Hello, ocean lovers and audio adventurers! It’s me, Finnley the Dolphin, diving into your speakers to welcome you to another episode of Finnley’s Audio Adventures. Today, I’m surfacing with a special tale that swirls through the currents of time and sound. We’re taking a deep dive into the enchanting waves of the 1960 album “Hawaii Calls.” So, buckle up your flippers, and let’s swim through the lush soundscapes of traditional Hawaiian music and the incredible story of how this album rode the tidal wave of the Hi-Fi era. We’re continuing this trip through the mesmerizing South Seas, as we dive deeper into the exotica sound to uncover what really drove this mysterious and enchanting genre.

Album cover for 'Hawaii Calls Greatest Hits'. The background features a beautiful orange sunset over a calm sea. The words 'Hawaii Calls' are in large block letters that overlay the image, and 'Greatest Hits' is written beneath. Below, in smaller print, are the titles of the songs included on the album, such as 'Hawaiian Wedding Song', 'The Hukilau Song', 'Song of the Islands', 'Hawaiian War Chant', 'King's Serenade (Imi Au Ia Oe)', 'Sweet Leilani', 'Aloha Oe', 'Blue Hawaii', 'Lovely Hula Hands', 'Beyond The Reef', and 'Hilawe'. In the top right corner is the Capitol Records logo with the text 'High Fidelity Recording'. The album notes it features Al Kealoha Perry and is presented by Webley Edwards, with the recording location specified as Honolulu.

In the vibrant tapestry of the 1960s, as the world settled into the post-WWII era marked by increasing prosperity and the rise of the baby boomer generation, a sonic revolution was underway. Alongside rock and roll and the new British invasion, the proliferation of exotic music became a hallmark of this transformative period, fueled by advances in technology both in ways to travel and sound systems and a spike in consumer spending. At the forefront of this musical exploration was a desire to travel to exotic locations which drove melodies to spark that imagination to become known as exotica. In the 1960 one of these albums, “Hawaii Calls,” an anthology of traditional Hawaiian tunes, captured the imagination of an audience drawn to its alluring harmonies and the novel sound of paradise.

Back cover of the 'Hawaii Calls Greatest Hits' album presented by Webley Edwards. The cover has a parchment-like background with sketches of Hawaiian themes like palm leaves and a sea shell. At the top, 'Webley Edwards presents' is written in cursive, followed by 'Hawaii Calls Greatest Hits' in large, bold script with 'Newly recorded in Honolulu with Al Kealoha Perry' beneath. A paragraph on the left side speaks of the selection process for the songs and the chorus of Hawaiian voices on the album. Featured artists are listed, including Al Kealoha Perry, and notable names like Benny Kalama and George Kainapau. The right side lists the songs divided into 'Side One' and 'Side Two' with detailed descriptions of each track. Notable mentions include 'Blue Hawaii', 'Hawaiian War Chant', and 'Sweet Leilani'. The bottom section states that the recording is playable on monophonic or stereo phonographs, indicating its vintage format.

At the helm of this musical odyssey was Al Kealoha Perry. Perry, a master of Hawaiian music, not only featured on the album but also conducted and arranged the music, ensuring each note and lyric resonated with the authentic spirit of Hawaii. Edwards, the visionary behind the “Hawaii Calls” radio show, presented the album, lending his deep connection to and understanding of Hawaiian music’s appeal both locally and internationally. “Hawaii Calls” stands as a magnificent tapestry of Hawaiian music, woven together by a cadre of the islands’ most talented musicians under the aegis of the iconic “Hawaii Calls” radio program. The story of this album is as rich and vibrant as the melodies it contains, each track a chapter told through the voices and instruments of its contributors.

The album opens with Haunani Kahalewai enchanting listeners with “Blue Hawaii,” her voice a soothing embrace set against the delicate twangs of Jules Keliikuihonua Ah See’s steel guitar. This pairing not only set the tone for the album but also highlighted the blend of vocal and instrumental mastery that defines much of Hawaiian music. The narrative continues with “Hiilawe,” where James Kaopuiki’s solo captivates with its lyrical storytelling, a homage to Hawaii’s natural beauty. Then, in “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” the duo of Donald Paishon and Nina Kealiiwahamana offers a harmonious exploration of love and union, their voices weaving together like the leis presented to brides and grooms. Instrumentalists like Ben Kalama and Charles Kaipo Miller brought their expertise to tracks like “Beyond the Reef” and “Lovely Hula Hands,” infusing the songs with a soul-stirring depth that speaks to the heart of Hawaiian cultural and musical traditions. Meanwhile, Dan Kaleikini and John Kamana energized tracks like “The Hukilau Song” and “Hawaiian War Chant,” their performances embodying the festive and communal spirit of Hawaii. The album also featured the talents of musicians like Alvin Kalanikau Isaacs and Danny K. Stewart, who, along with the other artists, helped paint aural pictures of Hawaii’s landscapes and lore, each track a brushstroke contributing to the overall masterpiece.

Behind the scenes, but no less important, Bob Greene captured the visual essence of the album, his photography on the cover echoing the music’s invitation to experience the allure and mystique of the Hawaiian Islands.

“Hawaii Calls” is not merely a collection of songs but a narrative of Hawaii itself, told by its own sons and daughters through music. Each track, each performance is a thread in the larger story of Hawaiian music, preserved and celebrated through this timeless album. This confluence of talent and tradition made “Hawaii Calls” a cornerstone in the legacy of Hawaiian music, continuing to inspire and enchant listeners around the world.

