – the complete package. And if this clip were the only evidence we have, it should be sufficient proof to convict him of his greatness. 

Next time: Ed Kenney sings a song composed by the creator/host of Hawaii Calls… 


Direct download: Ed_Kenney_-_Kalalea.m4v
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 6:19am EST

Hawaii Calls – Ed Kenney

When I was in high school, I had earned the lead in the drama club’s musicals in both my freshman and sophomore years. So I assumed I was a “shoe in” for the role of Curley in Oklahoma in my junior year. I have never been afraid of the stage, and my audition went amazingly well. So you can imagine that I was simply crushed to learn that I did not get the part. I asked the director if my audition was as bad as all that, and he assured me the audition was absolutely rock solid. 

“Then why didn’t I get the part?” I countered. 

“Because you’re not blonde.” 

Having always been a self-proclaimed wise ass, I retorted, “Neither was Ed Kenney when he played Curley.” 

The director said, “Who the hell is Ed Kenney?” 

And that was that. 

Even at that tender age of 16 – nearly 30 years ago – I bemoaned the reality that Hawai`i’s entertainers received so little recognition beyond their island boundaries. And, in this case, not even one who starred in not one, not two, but three Broadway musicals in my director’s lifetime. And Broadway was less than 75 miles from my suburban Philadelphia high school. Still, the name did not ring any bells. 

Back in Hawai`i, perhaps few knew – or cared – that Kenney was once a shining star on the Great White Way. They knew Kenney for his voice which had been part of their local music scene for more than 35 years by the time that both he and I had been insulted by my high school director. After a modest start in community theater, in 1954 a then 20-year-old Kenney was starring in the “Sunset Serenade Show” at the Niumalu Hotel (which only a few years later would be the home of Alfred Apaka when the Niumalu became the Hawaiian Village Hotel). For the next 25 years Ed Kenney would hold court for audiences at every major hotel and nightclub in Waikiki – the most notable, perhaps, being his lengthy stints at the Sheraton Waikiki, Halekulani, and Royal Hawaiian Hotels where he headlined with his then wife, the amazing hula dancer Beverly Noa. Oh, yes, and in between Kenney managed to escape his own local celebrity to forge a second career on Broadway, first in Shangri-La (1956), then the role for which he is best known, Wan Ta, in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song (1958-1960), and finally in a musical about life in Hawai`i taken to Broadway by its writer, Punahou graduate Eaton Magoon, 13 Daughters (1961). 

Perhaps because of his mainland notoriety – the snub from my high school director notwithstanding – Kenney signed a number of recording contracts with such prestigious record labels as Decca and Columbia. Performing a mixture of traditional Hawaiian fare and current Broadway hits, Kenney’s records sold well and received glowing reviews from Billboard magazine. 

But despite the coming and going from his island home, Kenney never lost touch with – or pride in – his Hawaiian roots. He was the protégé of hula master and Hawaiian cultural expert Nona Beamer who worked with Kenney on hula, Hawaiian language, and every conceivable aspect of Hawaiian performance. As his friend and collaborator, Tony Todaro, wrote in his Golden Years of Hawaiian Entertainment, after his work with Beamer, “Ed’s subsequent performances were always gilded with his own genius and Nona Beamer’s magic.”   

With this combination of good looks, fabulous voice, dance training, stage experience, utter fearlessness and willingness to try anything once, and deep roots in his Hawaiian culture, Ed Kenney would be the perfect addition to the Hawaii Calls family, wouldn’t he? Definitely! And yet, having read every publicly available piece on Ed Kenney’s life and career, and having mined nearly a hundred hours of Hawaii Calls radio programs, there is no evidence than Kenney ever appeared on the radio version of Hawaii Calls. He also never appeared on any of Hawaii Calls more than two dozen LP releases on Capitol Records. However, he was the shining star of the short-lived TV version of Hawaii Calls, appearing in nearly all of its 26 episodes, making no fewer than two (and often three) appearances per show in a program which offered only ten performances per half-hour episode. 

In short, Ed Kenney was the star of the Hawaii Calls TV show. 

As with co-stars Hilo Hattie and Poncie Ponce who also never appeared on the radio program, Kenney was likely recruited for the TV version of the show not merely because he was talented as hell, but equally importantly because he had a built-in following from coast to coast from his work on Broadway, television, and nationally-distributed recordings – work across a number of genres, all of which earned him rave reviews. But even Kenney’s star power could not save the program which was here and gone in only one season. But in his many performances on the show, Kenney demonstrates over and over again – as Todaro described it – the combination of his own genius and Nona Beamer’s magic. 

We are going to spend the day here at Ho`olohe Hou examining a half-dozen of these performances and the spell that Kenney could weave. None of these performances have been available to the public in the nearly 50 years since they first aired. So I hope you will join me in this step backward in time as we look at one of the great entertainers of his generation – from Hawai`i or anywhere. 

I don’t care what my high school director says. 

Next time: Ed Kenney in a Hawaiian number tailor-made for his talents… 


The songs heard in this set are from Ed’s 1962 Columbia Records LP The Exotic Sounds of the Spice Islands. Despite its ironic title, there is no Hawaiian music in this collection. Rather, it is the only LP which features Kenney singing the songs that made him famous – tunes from hit Broadway musicals and others from the Great American Songbook. The album is no longer available in any format.


Direct download: Ed_Kenney.mp3
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 5:24am EST