Hawaii Calls – Boyce Rodrigues in the 70s

You likely read here previously that after sisters Nina Keali`iwahamana, Lani Custino, and Lahela Rodrigues, Boyce was the last member of the musical Rodrigues family (whose matriarch, Vicki I`i, was with the show’s cast from its inauguration on July 3, 1935 until 1951 when daughter Lani largely replaced her) to arrive on the set of Hawaii Calls – joining the cast in 1962. But he would stay until the show’s untimely demise in 1975. It would not be long before he would be an audience favorite, catapulting him to stardom in showrooms across Waikiki. During the period when these Hawaii Calls shows were taped in the early 1970s, Boyce would also be headlining at Primo Gardens at the Ilikai Hotel and co-starring in sister Lani’s “Return to Paradise” production there. But a few years later, he would buy a property in the 1600 block of Ala Moana Boulevard and open Watertown – a place that would become the Green Lantern of its generation, the place where all of the other entertainers would go to hang out after their Waikiki gig was over for the night, the result a perpetual all-night jam session featuring Hawai`i’s most famous musicians. Like the rest of the Rodrigues’ `ohana, Boyce was a tremendous addition to the Hawaii Calls cast – jovial and ready to sing a comic hula, or using his baritone on a haunting love ballad. Here we listen to him do a little of both. 

Boyce opens this set with “Hula `Oni `Oni E.” (“`Oni” means “to wiggle.”) I have said time and again that some of the best comic hapa-haole songs were composed by songwriters with no ties to Hawai`i. This song – a favorite among hula dancers – was composed by Cliff Bernal and Joaquin Cambria whose only other composition on record seems to be the “Rhumba Havana.” Boyce is joined by his singing sisters here for a family affair, and there is a brief, but rollicking steel guitar solo by Barney Isaacs. 

I have mentioned already the issue of limited repertoire on this program – with songs being recycled from time to time. You may recall hearing Alfred Apaka sing “Dreams of Old Hawaii” when Ho`olohe Hou examined Hawaii Calls in the 1950s. The song was composed by singer, multi-instrumentalist, and bandleader Lani McIntyre for the 1944 film of the same name. McIntyre gave Apaka one of his early breaks when he recruited a still young Alfred to star in McIntyre’s show at the famed Hawaiian Room of the Lexington Hotel in New York City. But with Apaka gone now, Boyce would step up and sing the song that once belonged to Hawaii Calls’ former boy singer. 

Finally, Boyce gives us a song that would be the title of his then forthcoming album, “Happy Me.” When we spoke of Ed Kenney’s performance of “Pearly Shells,” I noted that while ethnomusicologist Elizabeth Tatar believed that song to be one of the most successful adaptations of a Hawaiian song into English, I disagreed because the resulting English song doesn’t tell even remotely the same story as the Hawaiian original. If we are looking for a better example of an adaptation of a Hawaiian song into English, it might be “Happy Me” which like the original, “Laupahoehoe Hula” by Irmgard Aluli, tells the story of a young Hawaiian man and the simple pleasures he finds in everyday life in Hawai`i. Ironically, the English versions of “Pearly Shells” and “Happy Me” were both written by Leon Pober (who also wrote “Tiny Bubbles” which is not an adaptation of any song). 

We will hear more from Boyce as we continue our look at Hawaii Calls in the 1970s. 

Next time: A look at a long-time Hawaii Calls cast member who only took center stage in the 1970s… 


Direct download: 02_Hawaii_Calls_-_April-May_1972.mp3
Category:70s and 80s -- posted at: 7:01am EDT

Hawaii Calls – Jimmy Kaopuiki in the 70s

When we spoke about Hawaii Calls bassist and vocalist Jimmy Kaopuiki and his work on the show in the 1950s and 60s, I pointed out that his was one of the many voices that led off the show week after week but which Webley Edwards rarely announced. So to the radio audience Kaopuiki largely toiled in obscurity – which is the lot in life of a great rhythm section player. And Jimmy was one of the best ever. 

Nonetheless, over the last few weeks I have aimed to give Kaopuiki his due (which is long overdue). Here are a few of the numbers with which Jimmy opened the radio show during the 1972-73 season. 

“Tomo Pono” is an old song from the Big Island. It is rarely sung, and on the rare occasion it is, it is usually on the back porch at a pa`ina. (Which is why I was delighted to learn that the song was done once again by the group Waipuna on their album just released last month.) Hawaii Calls’ largely mainland haole audiences would not know that this is one of the most explicit of all of the Hawaiian love songs. As orthographer Jean Sullivan put it, if this song had been written and recorded in English, it would have warranted an “Explicit Lyrics” warning label. Also called “Hō`ese Pue Ana `Oe” (which means “that thing you’ve been concealing”), Jimmy says it all when he sings, “Hō`ike i ka mea nui” (“Show the big thing then already”). 

