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Steel Guitar Masters
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To buy this CD from Amazon.com, click here: Vintage Hawaiian Music : Steel Guitar Masters (1928-1934) __________________________________________________

Rounder CD 1052

Vintage Hawaiian Music:
Steel Guitar Masters 1928-1934

1. Na Pua O Hawaii 3:12
George Ku Trio

2. Hula Love Medley March
Hilo Hawaiian Orch.

3. Waikiki Waltz 2:58
King Benny Nawahi

4. Ellis March 3:08
Tau Moe w/ Mme. Riviere's Hawaiians

5. The Road To Paradise 2:51
Unknown German Orch.

6. Wang Wang Blues 3:09
Sam Ku West Harmony Boys

7. Lady Be Good 3:06
Sol Hoopii Trio

8. Dinah 2:44
King Benny Nawahi's Red Devils

9 Na Ali'l 3:08
George Ku Trio

10. Lirios 3:04
S. Cortez y sus Hawaiianos

11. Palolo 2:49
Charlie Wilson

12. My Little Grass Shack 2:42
Kanui and Lula

13. Medley Of Old-Time Waltzes 3:18
Walter Kolomoku

14. Maile Lau Li'l Li'l 3:08
Kalama's Quartet

15. Hula Blues 2:41
Jim & Bob, the Genial Hawaiians

1989 has been officially designated as the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Hawaiian guitar. This unique sounding instrument swept the world, influencing many types of music, and undergoing many developmental changes along the way. Due to Hawaii's annexation by the United States, Hawaiian guitar can be said to be one of the only true American instruments.

Most music historians agree that Hawaiian guitar was invented in the late 1880s by Joseph Kekuku, a young student at the Kamehameha School. There are other claimants to this invention, such as Gabriel Davion, and James Hoa, but there is no documentation to support their claims. The young Kekuku was already playing guitar when he discovered the possibility of making a sliding sound with a metal comb. He soon refined his 'technology' by using a heavy metal bat; fingerpicks, and raised action of the stings.

Hawaii's schools and government actively encouraged music, and Kekuku's invention caught on quickly. By 1905, the first generation of Hawaiian steel guitarists was performing, touring, and recording. These artists included Ernest Kaai, William Ellis, Keoki Awai, Frank Ferera, and July Paka. Hawaiian music took the states by storm, and by 1916 more Hawaiian records were sold than any other type in the US.

In the 1920's the resonator guitar was invented, which provided more volume, and thousands of National guitars were sold. The modern look and strident tone of these guitars won immediate popularity among Hawaiians. 1925 saw the dawn of electrical recording techniques, improving the sound of records, and also the influence of jazz on Hawaiian players.

The highest flowering of acoustic steel guitar came in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This album contains a sampling of the finest Hawaiian guitarists of this Golden Age. After the invention and common use of electric steel, Hawaiian music became fully absorbed into and diluted by American pop culture.

Each steel-player on this album has his own unique sound, due to the nature of the instrument. Rounder has gone to every effort to provide you, the listener, with the finest original 78rpm recordings of the best artists of the time, in the best possible condition. In some cases, there are only 1 or 2 known copies of the disc. Let these musicians take you back to an era of musicianship and sincerity rarely found today.

We begin with the George Ku Trio, from 1932. These obscure musicians made 10 sides at this session, featuring the exquisite tone and light touch of steel-player Charles Opununi. Using a National resonator guitar, he achieves the liquid, sweet tone only obtained by a select few players, such as Sol Hoopii and Jim & Bob, the Genial Hawaiians. NA PUA O HAWAII is a traditional type hula, with fine falsetto vocals, yet the intention of the steel player seems to be to make it swing.

Frank Ferera, a Portuguese-Hawaiian of the first generation of steel players, left Hawaii for the mainland in 1902, and made over 1,000 sides between 1912 and 1931. HULA LOVE MEDLEY MARCH was cut in 1928 with a New York studio orchestra and clearly shows the influence of military ragtime-era marches on Hawaiian music. The melody is perfectly suited to Ferera's somewhat stiff playing style.

King Benny Nawahi made his name with many “hot steel" numbers with incredible drive and attack. This 1930 recording of WAIKIKI WALTZ, with unknown second steel-player, shows his ability to play beautifully as well. Note the interesting and beautiful interplay of the two steels, and the delicate yet powerful chimes effects.

Mme. Riviere's Hawaiians, featuring the steel of young Tau Moe (see Rounder 6028) made ELLIS MARCH while on tour of Japan in 1929. The style of this march is actually outdated for the late 20s, sounding like records from 1905-1915.

