Crunching Data: The Music of George Helm, A True Hawaiian

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.

Wong released the first LP, The Music of George Helm, A True Hawaiian (Gold Coin GC-1001) within weeks of Helm‘s disappearance.

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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.

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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.

The Music of George Helm, A True Hawaiian. Classic Collector Series, Volume 11 (HanaOla HOCD-3000)

Helm is accompanied by Steve Mai‘i on bass.

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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:

  1. A Kona Hema ‘o Kalani — CD2
  2. ‘Alika — LP2, CD1
  3. Aloha No Au I Ko Maka (2 different takes) — CD2
  4. ‘Auhea ‘Oe — LP2, CD1
  5. Blue Lei — CD2
  6. The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai — CD2
  7. E Ku‘u Morning Dew — LP2
  8. E Ku‘u Lei, E Ku‘u Ipo — CD2
  9. ‘Ei Nei — CD2
  10. Flowers of Paradise — CD2
  11. Hanalei Moon — LP2
  12. Haole Hula — LP2, CD1
  13. Hasegawa General Store — CD2
  14. Hawaiian Cowboy — LP1, CD1
  15. Hawaiian Cowboy — CD2
  16. Hawaiian Souvenirs — CD2
  17. He Aloha Ku‘uipo — CD2
  18. He Aloha No ‘o Honolulu — LP2, CD1
  19. He Aloha No ‘o Honolulu — CD2
  20. Heha Waipi‘o — CD2
  21. Hi‘ilawe — LP2, CD1
  22. Holo Wa‘apā — CD2
  23. Ho‘onanea — LP1, CD1
  24. Ho‘onanea — CD2
  25. Hula ‘o Makee — CD2
  26. Ka Ua Loku — LP2
  27. Kalama‘ula — LP1, CD1
  28. Kalama‘ula — CD2
  29. Kalena Kai — LP2, CD1
  30. Kalena Kai [titled ‘O Kalena Kai on CD] — CD2
  31. Kalopa — CD2
  32. Kamalani o Keaukaha — LP1, CD1
  33. Kaula ‘Ili — CD2
  34. Kaulana ‘o Hilo Hanakahi — LP2
  35. Kauoha Mai (Keyhole Hula) — CD2
  36. Kilakila ‘o Haleakalā — LP2, CD1
  37. Kimo Hula — LP1, CD1
  38. Koni Au I Ka Wai (2 different takes) — CD2
  39. Ku‘u Lei Aloha — LP1, CD1
  40. Ku‘u Pua i Paoakalani — LP1, CD1
  41. Ku‘u Pua i Paoakalani — CD2
  42. Maika‘i Ka Makani o Kohala — CD2
  43. Maile Swing — LP1, CD1
  44. Makalapua — CD2
  45. Manowaiopuna — LP1, CD1
  46. Maui Girl — CD2
  47. Miloli‘i — CD2
  48. Moku Kia Kahi — LP2, CD1
  49. Moloka‘i Nui A Hina — CD2
  50. Moloka‘i Waltz — LP1, CD1
  51. Moloka‘i Waltz — CD2
  52. Nā Moku ‘Ehā — LP1, CD1
  53. Noenoe Ua Kea o Hana — CD2
  54. Pāpālina Lahilahi — LP2, CD1
  55. Pua Lilia — CD2
  56. Pua Mamane — LP1, CD1
  57. Pua Tuberose — CD2
  58. Royal Hawaiian Hotel — LP1, CD1
  59. Sadie Thompson — CD2
  60. South Sea Island Magic — CD2
  61. Waikīkī — LP1, CD1
  62. Wailana — CD2
A total of 88 tracks on two LPs (14+14) and two CDs (24+36) yields 62 unique tracks. Let this be a cautionary tale against simply adding 24 tracks on CD1 and 36 tracks on CD 2 to presume that Helm‘s body of work consists of a total of 60 tracks, or even adding 28 tracks from two LPs and 36 tracks from CD2 to presume that Helmʻs body of work consists of a total of 64 tracks, without factoring in the existence of multiple recordings of the same song. 
Is this splitting hairs over insignificant details? On a certain level, it would appear to be so. (“If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck,” . . . ) But consider someone who makes the claim that there are a total of either “60” or “64” tracks. When someone else comes along and says “actually, there are 62 distinct tracks,” then the first person would appear to be wanting in caution.  As my mother would say often, “better safe than sorry.” 
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6 Responses to Crunching Data: The Music of George Helm, A True Hawaiian

  1. Outstanding documentation of a favorite falsetto singers, we enoyed!

  2. Arvind says:

    Can someone please tell me where I can find the Homer Hu and the 2nd LP? I have the first, and the re-release CD but I want to obtain these 2. I really feel badly that I cannot enjoy the missing songs. If anyone wants to sell theirs, please contact me. I have searched and no luck anywhere.
    ronalvio@yahoo.com
    thanks
    Arvind

    • amykstillman says:

      Hi Arvind — my apologies for not replying sooner. I’ve been travelling much of the summer. Your best bet is to watch ebay for these items, especially the second LP. That’s how I got my copy!

      • Arvind says:

        Thanks Amy. I finally found the volume 2 on cassette and need to transfer to MP3. Still looking for the Homer Hu record at the Gold Coin. That one will be very very hard to obtain

  3. Arvind says:

    Hi Amy
    Can you email me at my personal email? I want to ask you a question.
    ronalvio@yahoo.com
    Mahalo
    Arvind

  4. grapepowder says:

    great post!

    I have not done the amount of checking you’ve done, but on the Homer Hu cd and the True Hawaiian mp3 album “Ku’u Pua I Paoakalani” is the exact same live track. The times listed on my itunes is 4:05 (Homer Hu) and 4:06 (True Hawaiian). The Hu cd I have is the original and the True Hawaiian mp3s were bought off amazon. I used to have it on cd but lost it so I can’t verify if the original cd track for Ku’u Pua I Paoakalani on TH was different.

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