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Lei of Stars
Lei of Stars
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A Collection of 20 Rare Vintage Performance Gems from the Elite Entertainers of 1940s Hawaii

Hawaii's elite entertainers from the Golden Age of Hawaiian music, Lei of Stars: Hawaii's Legendary Artists, received the prestigious Anthology of the Year award nomination from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts in 1999. Twenty 1940s performance gems including legends Alfred Apaka, Pua Almeida, Jules Ah See, George Kainapau, Benny Kalama, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, Gabby Pahinui, Richard Kauhi, Andy Cummings, Genoa Keawe, plus more. 

Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts HOKU nominee for Anthology of the Year - Lei of Stars - Hana Ola

Billboard Magazine - May 29, 1999

At the risk of repeating myself in this column, Cord International/Hana Ola Records has done it again. Lei of Stars - Hawaii's Legendary Artists produced by Michael Cord and Harry B. Soria, Jr. is a MUST HAVE CD whether you play steel or not.  This recording is a collection of "gems gathered from an array of legendary talent" says Harry B's liner notes.  That it is. For sure.

Gathered from the outpourings of 49th State Hawaii Records and Bell Records of Hawaii during the boomtown post-WWII Waikiki years, this recording gives you 20 cuts to hear Alfred Apaka, George Kainapau, Benny Kalama, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, Andy Cummings, Gabby Pahinui, Richard Kauhi, Genoa Keawe, and more. Then there is such choice steel playing as David Malo, Tommy Castro, Pua Almeida, Splash Lyons, Walter Wailehua, and best of all Jules Ah See on Sand and Hula Blues.  Want more? How about Bill Lincoln's wonderful male falsetto on My Lovely Hawaiian Maid, and the Royal Hawaiian Serenaders singing R. Alex Anderson's I'll Weave a Lei of Stars For You.  Also by Andy Anderson White Ginger Blossoms, the song he wrote because film star Mary Pickford told him she'd never heard a song about the white ginger flower.  Aunty Genoa Keawe gives you her breathless best on E Mama E, and a fond farewell in My Hawaiian Souvenirs.

Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association,  Fall 1998

If you want to hear some of the more famous members of the Kane clan - including Uncle Andy Cummings and Auntie Genoa Keawe - sit back and enjoy Lei of Stars (Hana Ola/Cord), a collection of vintage recordings.  Steel guitars, lush vocals, and the sounds of the Royal Hawaiian Serenaders... you will swear the music is coming from one of those old wooden radios sitting over in the corner of the living room.

Dewey Schurman -  Islands Magazine,  Jan-Feb 1999


In the two centuries since Hawaiians first received contact from the outside world, Hawaii's music has evolved as a reflection of each new non-Hawaiian musical trend to reach her shores.  At the same time, traditional Hawaiian music has been lovingly passed on from generation to generation, preserving Hawaii's rich cultural heritage.

Early growth of Hawaiian music's worldwide popularity was built through the dedication of its musicians, singers, and dancers.  The recording, radio, movie, television, and visitor industries all embraced the music.  Both visitors to Hawaii and her residents alike revered the brightest stars of the Hawaiian entertainment scene.

Post World War II Honolulu was indeed a boomtown.  Its destination jewel, Waikiki, quickly removed its camouflage paint and barbed wire, and beckoned its visitors back to its shores.  Hawaii's population had nearly doubled during the war, and so had her appetite for music and dance.  Hawaiian musicians and entertainers were again in demand, as nightclubs and performance venues sprang up overnight.

Several locally based record labels were formed to record this surplus of Hawaiian talent.  George K. Ching began recording Hawaiian music on his new record label "49th State Hawaii Records". 49th State was so named because businessmen were anticipating Hawaii's eventual attainment of statehood.  However, no one realized then that Alaska would actually gain that distinction, and Hawaii would end up as the 50th State.

Most 49th State Hawaii 78-RPM recordings were made using an acetate record cutting machine in a make shift studio at Ching's own home.  (A final handful of 33 1/3 releases employed the new tape recorder technology in the mid-1950s.)  To guarantee the authenticity in the recording performances, Ching enlisted John Kameaaloha Almeida, the Dean of Hawaiian Music, as the label's musical director.  49th State Hawaii Records recorded and released an impressive inventory of Hawaiian musical expression.  Traditional Hawaiian chant and hula, hapa haole songs, and even music from the rest of Polynesia were recorded by a stable of aspiring local talent all under the guiding hand of John K. Almeida.  (Selections #12 and #20 were recorded on the 49th State Hawaii Records Label.)  

Bill and Alice Fredlund were the husband and wife team that created Bell Records.  The Fredlunds enlisted a local electronics genius named Young O. Kang as their recording engineer.  Kang, who had engineered the Hawaii Calls radio show since its inception in 1935 knew that both the Hawaiian musicians and their audience preferred a  solid bottom end bass on their music.  The Bell Records studio was a former military warehouse in an area known as Base Yard 6 located at Date and Laau Streets across the Ala Wai Canal from Waikiki.  Between 1944 and 1950 Bell Records recorded and released an enormous catalog of Hawaiian music.  The label assembled a star studded stable of Hawaii's professional musicians and entertainers - the absolute cream of the industry.  Practically every star, of every showroom, lounge, and nightclub in the Waikiki showbiz scene recorded on Bell.  (All selections except #12 and #20 were recorded at the Bell records studios.)

