One of my projects has taken me into the recordings of the gifted falsetto singer George Helm. The process of trying to figure out how the pieces fit together seemed to me like a teaching moment. So I shall put on my professor hat on, and talk aloud.
There are four commercial recordings of George Helm performing.
Two LPs were issued in 1977, containing “live session” recordings made at the Gold Coin Restaurant in October 1976, by owner Richard Wong (before Helm‘s tragic disappearance at sea in early 1977). Each LP contained 14 tracks–a bargain at a time when 12 tracks were the norm on LPs.
Strong sales led Wong to issue additional tracks on a 2nd LP, The Music of George Helm, A True Hawaiian Volume 2 (Gold Coin GC-1002). It is said that the second LP appeared a year after the first, but a “1977” publication date is printed on the jacket.
In 1996, record company executive Michael Cord licensed the recordings from Gold Coin Records, and re-released tracks from both LPs in the “Classic Collector Series” on his HanaOla Records label. The packaging included detailed historical liner notes by Harry B. Soria, Jr.
Helm is accompanied by Steve Mai‘i on bass.
In 1998, Gold Coin Recordings issued a new CD titled George Helm & Homer Hu at The Gold Coin. Richard Wongʻs son Kingsley Wong wrote in the liner notes that the contents of this CD came from a tape thought to have been lost or destroyed, and discovered in 1997. So these recordings are additional to the tracks released on the 1977 LPs and rereleased on the 1996 CD.
The question I was trying to resolve was figuring out where George Helmʻs recording of “Hi‘ilawe” fit in. It is on the first of the two CDs. I own both CDs, and there are far more songs together than there were on the original LPs. How could I be sure that “Hi‘ilawe” came from the first batch of recordings published, without checking the second LP? At UH Libraryʻs Wong Audio-Visual Center, I found only the first of the two LPs released in 1977, and Hi‘ilawe was not on it. My problem was simply that I had a reissued track, but could only confirm that it was not on the first LP. Was it safe to presume that “Hi‘ilawe” was on the second LP if I could not confirm it myself beyond a shadow of doubt?
The puzzle with “Hi‘ilawe” finally got solved this morning when I located my copy of the second LP in my basement–in Michigan. Voila! “Hi‘ilawe” is on the second LP. I can draw a straight line between the second LP and the first CD.
But hereʻs where things get a little murkier. Kingsley Wong wrote the following about the 1977 LPs: “An L/P consisting of 14 songs sung by George Helm was released in 1977. A year later, a second L/P followed containing ten additional songs. In 1997, all 24 songs were re-released on a CD.”
Indeed, the 1996 CD contains 24 tracks. But there is a gap: the 1977 LPs contain a total of 28 tracks–14 on each LP. To presume that the 1996 CD contains all of the tracks from both 1977 LPs would be to completely overlook four songs.
This experience is a sober reminder of one of the scholarʻs golden rules: confirm. Never presume. To fully account for the number of recordings of George Helm that are publicly available requires distinguishing which tracks are reissues as opposed to distinct performances of the same song. This means consulting the physical products.
The four songs from the second 1977 LP that are missing from the 1996 CD are: “E Ku‘u Morning Dew,” “Hanalei Moon,” “Ka Ua Loku,” and “Kaulana o Hilo Hanakahi.”
Songs on the LPs which were also recorded again and appear on the second 1998 CD are: “Hawaiian Cowboy,” “He Aloha No ‘o Honolulu,” “Ho‘onanea,” “Kalama‘ula,” “Kalena Kai,” “Ku‘u Pua i Paoakalani,” and “Moloka‘i Waltz.”
And two songs have two takes apiece on the second 1998 CD: “Aloha No Au I Ko Maka” and “Koni Au I Ka Wai.”
A songlist of George Helmʻs commercially-released recordings is as follows:
- A Kona Hema ‘o Kalani — CD2
- ‘Alika — LP2, CD1
- Aloha No Au I Ko Maka (2 different takes) — CD2
- ‘Auhea ‘Oe — LP2, CD1
- Blue Lei — CD2
- The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai — CD2
- E Ku‘u Morning Dew — LP2
- E Ku‘u Lei, E Ku‘u Ipo — CD2
- ‘Ei Nei — CD2
- Flowers of Paradise — CD2
- Hanalei Moon — LP2
- Haole Hula — LP2, CD1
- Hasegawa General Store — CD2
- Hawaiian Cowboy — LP1, CD1
- Hawaiian Cowboy — CD2
- Hawaiian Souvenirs — CD2
- He Aloha Ku‘uipo — CD2
- He Aloha No ‘o Honolulu — LP2, CD1
- He Aloha No ‘o Honolulu — CD2
- Heha Waipi‘o — CD2
- Hi‘ilawe — LP2, CD1
- Holo Wa‘apā — CD2
- Ho‘onanea — LP1, CD1
- Ho‘onanea — CD2
- Hula ‘o Makee — CD2
- Ka Ua Loku — LP2
- Kalama‘ula — LP1, CD1
- Kalama‘ula — CD2
- Kalena Kai — LP2, CD1
- Kalena Kai [titled ‘O Kalena Kai on CD] — CD2
- Kalopa — CD2
- Kamalani o Keaukaha — LP1, CD1
- Kaula ‘Ili — CD2
- Kaulana ‘o Hilo Hanakahi — LP2
- Kauoha Mai (Keyhole Hula) — CD2
- Kilakila ‘o Haleakalā — LP2, CD1
- Kimo Hula — LP1, CD1
- Koni Au I Ka Wai (2 different takes) — CD2
- Ku‘u Lei Aloha — LP1, CD1
- Ku‘u Pua i Paoakalani — LP1, CD1
- Ku‘u Pua i Paoakalani — CD2
- Maika‘i Ka Makani o Kohala — CD2
- Maile Swing — LP1, CD1
- Makalapua — CD2
- Manowaiopuna — LP1, CD1
- Maui Girl — CD2
- Miloli‘i — CD2
- Moku Kia Kahi — LP2, CD1
- Moloka‘i Nui A Hina — CD2
- Moloka‘i Waltz — LP1, CD1
- Moloka‘i Waltz — CD2
- Nā Moku ‘Ehā — LP1, CD1
- Noenoe Ua Kea o Hana — CD2
- Pāpālina Lahilahi — LP2, CD1
- Pua Lilia — CD2
- Pua Mamane — LP1, CD1
- Pua Tuberose — CD2
- Royal Hawaiian Hotel — LP1, CD1
- Sadie Thompson — CD2
- South Sea Island Magic — CD2
- Waikīkī — LP1, CD1
- Wailana — CD2