Steel Trappings

On the Playlist

On the Playlist: David Keli‘i

December 1, 2021 • Geronimo "Geri" ValdrizSteel Guitar History

"HAWAIIAN STEEL" is a weekly radio program that spotlights the Hawaiian steel guitar masters from the past to the present. "ON THE PLAYLIST" features the musicians heard on the program's playlist. This month we feature David Keli‘i!

Among Hawai‘i's pantheon of musical stars, none shine as brightly as steel guitarist David Keli‘i. He was called the Supreme Genius of the Steel Guitar.

David Keli‘ihelelua was born on May 19, 1913 at Lahaina, Maui. He played during the "Golden Age" of Hawaiian Music, between 1935 and 1955. It was a time when the Hawaiian Steel guitar was front and center, and became the "signature sound" of Hawaiian music.

David Keli‘i

David Keli‘i was the steel guitarist for Al Kealoha Perry and the Singing Surfriders, the house band for the Hawai‘i Calls radio show. Audiences around the world glued their ears to their old radios each week to hear David Keli‘i play with Hawai‘i's top singers, dancers, and musicians.

His steel guitar was blended with the sound of the ocean waves and evoked images of the cool trade wind breeze, the smell of fragrant flowers, and the gentle sway of palm trees. To listeners, far away, Hawai‘i was a mystical island of wonder and beauty that they dreamed of.

David Keli‘i played with numerous Hawaiian bands at various venues in and around Waikīkī and Honolulu. However, he is most known for his playing with the Hawai‘i Calls radio show from 1935 to 1952 (27 years), and later at the Stardust Hotel's Polynesian Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, from 1960 to 1972 (12 years).

His discography includes multiple album recordings with the Hawai‘i Calls radio show musicians. He also recorded a solo instrumental steel guitar album for Maple Records, and appeared on recordings with Joe Keawe, Eddie Kekaula, Sonny Chillingsworth, Al Kealoha Perry, George Archer and his Pagans, Josephine Ikuwa, the Bell's Select Hawaiians, and many, many others.

David Keli‘i

Early in his career David Keli‘i played a Rickenbacher A22 Frying Pan steel guitar. He later switched to multi-necked 8 string steel guitars, using the G11, C6, and D9 tunings.

On April 23, 1983, David Keli‘i died at St. Francis Hospital in Honolulu. He was 69 years old. Steel guitar master Jerry Byrd describes David Keli‘i as a true artist that plays with the element of surprise. "He leads you up a musical staircase and brings you down again. He plays some notes with exceptional expression and leaves some others to your imagination."

Today fans seek out the recordings of David Keli‘i and the Hawai‘i Calls radio show. He continues to inspire steel guitarist seeking to emulate his fluid Hawaiian style. His music is now available on CD and online to a new generation of fans who can appreciate this innovative and unique Hawaiian musician!

On the Playlist of Hawaiian Steel: David Keli‘i

Song CD Album
Singing Surfriders Al Kelaoha Perry Aloha Hula / Cord International
My Little Grass Shack Treasury of Hawaiian Steel Guitar / Cumquat
None Hula Joe Keawe Hawai‘i's Falsetto Returns / GK Records
Two Shadows on the Sand Alfred Apaka Hawaii's Golden Voice / Cord International
Lovely Hula Hands Treasury of Hawaiian Steel Guitar / Cumquat
Papio Treasury of Hawaiian Steel Guitar / Cumquat

"Hawaiian Steel" with Geri Valdriz is broadcast live every Tuesday from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm (HST) on Mana‘o Radio, Wailuku, Maui, Hawai‘i, KMNO, 91.7FM.

You can catch it on the air, or streaming live at www.manaoradio.com. Listeners can also access the online archives to enjoy previously recorded programs at your convenience. Just search "Listen on Demand" for past shows.

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2022

Facebook LiveYouTube
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase

Livestream Steel Guitar Saturday
May 28, 2022 – LIVE STREAMED on Facebook and YouTube 3PM - 5PM HST

Facebook LiveYouTube
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Windward Mall
incorporating the
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase
June 11, 2022 – Windward Mall, Kane‘ohe, Hawai‘i
11:30 AM - 4:00 PM HST

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week   
July 11-14, 2022 – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī
Nightly Evening Performances 5:30PM - 6:30PM HST
Facebook LiveYouTube
Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
incorporating the
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase
July 15, 2022 – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī
Friday Performances 4PM - 6:30PM HST
Facebook LiveYouTube
Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival
incorporating the
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase
July 16, 2022 – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī
Saturday Performances 11AM - 2PM and 4:30PM - 6:30PM HST

AISGC
AISGC Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival

July 21-23, 2022 – Winchester, IN
Tickets available online or at the door

2022 HSGA Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
August 11-13, 2022 – Foster City, CA
Tickets available online or at the door
Facebook LiveYouTube
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival Keiki Kine at Kahala Mall
incorporating the
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase
August 27, 2022 – Kahala Mall, Honolulu, Hawai‘i
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Experience at Mauna Lani   
December 8-11, 2022 – Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, Kamuela, Hawai‘i Island.
Facebook LiveYouTube
Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Experience at Mauna Lani
incorporating the
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase
December 10-11, 2022 – Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, Kamuela, Hawai‘i Island.
Friday Ho‘olaule‘a 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM HST
Saturday Twilight at Kalāhuipua‘a concert 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM HST

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