Hana Ola Records is pleased to share with you this Lei of Stars an adornment of admired Hawaiian music.  Here is your beautiful lei completed of recorded performance gems gathered from an array of legendary talent.  Alfred Apaka, George Kainapau, Pua Almeida, Benny Kalama, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, Andy Cummings, Gabby Pahinui, Richard Kauhi, and Genoa Keawe are all here, as well as many other of Hawaii's elite entertainers of the Golden Age of Hawaiian music.  Wear this Lei of Stars with pride, and its beloved music will win your heart.

In November 1938, Andrew Kealoha Cummings wrote his best-known tune titled Waikiki.  It was a cold and foggy night in far off Lansing, Michigan, and Andy Cummings yearned to return to the islands.  On this early post war recording made back home in Hawaii on Bell Records Andy's clear and high voice is backed by Gabby Pahinui on guitar, Ralph Alapai on ukulele, Joe Diamond on bass, and David Malo on steel guitar.

Guitarist Melvin Paoa, a beachboy at Waikiki was known as both a fine musician and an avid prankster.  His Waikiki Chickadee is performed for you by George Tautu Archer & his Pagans.  The Pagans were built around the vibra harp of Thomas Carter, the steel guitar of Splash Lyons, and the vocal arrangements of Dorothy Kahananui (Gillette).

Melville Ulualoha Peterson, remembered as Mel Peterson, was born in Honolulu in 1907.  In 1941 he and Don George copyrighted the sultry Tropic Tradewinds.  The Royal Hawaiian Serenaders; George Kainapau, Benny Kalama, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, and Tommy Castro blended in four-part harmony on their rendition of the memorable lyric "Where the tropic trade winds caress the coco palms, and your sweet aloha calls me to your arms..."

Sand has become one of the all-time favorite instrumental performances for the Hawaiian steel guitar. Written in the 1930s by the famous Hawaiian steel guitarist Andy Iona the song was an immediate popular success.  Harry Owens even recorded a version with lyrics. This instrumental steel guitar version by Jules Ah See recorded on the Bell Records label has become the local standard.

Albert R. Sonny Cunha is considered the father of the hapa haole style of Hawaiian music.  In 1905 he wrote his first big hit My Honolulu Tomboy respectfully dedicated to Tillie Rap.  Randy Oness' Select Hawaiian Serenaders inject additional energy into an already enthusiastic ditty in admiration of a special young Honolulu girl.  Pua Almeida's vigorous steel guitar drives the vocal arrangement.

Another lass from the Territory of Hawaii is immortalized in the Mel Peterson gem E Naughty Naughty Mai Nei, a hapa haole tribute to a tantalizing tropical flirt.  Mel sings about a certain lovely hula dancers slow ami ami and that naughty naughty mai nei backed by Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs and his Royal Hawaiians.

William Lionel Kalanialiiloa Lincoln known professionally as Bill Aliiloa Lincoln was born March 21, 1911 in Kehena, Kohala, Hawaii. Here the musician and hula teacher demonstrates his admirable Hawaiian male falsetto voice on yet another ode to an entrancing hula dancer enhanced by the steel guitar of William Wailehua.  My Lovely Hula Maid was written by Esther K. Smith.

Famed Hollywood film actress Mary Pickford mentioned to prolific hapa haole songwriter R. Alex Anderson during a 1939 visit to Hawaii that she had never heard a song about the white ginger flower.  The prolific Anderson responded in short order with the lovely White Ginger Blossoms sung here by a young Elissa Kroll in front of George Archer and his Pagans.

Richard Kapapanuihanaumoko Kauhi considered by many as the Father of Modern Hawaiian Music was certainly ahead of his time when the Richard Kauhi Quartette recorded for Bell Records in 1948.  Joined by Mark Sonny Kamaka on guitar, Johnny Costello on bass, and Jimmy Kaku on cocktail drums, richard arranged Hawaiian tunes with innovative harmonies inspired by the likes of the Nat Cole Trio.  Here the 20-year old keyboard wizard puts his own musical imprint on John Keawehawaii's My Yellow Ginger Lei.

In 1920, Sonny Cunha penned the lyrics and Johnny Noble wrote the music for Hula Blues a song that brought the young dancing crowd of Honolulu and the visitors thronging to the Moana Hotel Lounge and Lanai.  The magnificent Hawaiian steel guitarist Jules Cryles Ah See again works his instrumental magic on a hapa haole classic.  Jules Ah See lived from June 19, 1924 to June 12, 1960 as is most often remembered for his work with Alfred Apaka from 1955 to  1960.

