Tuesday, 14 April 2009

State Songs #12: Hawaii

Aloha! When I first started thinking about state songs I knew Texas and Tennessee would yield a bumper crop but reckoned I'd only need an Elvis track and a few steel guitar instrumentals to deal with Hawaii. Not so.

Perhaps because it's been overcast and I wanted some sunshine or the luxury of the bank holiday weekend meant more time rummaging for tunes but I've ended up with my longest post of the journey so far.

So, download these dozen songs, mix yourself a mai tai and sit back and think of Kailua.

MP3: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Sailin' on to Hawaii

As part of Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys Bashful Brother Oswald helped popularise the Dobro and played the resonator guitar on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's classic 1972 triple album Will The Circle Be Unbroken. He also wrote this track which he performs on that record with Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs.
More Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: official site | BBC | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Elvis Presley - Rock-A-Hula Baby

Blue Hawaii (1961) was one of Elvis' most successful films and the King returned to the island to make two more movies as well as the legendary Aloha From Hawaii satellite broadcast in 1973. This was the B-side to Can't Help Falling in Love, a number one hit from the Blue Hawaii soundtrack. Billboard reckoned the song was "ideal for a new dance craze".
More Elvis Presley:
official site | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: The Beach Boys - Hawaii

Had the Beach Boys actually been to Hawaii by 1963? God only knows. My guess is that by the time of their third album Brian Wilson and Mike Love had found writing songs about the Southern California beach scene too limiting and wanted to branch out a little. Some trivia: Dennis Wilson was the only Beach Boy who surfed.
More Beach Boys: BBC | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: John Prine - Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian

One of the pleasures of writing this blog is uncovering connections between songs I'd previously never noticed. To wit Sam Bush, whose Taking Out The Georgia Mail, featured in my previous post, backs Prine with the New Grass Revival on this track from the 1986 album German Afternoons. Some trivia: John Prine has never surfed.
More John Prine: official site | BBC | Amazon |7digital

MP3: The Ventures - Hawaii Five-0

The surf guitar legends recorded their version of the TV theme tune a year after the show made its debut in 1968 and although it ran for 12 years I reckon more people are familiar with the Hawaii Five-0 theme than the TV show itself thanks to The Ventures' definitive rendition.
More Ventures: official site | BBC | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Jimmie Rodgers - Everybody Does It In Hawaii

The Singing Brakeman isn't specific what "it" is but with hula girls in his sights we can take a pretty good guess. This was recorded in 1929 as America went crazy for ukuleles and Hawaiian music.
More Jimmie Rodgers: official site | BBC | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Kitty, Daisy & Lewis - Honolulu Rock-A-Roll-A

I first saw this band of retro-obsessed siblings about six or seven years ago at Come Down and Meet the Folks in Camden Town. Since then they've won over festival audiences, had the honour of performing on Blue Peter and will support Coldplay on their US tour this summer. The past is safe in their hands.
More Kitty, Daisy & Lewis: MySpace | BBC | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Roy Rogers & The Sons of the Pioneers - Hawaiian Cowboy

I heard Bob Dylan play Sol K Bright's original version of this on Theme Time Radio Hour. I've chosen Roy Rogers' recording instead for my Dad's benefit. He's a man who lives by the Roy Rogers' Rider's Rules and still mourns the passing of Trigger.
More Roy Rogers: official site | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Andy Iona - Ta-Hu-Wa-Hu-Wa-I

Apparently this is an "Hawaiian war song" but who might be menaced by the combination of steel guitar and upright bass isn't obvious. Andy Iona was an Hawaiian music legend and lent his ukulele skills to Louis Armstrong on Satchmo's tropical recordings of the 1930s.
More Andy Iona: Wikipedia

MP3: Honolulu Nights - David Grisman, Mike Auldridge & Bob Brozman

Bob Brozman was unknown to me until I produced the website for Alan Yentob's Story of the Guitar series. This is a great outtake we put on the site:

The track is from is from the album Tone Poems III which traces "the musical history of the great resophonic and slide instruments that were developed in America during the first third of the 20th century".
More Bob Brozman: official site | Amazon

MP3: R Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders - Hano Hano Hawaii

If you've seen Terry Zwigoff's wonderful documentary Crumb you'll know that the saucy cartoonist is a huge fan of vintage jazz. Crumb's string band (at times including Zwigoff and Bob Brozman) released three records in the 70s; this nonsense pastiche is from their third.
More Robert Crumb: official site | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Henry Hall & The BBC Dance Orchestra - Goodbye, Hawaii

In the 1930s Henry Hall's Dance Orchestra played every evening from the BBC's HQ at Broadcasting House. This is the sort of song I like to imagine being played on ocean liners while women in cocktail dresses sip whiskey sours and rum daisies.
More Henry Hall: Wikipedia | Amazon

As usual let me know any songs I should have included. Next time we'll be in the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway and Lana Turner - Idaho.

Related Posts
State Songs - links to every post on this musical road trip


Lyn H said...

Aloha Nigel,

You say, "As usual let me know any songs I should have included. "

I hardly know where to begin. Hawaiian music is a genre unto itself, and aside from the Andy Iona number you list only pop songs written and sung by non-Hawaiians, most of whom had never so much as set foot in Hawai‘i, or listened to any Hawaiian music. Just quasi-Hawaiian themes, silly imaginings, but no Hawaiian music at all. As a comparison, would a Gaelic song that mentions Beijing be considered Chinese music? (The Iona songs is not a "war chant", by the way... the title, when spelled properly, means "you and I in the ocean spray". Some US record company apparently decided that "Hawaiian War Chant" sounded more commercial.)

As far as real Hawaiian music goes, I've got almost 400 CDs worth (6000 songs)... plus a few hundred old LPs. No Rock-A Hula-Baby, no Tiny Pearly Pagan Love Bubbles Beyond the Little Brown Grass Shack in the Moonlight... just Hawaiian music - meaning songs sung in the Hawaiian language, with themes reflecting the real values of Hawaiians - love of the land, of chiefs and gods and sweethearts and family. And since I don't want to take anything for granted, let me spell out that a Hawaiian is a person of the Polynesian race having one or more ancestors who lived in the Hawaiian archipelago before the arrival of your Captain James Cook in 1778.

I you would like to listen to samples of real Hawaiian music, I suggest visiting www.mele.com, the most complete online Hawaiian music store. Unfortunately, they have just changed hands and will apparently be offline for a week or so for inventory.

Happy travels.

Me ke aloha pumehana,
Uncle Pauhana

PS - the illustration at the head of your article would be considered quite offensive by many Hawaiians - not for its eroticism, but for purporting to represent something Hawaiian, which it does not - the woman is Caucasian, the grass skirt is Micronesian, the style is kitcsh, the message is... well, there you've got me.

Nigel Smith said...


Thanks for your comment. It was not my intention to offend with either the musical selections or deliberately kitcsh image.

If you look at the other posts in my State Songs series you'll notice that I am not trying to survey the indigenous music of the USA (I favoured Johnny Cash over any Inuits for Alaska). Instead this is just a diverting way of sharing songs I like or discover around a common theme (places in America).

You are right that a Gaelic song that mentions Beijing would not be considered Chinese music but I am confident that if I heard a Scottish folk ballad about the capital of China I might well post it here.

I will investigate mele.com once it's back online.

MQM said...

Hello from New Jersey, Nigel -
Thanks for the Bob Brozman clip - sweet.

MQM said...

PS - No offense to Uncle Pauhana or any native Hawaiians, but the illustration is okay by me.

multielvi said...

Honolulu Lulu by Jan & Dean

javieth said...

This blog is amazing!!!! i love to travel everywhere and to know new thing all the time. actually i apprached
costa rica investment opportunities
and it was a fantastic experience.

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