thumbnail of Spectrum Hawaii; 308; Hawaii's Recording Industry: The Early Years
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The following program is a production of key HPT in Honolulu Hawaii Public Television. The following program has been funded in part by grants from the Hawaii State foundation on culture and the arts and the people of Chevron in Hawaii. Pete you know you. You're you're you're
you're you're always going to interested in history you know and you can't really study the history of music without going to the recording industry. I had a contact with the Brunswick people so when they were looking when their set up a crude studio at the York tell Rolfe is of course just now demolished. They were looking for a man who knows how in music you know something about how i music and also can monitor that thing so I was the right man to see. So I got the job as it was only a one session of cost but there was a first recording that I did it right in
1927 about the time when some Hopi became so popular then he made a trip to help right. And he decided he was to make a tour with his focus group. Different I didn't see you needed an orchestra so it turned out that he had hired SR habits on this group and I was a drummer so everywhere we went I practically stole the show. What they want is they have me to do is to get up and demonstrate the Charleston. I think actually radio through recordings and playing rap god help the industry not only have but throughout the world stage and screen would originate and radio where it would originate productions but it was the recording
industry that kept it going day after day after hour as it does today. And that's what made a lot of things and started your eyes gap and BMI and so forth to really get in the business of Hawaiian music was the fantasy everybody wanted to come to Hawaii on the great white ships and hear the music of the soft guitars and the steel guitar and see the hula girls dance and the records were the message they carried this. They were the vehicle. Should we say contracts were practically nonexistent. I don't know that who it was had. Hardly any. We have made agreements to. If this happens will do that. Primarily I think 99 percent of all or record companies. Were just on the basis of. Hearsay you know 500 bucks or a thousand of whatever you know whatever you could come up with. Although we did lots of lots of
albums with nothing. I mean we just say. L.A. we you know let's try and see what happens and if we make some money where will you get some too. And sometimes we made money and we had a party instead. Lot of remote. We started off then the equipment took a lot of punishment because of the travelling especially the model. You know they. Call it the capstan morning. Which every six months we had to change and was costing us so much money that. We just decided not to do in life. And. Went into a studio. At that time was a whole lot combine down that whole a Cherokee. When I was you know with a house like I'm a garage. I. Presume at the time was it was the largest studio you know. Hundred feet by 300 feet with that if it's only your. If you could stand the bus and always. Being a nothing is a college just as I am.
I am therefore by definition dependent on the recorded sound. The technique of recording. Either until acts alone or on to disk at this early period. I presented several problems first of all if you were in the field you were really limited in what you could record sound like sound wise. You were handed a tube very much like a stethoscope and with a little bell attached to it. This bell was placed close to your mouth and you were asked to chant preferably loud because. The recording mechanism itself. And it was a needle that was attached to a diaphragm. That had a piece of Michael floating. Inside these two
frames. And that would pick up the vibrations of your voice. That has already been narrowed down. And. It would transfer from the needle onto the wax going 160 revolutions per minute. The cylinder recording mechanism would pick up the sound of a human voice. Anything similar. A chump it would work. A flute. A nose flute was recorded. I. Know. But interestingly it would not pick up. A musical instrument such as two sticks. Knock together. Sounded together as a collage. In high and hula. So when Helen Roberts recorded a melody who looked in order to get the rhythm of the sticks. She had the performer.
Not on a team can I. Because it had it had a brighter sound there were higher frequencies in there and this could be transferred onto the wax cylinder. Why music really got off the ground the first time at the San Francisco Pan-American exposition in 1015. That's when some groups went from Hawaii over there to perform at this great event in San Francisco and created what became this first gigantic boom of popularity of Hawaiian music. And all of a sudden everybody wanted to have a new go early and everybody wanted to sing some weak Iraqi rule.
And as a result that wanted to go over to New York City to Tin Pan Alley. And they started cranking out Howley versions of songs how they thought we sang and played our music here in Hawaii. So everybody was playing Kelley and the steel guitar caught on and so did the hula. So then you had all these traveling shows some of them authentic from Hawaii and many of them not so authentic vaudevillian types. And this was going on and all of a sudden all kinds of things were happening in Hawaiian music was really going through an incredible period of growth. The record companies jumped on a winner and we had all kinds of recordings. When a Tin Pan Alley became very popular with the hippie doula and the Asir the son thought he
was being very clever at composing the verse using the melody of an Aloha boy. Recording in those days. That machine is. Humming path actually saw it. Not. Not much was made to. Me. And the first man that. Made made the pick up for the electrical phonograph. That's what I sold to Brunswick. I sold a four thousand five hundred I thought I got to meet him $500. I still have a pad. Since I like Hawaiian music and I know what what makes that one how I miss you. Specially on my. Way back. The reproduction. Oh how I miss the lesson as soon as you hear it directly.
