When I was a child in the 50s, my parents moved from Georgia to California. Once they arrived they embraced the Polynesian Pop Culture that was all the rage. During that time many restaurants and supper clubs were adopting the popular Polynesian tiki decor and my parents loved it; they even transformed our garage in a Tiki Lounge. The walls were covered with fishings nets full of seashells and starfish that we found at the beach, abalone shells served as ashtrays, the bar was made of bamboo and the furniture was also rattan. Our stereo played the likes of Lani McIntire and Arthur Lyman in the 50s and Don Ho in the 60s.
Yes, our home was the place to be for Saturday night gatherings and every summer my parents hosted a luau. Luaus were for everyone — adults and kids alike. There was lots of food and lots of fun. Mom made muumuus for us girls and the guys wore Hawaiian print shirts. We wore leis around our necks and cocktails had little umbrellas. I have great memories of those days and I've carried this love of tiki culture with me.
Then one day something strange happened. My son got into tiki culture! Now I didn't know there was a tiki gene in the DNA pool, but I'm here to tell you it's true. My son loves the beach as much as I do and then a number of years ago he started carving tikis and hosting luaus in his Polynesian-style backyard.
Now let me get to the point of today's post. About a year or so ago, my son purchased a stereo console from the 60s and recently tore the record player apart and got it to working beautifully. He's even able to play his iPod through this beauty…
He calls me up one day and says, "Do you remember this?"
Through the phone I hear Jim Croce singing Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. Boy, does that bring back memories. Seems my son has his dad's record collection and there are a few of my old 45s in the mix. He thought it was very cool that he could now play those retro records his parents listened to and he loves the sound the needle makes on the record. If you're old enough to know what I'm talking about — you're old enough to appreciate this post, lol.
So, yep, I'm finally getting to the point — for Christmas this year I thought long and hard about what I could send him that would have some real meaning behind it. I've been planning this for several months and made sure that when I put my belongings in storage, I brought this with me…
I actually found this photo through Google; my copy is faded and has a water stain on it. My parents purchased it in 1954 for a whopping 69 cents and I've kept it all these years, along with their Don Ho and Arthur Lyman albums. Seeing them always brings back those memories of family luaus. Notice I said "seeing them" rather than "hearing them" and that's because I haven't owned a record player in about thirty-five years.
I packaged up this "family heirloom" and sent it to Jim for Christmas, so fifty-six years after mom and dad first listened to the sounds of Lani McIntire, my son was able to do the same. How cool is that?
This album was released in 1954, three years after McIntire passed away, so even when my parents listened to the tunes, they already had some years on them. McIntire was a Hawaiian guitar and steel guitar player.
From Wikipedia: "McIntire achieved fame playing with Sol Hoopii in his "Novelty Trio" before heading his own acts, "Lani McIntire and his Aloha Islanders" and later, "Lani McIntire and his Hawaiians." His work with Jimmie Rodgers pioneered the Hawaiian guitar sound that laid the foundation for the steel guitar as a standard country instrument, influencing the likes of Hank Williams and Elvis Presley. McIntire and his band also did a lot of work with Bing Crosby, notably on the original version of Blue Hawaii as well as Sweet Leilani, which was popularized in the 1937 movie Waikiki Wedding. McIntire appeared in the films Dreams of Old Hawaii (1944), You're the One Rose (1943), Maui Chant (1943), and Paradise Isles (1943)."
Here's a photo of another of his albums…
I love the cover art and would like to own this four-record collection.
Like I said, I haven't heard this album for many, many years and was pleased as punch to pass it on to my son. I knew he would appreciate the family history behind it and get a kick out of listening to it. He is becoming more and more immersed in the tiki culture world and even has plans to do his first tiki show in 2011 with his carvings.
Then I get the next call from my beloved son. He loves the album and has recorded each tune for me! What?!!!? I was so excited and thanks to the wonderful world of the internet, I didn't have to wait long to download them to my iTunes. I can't tell you how moving it was for me to hear these songs after so many years.
I don't know how to upload one for you to hear, but you know that there just had to be a YouTube video to share Lani's sound with you. I searched through many to find the perfect one and this is it:
My favorite song from the album and the one I really wanted to share was Aloha 'Oe, but there wasn't one with Lani's band playing. There was the clip from Lilo and Stitch (2002) and one with Elvis Presley singing it in Blue Hawaii (1961), but that just goes to show you what a Hawaiian standard this tune is. I'm sure you've all heard it at some point in your life, but do you know who wrote it? This song of farewell between two lovers was written by Queen Lili`uokalani, the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands, in 1878. She composed this song and 150 others.
Image Source: Library of Congress
"There is a manuscript of Aloha 'Oe in Queen Lili'uokalani's handwriting in the Bishop Museum. Lahilahi Webb and Virginia Dominis Koch tell of a visit by the queen and her attendants to Maunawili Ranch, the home of Edwin Boyd on windward Oahu. As they started their return trip to Honolulu on horseback up the steep Pali trail, the queen turned to admire the view of Kaneohe Bay. She witnessed a particularly affectionate farewell between Colonel James Boyd of her party and a lovely young girl from Maunawili. As they rode up the steep cliff and into the swirling winds, she started to hum this melody weaving words into a romantic song. At the top of the pali, a cloud hung over the mountain peak and slowly floated down Nu`uanu Valley. The queen continued to hum and completed her song as they rode the winding trail down the valley back to Honolulu. Translation by Lili`uokalani. Copyright 1939 renewed 1967 Miller Music Corp." Source: Jonathan Wong
I made this graphic of the original lyrics and the translation…
Two natives with outrigger canoes at shoreline, Honolulu, Hawaii 1922
Image Source — Library of Congress Digital Collection
Anyway, now my son has the original album my parents purchased so long ago and can play it on his cool retro stereo and I have the songs downloaded to my iTunes and can play them through my computer — gotta love modern technology! Do you think Queen Lili'uokalani could ever have imagined any of this when she wrote the song 132 years ago?
(Farewell to you)