Hawaiian Music appears on Decca Records

Aloha Dear Readers! Iʻve been working on discography research. Sometimes its exhilarating; sometimes itʻs just painful. Details, details details. The Devil is always in the details.

I returned to Decca Records, and the oh-so-marvelous 6-volume discography titled The Decca Labels, compiled by Michel Ruppli and published by Greenwood Press in 1996.

Everyone who knows Hawaiian music history knows that Decca released a lot of it in the 1930s and 1940s. Their mega-star artist was Bing Crosby, at whose insistence Harry Owensʻ song “Sweet Leilani” made it into the 1937 film Waikiki Wedding over multiple objections. Composer Harry Owens wanted to keep the song semi-private for his family; he only reluctantly agreed to let Bing sing it in the movie. Movie producer Arthur Hornblow was dead set against including the song in the movie. Bing waited until production reached the point at which he wanted it placed. When Hornblower refused, Bing informed Hornblower that he was going golfing, and said, “When you change your mind, Iʻll be back.” Hornblower gave in after two days. The song went on to win the Oscar (yes–the Academy Award) for Best Song. Then Decca president Jack Kapp was against Bing recording and releasing it on the label. Bing prevailed, and the song went on to sell over a million copies (and also spurred sheet music sales as well).

Thatʻs just a side story. Hereʻs a more fascinating detail. Decca opened its doors on August 1, 1934, and held its first recording session on August 3, 1934 with Stuart Hamblen Jubilee. On the second day of recording sessions on August 8, Bing Crosby laid down four tracks, and Sons of the Pioneers laid down four tracks as well. On the third day of recording sessions on August 19, the MOANA SERENADERS laid down eight tracks. According to Ruppli) only four were released. Here are the eight tracks recorded that day:

  1. Honolulu Tomboy (Decca 143)
  2. Maori Brown Eyes Onaona
  3. Iʻve Found a Little Grass Skirt (Decca 248)
  4. Sweet Hahaʻai a Ka Manu
  5. On the Beach at Waikiki (Decca 144)
  6. ʻAi Kākou me Ke Aloha
  7. Romance Land (Decca 362)
  8. Often

Who were the Moana Serenaders? According to Malcolm Rockwellʻs majesterial discography, Hawaiian and Hawaiian Guitar Records 1891-1960 (published in 2007–and really, this is a REQUIRED reference tool for ANYONE interested in Hawaiian music history!!), only Sol Hoʻopiʻi and Bob Nichols are positively identified in an ensemble that numbered up to seven or eight musicians.

Decca held recording sessions on August 21 (Orville Knapp and His Orchestra), and Sept. 11 ( Hermanos Sanchez, Pareja Lopez, Trio Cueves). On Sept. 14– the 6th day of recording sessions logged–Dick McIntire and His Harmony Hawaiians made their first of numerous recording dates with Decca. They recorded 8 tracks, all of which were released:

  1. Under the Moana Banyan Tree
  2. In the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
  3. Haole Hula
  4. Royal Hawaiian March
  5. Malihini Mele
  6. When the Moon Comes Up
  7. Hoonanea
  8. Uluwehi o Kaʻala (listed as “Ulu wehi okaala”)

In succeeding years, artists such as Ray Kinney, Lena Machado, Lani McIntire, Sam Koki, Andy Iona, and Al Kealoha Perry–and many others–appeared on Decca Records; even as Hawaiian Transcriptions and Bell Records were getting underway in Honolulu.

Many stories, many tidbits. But there is a larger point of significance here: that within the first six days of recording sessions logged at Decca, Hawaiian music appears three times. Mind you, Decca was a juggernaut of a major record label. It has been said and written that Decca President Jack Kapp had a special fondness for Hawaiian music, hence Hawaiian music figures prominently in Deccaʻs catalogue. Iʻm busy on a footnote hunt to confirm this. (In my “business,” I cannot simply repeat stories. The stories have to be verified. So note the caution:  “It has been said and written . . . “)

Footnote:  Iʻve recommended Malcolm Rockwellʻs award-winning discography before. I did that again here. I do not receive any financial incentives for doing so. After many years of work on the discography, Malcolm ended up self-publishing the discography, and selling it directly himself. It is a labor of love, because he will never recoup what it cost to produce it, much less make any “profit.” Every sale contributes toward Malcolm continuing his work (which is internationally renowned) on discography research. Malcolm deserves the support of all who profess to love Hawaiian music history. Go to 78data.com to order this magnificent work of scholarship.

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3 Responses to Hawaiian Music appears on Decca Records

  1. Liko Puha says:

    Mahalo nui for sharing this history and related stories. Wowzers! The link to Malcom’s site should be http://78data.com/ instead of the one listed. Mahalo again for spreading the ‘ike!

  2. amykstillman says:

    Thanks Liko. Anne already alerted me to the error in the link, and now the underlying link is also fixed. Proofreading was never my strong suit. argh.

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