The album not only showcased the virtuosic talents of local musicians but was also a brainchild of Webley Edwards, the creator and host of the “Hawaii Calls” radio show. Edwards’ vision was to share the beauty of Hawaiian music with the world, a mission that aligned perfectly with the technological advancements of the time. As new stereophonic records phased out the older shellac styles, “Hawaii Calls” stood as a beacon of cultural richness, offering listeners a sonic passport to the lush landscapes and serene sounds of Hawaii, forever encapsulating a pivotal moment in the history of recorded music.

The exotica genre, known for its eclectic and often worldly sounds, frequently found a home on budget record labels. These labels specialized in producing affordable albums that were commonly found in everyday shopping venues like drugstores, earning them the nickname “drugstore records.” These budget labels typically employed various strategies to keep costs low and attract buyers looking for inexpensive music options.

One common approach was to hire studio musicians to re-record popular songs. This allowed the labels to bypass the higher fees associated with licensing original versions. Alternatively, they might include one or two licensed hits on an album and fill the remainder with tracks by lesser-known artists, often unfamiliar to the general public. Another strategy was to delve into less mainstream genres like exotica. This genre, with its unique and atmospheric sounds that evoke distant, exotic locales, provided a niche market that budget labels could exploit without the fierce competition found in more popular music categories.

Some notable budget labels that often-featured exotica and other genres include Crown Records, Tops Records, and Pickwick International. These labels became synonymous with affordable music, offering consumers a way to explore new sounds without a significant financial investment.

While budget labels often utilized economical production methods to cater to price-conscious music enthusiasts, Capitol Records operated on a different echelon within the music industry. Known for its high engineering standards and production quality, Capitol housed some of the most acclaimed acts of the 1960s. Artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Frank Sinatra were among the luminaries who called Capitol Records home, elevating the label to iconic status. This distinction set the stage for Capitol to produce albums like “Hawaii Calls,” which were distinct from offerings on budget labels not only in terms of quality but also in technological innovation.

As Capitol Records adeptly navigated the seismic shifts in audio technology during the late 1950s and early 1960s, they focused not only on adapting to the new stereo landscape but also on ensuring backward compatibility. Their innovative approach culminated in the production of albums like “Hawaii Calls,” which were meticulously engineered to excel on both monophonic and stereophonic systems. This dual compatibility was a critical selling point, emphasized on record sleeves with assurances that the recordings would never become obsolete, regardless of future technological advances or the type of audio equipment owned by the consumer. Such strategic foresight by Capitol Records ensured that their albums remained relevant and accessible, bridging the gap between the old and new and providing a seamless transition for music lovers into the era of high-fidelity sound.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the music industry was in a period of transition from monophonic to stereophonic sound systems. This shift brought about a need for record labels to ensure their products could be enjoyed by all listeners, regardless of the type of equipment they owned. Capitol Records addressed this challenge by producing records like the “Hawaii Calls” album, which was engineered to be played optimally on both mono and stereo phonographs. The record sleeve notably included the message: “This Capitol Recording is Playable on Monophonic or Stereo phonographs. This monophonic microgroove recording cannot become obsolete. It has been carefully engineered to provide the finest monophonic performance from any phonograph – old or new, monophonic, or stereophonic. Like all high-fidelity albums from Capitol, it is a top-quality product of the recording art and will continue to be a source of outstanding sound reproduction now and in the future.” This statement reassured consumers that their purchase would not become outdated and would always deliver high-quality sound.

The term “microgroove” used in this context refers to the technology that allowed for finer grooves on vinyl records, a significant improvement over the earlier “standard groove” records made of shellac and played at 78 RPM. Microgroove records, which played at 33 1/3 RPM or 45 RPM, offered longer playtimes and enhanced sound quality, including greater dynamic range and reduced background noise. Capitol’s emphasis on the microgroove technology was part of their broader effort to highlight the superior audio fidelity of their records, which could be enjoyed on the latest stereo systems as well as on older mono equipment without any loss in sound quality.

Today, the distinction between mono and stereo records and the detailed assurances about playback compatibility might seem like a curious oddity. However, at the time, these were crucial selling points that addressed real consumer concerns during a rapidly evolving era in audio technology. The message on the “Hawaii Calls” record sleeve remains a fascinating relic from this period, capturing a moment when record manufacturers were navigating these technological advancements while trying to satisfy a diverse market. This historical context adds a layer of appreciation for the record as both a musical artifact and a snapshot of the technological and marketing strategies of its time.

And there we have it, my fin-tastic friends! We’ve coasted through the melodic currents of “Hawaii Calls,” exploring how this album not only captured the spirit of Hawaii but also navigated the changing tides of music technology. From the serene shores of the Hawaiian islands to the evolution of sound recording, this journey has been a treasure trove of audio delights. But our adventure doesn’t end here! We’re continuing our trip through the South Seas, diving even deeper into the exotica sound to get a real sense of what drove this mysterious and enchanting genre.

I hope you enjoyed this dive as much as I did. Don’t forget, for more quirky tales and sonic waves, swim over to our website at finnleysaudioadventures.com and join our pod of audio enthusiasts. Remember to subscribe and click the bell so you never miss an adventure with me, Finnley the Dolphin. Until next time, keep your fins in the water and your hearts in the waves. Dive deep, laugh often, and stay curious. Catch you on the next wave of Finnley’s Audio Adventures!


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