So if you hear it directly usually how I miss you have lots of bass bass sound. Song mixing for recording. That was quite an important part of. The recording industry. When I was a small boy he used to have used to have a high wind voice save for five A. Day go on the street and serenade the people and when I heard that she'd that's a kind of a music I like to I like to hear oh so dead was music less of metal all Dia's and smooth flowing not like now this sort of I guess rock n roll has a little trickle into it. As far as recording how i music and how I was concerned grandad. OK OK OK. Oh
oh oh. Uh oh. Well of course my. Tag name was the holly Wyatt. That originated. In 1920 my Holly why don't we want to make Hollywood with gets a hold of what you can see on the web. Better. Child It started with my sister's Allchin. And the brights orchestra. When she was quite popular at the
time and I was only about 16 years old. At that time it. Was not too. Well known about recordings. At that particular time. Combinations of orchestras and various districts with would compete. And the local people would. Participate in any dancing going on like that why they moved according to their favorite August 6. And I think 30 during the time that I was employed up the NBC station KGO in San Francisco. Reiki me and they prepared me at the time out approached
me asked me if I would mind joining his outfit to keep some records. Oh. I agree. And so I says now. What's a beloved best. So he says Well just come down and. We went down there and that's when there's no contract. And so we did a session and I thought it was one of the nicest. Nicest session that I have upset him with with the new boys new people saying. My still playing which was very very good and it was for the Flexeril recording can you bend the record to can throw it down stop Barmouth. You can never break up. So we did
several numbers several recordings. I think we did about three days of recording that no contact and then make you need to town. Without a got out money. But I found out that they made transcriptions and they sold the transcription and the recordings like that. I couldn't get a trace of it. I wanted to make my hands on one of those recordings and. To back track what I did. At that particular session. And the 30s were just so simple. They have this my own blog knee extension and they have a mike standing Mike here and standing by there and here not like what we have today you know suspending my order boom you know. Them days why you might say you
infamous like a Cajun Roux there in the you so used to walking in and be seen San Francisco with all the facilities there and well you know you're in this studio. To have a booth there but not a home going over at that time. Interesting and very interesting people. You don't want it. You want it you want it. In those days if you were not a specialist as you are today in those days the more you could do for the good of the company or the good of the cause the better you had a chance of cure. So I fell heir to. The. Transcribing org and recording work as a
collateral. Radio was my fundamental job for Marion May Maroney who was the licensee of the of good you. Still I was hired on that basis. I did NBC programming that we originated here to the mainland and. Program Manager I had to gather live talent. So I had a. Recording machine that was homemade portable. If you could call it that. And so I used to record on this various groups that like an audition then we could play him for a role in the rest of us would check it out and that would be the group that we would put on live. So when the Hawaiian transcription. Company as such didn't exactly dissolve but they. Quit. Producing records
because they got too involved with the. Fees. So Marian a Morrone of cage you advertiser. He took it over. And because of raw experience and recording on my own I was put in charge. So that meant getting groups to make records that would sell. The late 70s and early for days prior to World War 2. We had that play GI Bill which was a want and transcription room. Two large turntables large enough to accommodate. 16 inch discs. We would take
programs off of the air that came by a short way. And record them on these large clips. So 15 minutes or 15 minutes over there and you had a half hour cigarette program or whatever. And. In that case you would have to start. At the outside. And go in and the next one from the inside and out because that way your audience didn't realize that the minute. So if you didn't do that if you started inside out and the next one inside out there was a very definite change in the quality. Of the listener would be aware of it and we didn't want them to become aware of our inferior quality and. The difficulty in going from outside to him was the hair. As the new to.