Tau and his accompanying uncles really knock out a hot tempo on this ragtime-march. Listen closely for Tau's grunt of satisfaction at one of the breaks, and marvel at his dexterity, bravado, and endurance!

Hawaiian guitar was popular all over the world, and, strangely, was especially well-liked in the Teutonic countries. This unknown German salon orchestra recorded THE ROAD TO PARADISE in Berlin in 1931. Along with violin, cello, and banjo, two steels are featured in very tight synchronization. The overall effect is very nostalgic, and old-world.

Sam Ku West began as a teenager playing in Irene West's Royal Hawaiians, a very early touring troupe, and was well-known by the time he made his 1928 recording of WANG WANG BLUES, featuring his very precise technique, and warm, smooth tone. A few key-changes and range-changes make for a concise yet varied arrangement.

No steel anthology would be complete without a selection from Sol Hoopii, the generally acknowledged king of acoustic Hawaiian guitar. (Any Hawaiian enthusiast should see Sol Hoopii, Volumes 1 and 2, on Rounder, two complete albums of his work.) LADY BE GOOD, recorded in 1934, shows how very relaxed and masterful Sol sounds. The first steel break is tastefully restrained statement of the melody, and the second break demonstrates Sol's effortless bursts of creative jazz phrasing. Of course, his intonation, tone, and attack are all flawless.

We close out side A in a blaze of heat created by the Red Devils, led by King Benny Nawahi with black hokum-group accompaniment. Benny considered himself a hot jazz player and often recorded with groups like this with a loose uninhibited sound. DINAH was cut in 1930 and includes a hot steel solo.

The lightly swinging George Ku Trio opens side B with NA ALI'I a traditional hula honoring Hawaii's chiefs of old. Opununi plays in a very modern (for 1932) style employing then-unusual 6th and 9th chords in his voicings on steel. Note again the flowing tone of the steel coupled with its penetrating attacks. The vocals are lovely, with synchronized vibrato, icing on the cake.

A bit of cross-culturalization is found on the 1928 Mexican recording of LIRIOS by S. Cortez. The trio employs Hawaiian guitar to a typical romantic Mexican melody, with non-Hawaiian approach to tone and attack.

PALOLO MEDLEY, recorded in Hawaii in 1928 is a mystery. Nothing is known about artist Charlie Wilson. Though all steel-players have their own sound and individual touch, Wilson's sound is very strange, with an inexplicable damping technique that 'chokes' his notes off.

Kanui and Lula recorded MY LITTLE GRASS SHACK in 1929 in England, while on tour. This is perhaps the earliest known recording of this chestnut, and features two steels working closely together to create that authentic watery sound.

Another obscure figure is Walter Kolomoku, who appeared on the scene early, recording in New York in 1912. He made no other records until 1928, when MEDLEY OF OLD- TIME WALTZES was recorded. The accompanying banjo, guitar, and vibraphone enhance the nostalgic quality of Kolomoku's steel tone.

Besides being great singers (see Related Albums), Kalama's Quartet most often used two steels to great success. MAILE LAU LII LII, done in 1928, features beautiful collaboration and interplay between the two steels. They seem to have an intuitive agreement to divide up the parts by phrasing and pitch range.

Though they left only 8 sides to history, Jim and Bob, the Genial Hawaiians are right up there with Sol Hoopii as top-notch musicians with incredible tone, attack, and phrasing ideas. The 1934 recording of HULA BLUES, a 1920 composition displays a contrast between the very 'straight' vocal choruses and the blazing jazzy steel breaks.


Original 78rpm records provided by Bob Brozman
Remastered at Arhoolie Records, El Cerrito, CA
Editing and Remastering by Bob Brozman and Chris Strachwitz
Tape Editing by Pete Carlson
Liner Notes by Bob Brozman
Original Photographs provided by Bob Brozman
Cover Design by Mel Green
CD art adaptation by Nancy Given.

Other fine albums by these artists:
Sol Hoopii Vol. 1 1926-1929 (Rounder 1024)
Sol Hoopii Vol. 2 1927-1934 (Rounder 1025)
Tau Moe Family: Remembering the Songs of our Youth with Bob Brozman (Rounder 6028)
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Vol. 1 (Folklyric 9009)
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Vol. 2 (Folklyric 9027)
Kalama's Quartet 1927-1932 (Folklyric 9022)
King Benny Nawahi: Hot Hawaiian Guitar (Yazoo 1074)
Hawaiian Guitar Hotshots (Yazoo 1055)
Vintage Hawaiian: The Great Singers (Rounder 1053)

ROUNDER ® © 1989 Rounder Records Corp., One Camp Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140.

Printed in Canada.
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