“Maile Lau Li`ili`i” is a love song by former Lexington Hotel Hawaiian Room bandleader Ray Kinney with an assist from David Burrows. It is a love song in which the lovers are described as various elements occurring in nature around Hawai`i – the maile vine with the palai fern, the `ie`ie vine with the `iwa`iwa frond, and so on and so forth. The metaphor here (or kaona, as the poetic technique is known in Hawaiian) is that these elements not merely co-exist in nature, but are somewhat symbiotic – often wrapping themselves around each other like lovers. Here Jimmy receives a little help from the ladies vocal trio of Nina Keali`iwahamana, Lahela Rodrigues, and Lani Custino. 

“`Uhe`uhene” opens another program for a rollicking hula number in which the ladies used their `uli`uli, small, hollow gourds filled with seeds and capped with the feathers of Hawaiian birds to be used as a rattling percussion implement for the hula. The song, composed by Charles E. King, is often referred to as the “Hawaiian Shouting Song,” but it, too, is a love song which utilizes a fishing metaphor and challenges the fisherman to catch the fish of his choice before another fisherman takes his shot and their lines get all tangled up. 

“Hola E Pae” is – surprise! – another love song, but not one with a happy ending. Sometimes referred to as the “Five O’Clock Hula,” this mele speaks of the gentleman who paid a visit to his lover at the appointed hour – only to discover that someone else had beaten him there. This is one of the rare occasions that we can distinctly hear the twin steel guitars Hawaii Calls always employed – in this case handled by Barney Isaacs and Joe Custino (husband of Lani Custino). In this most interesting arrangement by then musical director Benny Kalama, Jimmy splits each phrase with the ladies trio or the entire chorus, and the key goes up-and-down a half step even in the middle of a verse – very unusual for a Hawaiian song. 

Now I don’t want to say that these songs were taken at a rapid tempo, but Jimmy and the gang just whipped through four songs in 4 minutes 37 seconds. 

You will hear still more of Jimmy Kaopuiki as we continue to celebrate Hawaii Calls in the 1970s. 

Next time: Another gentleman who joined the cast in the 1960s sticks around Hawaii Calls until the bitter end…


Direct download: 01_Hawaii_Calls_-_April-May_1972.mp3
Category:70s and 80s -- posted at: 6:02am EDT

#24 – Noelani Mahoe – Hawaiian Christmas

The story of this album revolves around one of my heroes – and one of the unspoken heroes in Hawaiian music history. According to the book Hawaiian Music and Musicians, Margaret Williams was a mainland haole woman who moved to Hawai`i for health reasons. One day Williams made a recording of a boy on Waikiki Beach singing a couple of songs and released the tunes as two sides of a 45 rpm single. The record was a huge smash, and from this humble beginning Williams trudged forth and started her own record label - Tradewinds Records. According to Williams’ longtime collaborator – researcher, teacher, author, and musician Noelani Mahoe who led many Tradewinds recording sessions – “She was also strictly Hawaiian. She never learned the language, but authenticity was a must.” 

And you are assured authenticity in the hands of Mahoe who leads the group here again on the 1965 Tradewinds release simply entitled Hawaiian Christmas. And what a stellar group comprised not of the superstars of Hawaiian music, but, rather, of the most reliable session musicians in Hawaiian music history – men and women who toiled to make others sound better but who rarely had the spotlight themselves. The ladies singing group was known as the Leo Nahenahe Singers, which in addition to Noelani included Lynette Kaopuiki Paglinawan and sisters Mona and Ethelyne Teves. The gentlemen are led by my dear friend Harold Haku`ole in what he called his “Sometime Group” since they rarely performed live but only for recording sessions such as this. They included Clarence Hohu (usually on the steel guitar), Al Ka`ailau (the honorary fourth member of the Kahauanu Lake Trio who is heard on most of their records) on guitar, multi-instrumentalist Bobby Ayres, vibraphonist Francis Ho`okano, slack key guitarist Atta Isaacs, and Harold on whatever was needed to round out the group. 

This is as traditional as Hawaiian Christmas music will ever get. And so it ranks – in my humble opinion – among the 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i. 

Next time: #23 on Ho`olohe Hou’s list of the 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i 


Direct download: 24_Christmas_-_Noelani_Mahoe_-_Hawaiian_Christmas.mp3
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 5:12am EDT