Agnes Leilehua Auld is remembered as Aggie Auld, famous exponent of modern Hawaiian hula.  She is credited with both  the debut of dancing a silhouette hula behind a screen, and the introduction of the shimmering white cellophane hula skirt, both while a featured dancer at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki.  The dancer, innovator, and songwriter collaborated with her husband Norman Hendershot while in Los Angeles during WWII on the comedy hula Hula Lolo.  Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, who had gained fame as a comedy singer with Harry Owens and his Royal Hawaiian Orchestra later recorded this version of Aggie's hula with his own group, the Royal Hawaiians.  Tommy Castro, another returned veteran of Mainland touring Hawaiian big bands turns in a sizzling steel guitar solo.

Hiram Kaehu wrote this lovely gem in the 1920s precisely for the Hawaiian falsetto vocal style.  An uncluttered yet powerful musical arrangement provides a dramatic backdrop for the vocalist.  As the incomparable Genoa Keawe demonstrates her amazing ability to sustain high notes on the breathless E Mama E you will swear that time can indeed stand still. 

George Tautu Archer achieved great success as a transplanted Tahitian performing both Tahitian and Hawaiian hapa-haole songs for audiences in Hawaii.  George Tautu Archer and his Pagans also recorded many sides for the Bell Record Company in Honolulu.  His wife Audrey Robinson Archer composed the beautiful Twilight In Hawaii in 1941.  Introduced by Al Kealoha Perry and his Singing Surfriders it was soon so recognizable as a hapa-haole favorite that it became the theme song for Hawaii Calls the Coast to Coast Radio Broadcast via Mutual Networks.  Here, the Pagan's present Archer's own arrangement made all the more memorable by the haunting steel guitar of Splash Lyons entwined with the vibra-harp of Thomas Carter.

R. Alex Anderson's hapa-haole compositions may be among the most distinctly Hawaiian ever recorded.  Andy's songs share the Hawaii of his birth with its unique people, places, and elements.  The legendary Royal Hawaiian Serenaders lush four-part harmony was a perfect match for I'll Weave A Lei of Stars For You a fitting title to this collection woven together for you with our fondest Aloha.

Alfred Apaka was the featured vocalist with Randy Oness' Select Hawaiian Serenaders in the late 1940s.  The recording group consisted of Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs on guitar, Pua Almeida on steel guitar and guitar, Buddy Peterson on bass, Steppy De Rego on steel guitar and guitar, and leader Randy Oness on clarinet and ukulele.  Steppy sand the low part, and featured vocalist Alfred Apaka sang the high part, while Alvin and Randy filled the four part harmony.  This recording is the first of many made of Alvin Isaacs' peppy composition Analani E.

Bob Lukens wrote the lyrics and the ever present Johnny Noble composed the music for a peppy collaboration aimed at the Waikiki hotels dance floors in 1925. The Hawaiian Vamp also known as That Haunting Hula Glide seems to tout its own popularity in the lyric, that haunting hula glide, that creepy sneaky slide...they dance it night and day to drive the blues away.  Listen closely to this version performed by George Tautu Archer and his Pagans for the percussion drum on the breaks is actually George Archer rapping his thumbs on his electric guitar.

Charles Kapono Kahahaai, Jr was born in Kaka'ako , Oahu on April 22, 1921.  When he was six years old he was renamed Charles Philip Pahinui by his hanai parents Philip and Emily Pahinui.  This is his very first recording made in 1946 of what would become Gabby Pahinui's signature song.  Hi'ilawe is a traditional Hawaiian mele attributed first to Sam'l Kalainaina in 1892 telling the story of a love affair at the Hi'ilawe waterfall in Waipi'o Valley on the Big Island that created much gossip.

Rising 760 feet above sea level, the world famous profiles of the ancient volcanic crater Diamond Head presides over Waikiki.  Kaimana  Hila also known through the years as Point Rose, Diamond Hill, the Sleeping Lion, and Leahi (Place of Fire), the landmark stands strong on the south-east side of Waikiki.  Charles E. King copyrighted this tribute Kaimana Hila in 1916.  For this memorable rendition, Andy Cummings is joined by his Hawaiian Serenaders: Gabby Pahinui, Ralph Alapi, Joe Diamond, and David Malo.

Convalescing in Queen's Hospital in 1926 Charles E. King wrote Ke Kali Nei Au also known as Waiting For Thee as a duet for baritone and soprano.  Known by many as the Hawaiian Wedding Song there have been many recorded duets in the many years since.  George Kainapau, Hawaii's Falsetto King lived from May 22, 1905 to September 14, 1992. Kainapau soars in the soprano part as Bill Akamuhou Dias joins him in the baritone part supported by George Archer's Harmony Hawaiians.

Our musical journey must finally come to an end but not before Genoa Keawe offers this fond remembrance of Hawaii and its music.  Johnny Noble copyrighted the words and music to My Hawaiian Souvenirs February 1937.  The lyric recalls the time spent pleasantly in Hawaii and the cherished moments that will linger forever in the heart... a photograph, a calabash, a paper lei are my Hawaiian souvenirs.

HOCD31000 - Lei of Stars

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