Wriggle. It would cause the hair to come out like plowing into the ground and your earth would grow ever so this hair you had a brush with a. Little brush to get it to the senators so that your noodle wouldn't cut through this instead of into the material flat surface material so you would make these grooves. You come to the end and then you had to be careful to switch over to the other side. The recording industry is over is a commercial business you know. I mean everybody fights like crazy to break even. But we're in the beginning when we started. I think we were part of the object that I had was to to get some of the great Hawaiian music that I heard at friends homes like the Beamers and whatnot. And you hear them sing their music at home and I would There were beautiful
songs are just incredibly great and yet they were never done in public. They were done in the privacy of the family home so the Beamers would sing the Bema music and then the bride family would sing the brights and so on and so forth. And if you happen to be going to different luaus and whatnot in the circle of friends you hear all this magnificent music performed just super by so many artists. And that was it. If you just happen didn't get to the invited to the parties you never knew there was such a thing. So one of the reasons that will record I did that I tried to even get a go on. It was to get. Some of these people some of the families to release their music for public consumption. Which in had in fact actually happened any Vicki was one of the very first on one album that we did as a collection music of the family. That's what my many Ohana means. So that was kind of the first thing on Hulu records. Now Bell Records had also been doing a number of things before in 1039 I think somewhere in there and then
they got. More or less stopped because of the war like everybody else. But I don't. I don't know what their what their thinking was. They had a lot of mostly single 78. I don't recall any albums until after the war when they started putting them together. The idea of an album you know of a theme for music like a collection of family songs or. Music about the different areas of an island or something like that that came a little bit later. But employee who together. You know we had we tried first of all to make enough money to afford to be able to do what I really wanted to do. And now that still goes today you know if you look at the hula catalog which is a hundred and some odd records it was. You'll see that about half of them or a third of them were
for good or Hawaiian music. The others was all commercial stuff to try to make some money to pay to do the go to home I think because we couldn't give the good ole Oh I mean they go away and the oldest friends and we did Gabby's album sons of a wife. I don't think we sold a thousand of those albums in five years the first five years it was out. If people didn't like Hawaiian music in those days they didn't. But uninteresting to them. The kids young people never never even considered that idea and as far as having any Hauser you know any of the end of that you see today. Forget it that was a thing that started well a part of it was really wrong about the time we did the guava Jam album with Sunday Manoa Peter moan in the cause of my brothers together as one unit called us the sun in my no and that I think. That was a I think a blockbuster. The biggest album that had been out then and I think that's what really solidified hoing music and a whole in recording industry.
I think if something is good do gooder will sell you. Your songs are good. If your product is good I would say. 99 percent of the thing is a song. People don't know if it's a high tech recording or if it's backdoor done in a back door what do you know how many people know about fidelity you know or if he's been down by a door below or you know dbx or something like that. Very few people people like that don't buy records and he did too
particularly in the old days when we had to record everybody simultaneously. We need a large room because the fact that the sound bounces and you know when you walk into a bathrobe and when you walk into a hall you can close your eyes but you know that you while you're in a bathroom in another one you're in a hall right. That's because the bouncing of the sound comes back to you a little faster it a bathroom then they do it all at the same principle with studios. You have to have it like sound huge it out towards the sound. Can I bounce back to you saw what we normally do or is it like all Ra's is to absorb all of sound so that it doesn't come back to us and make it sound like a box. If you notice our studio very carefully does every wall. Is.
Non-parallel. You know we don't have a parallel warning the whole place. Everything is all slightly off angle just so that when the song hits the wall it doesn't come back to say you know you're dead again. Mixes some of the songs I like a lot larger than what it is. The biggest record label bill out of the mainland during the 1980s that I think no one has ever equaled the amount of records and the amount of people used was the Decca record label they put out an incredible amount of product and they had even house bands mostly the McIntyre brothers backed up everybody. And the greatest seller
of all time. To this day remains sweetly Loni of course it was the Academy Award winner for a song of the year written by Harry Owens and sung by Decca Records by being Crosby backed up by Ronnie McIntyre and his group and this sold an incredible amount of records and it has yet to be equaled. Why.
Spectrum was funded in part by grants from the people of Chevron in Hawaii and the Hawaii State foundation on culture and the arts.
Spectrum Hawaii
Episode Number
Hawaii's Recording Industry: The Early Years
Producing Organization
PBS Hawaii
Contributing Organization
PBS Hawaii (Honolulu, Hawaii)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/225-66vx0s8z).
Episode Description
Episode 308 explores the history of the recording industry in Hawaii and how it helped the popularity of Hawaiian music. People in the recording industry and an ethnomusicologist explain the equipment and process of recording music in Hawaii.
Episode Description
This item is part of the Pacific Islanders section of the AAPI special collection.
Series Description
Spectrum is a local documentary series. Each episode of Spectrum highlights a different aspect of Hawaiian life, history, and culture.
Created Date
Asset type
A Production of Hawaii Public Television, Copyright, 1985, all rights reserved
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Director: Wilson, Philip A.
Executive Producer: Martin, Nino J.
Interviewee: Tatar, Elizabeth
Interviewee: Bright, Sol K.
Interviewee: Soria, Harry Sr.
Interviewee: Soria, Harry, Jr.
Interviewee: McDiarmid, Don
Interviewee: Ono, Herb
Interviewee: Kang, Young O.
Producing Organization: KHET
Producing Organization: PBS Hawaii
AAPB Contributor Holdings
PBS Hawaii (KHET)
Identifier: 1517.0 (KHET)
Format: Betacam SX
Generation: Dub
Duration: 00:30:00?
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Spectrum Hawaii; 308; Hawaii's Recording Industry: The Early Years,” 1985-07-23, PBS Hawaii, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 29, 2024,
MLA: “Spectrum Hawaii; 308; Hawaii's Recording Industry: The Early Years.” 1985-07-23. PBS Hawaii, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 29, 2024. <>.
APA: Spectrum Hawaii; 308; Hawaii's Recording Industry: The Early Years. Boston, MA: PBS Hawaii, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from