Steel Trappings

On the Playlist

On the Playlist: R. Alex Anderson

May 1, 2022 • 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 songwriter and composer R. Alex Anderson!

Robert Alexander Anderson was a songwriter-composer born and raised in Hawai‘i. He wrote many popular hapa-haole songs most often heard with steel guitar backing. Although Anderson was not a performing musician or steel guitarist, kika kila was a key instrument in the hapa haole genre he embraced.

R. Alex Anderson was born on June 6, 1894 at Honolulu, Hawai‘i. He was raised in the family home located on the corner of Beretania and Ke‘eaumoku Streets. He spent a great deal of his boyhood at his grandfather's house in Waikīkī located on the beach near the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

R. Alex Anderson

Anderson attended Punahou School and later Cornell University where he studied electrical and mechanical engineering. While attending school, he began writing his first songs as a hobby.

During World War I he was flying combat missions in the skies over France. His plane was shot down and he was taken prisoner by the Germans. He eventually escaped captivity and survived the war.

After the war Anderson returned to Hawai‘i and had a very active business career at Von-Hamm Young, a textile, wholesale, machinery company. He turned his hobby for songwriting into a successful career composing over 100 songs. He never studied music theory or harmony, and played piano by ear.

His compositions have long given rise to dreams of Hawai‘i as a paradise for people all over the world. He called himself "a composer who writes without knowing the rules," and wrote most of his lyrics "in my head."

In 1927 he wrote his first hit song "Haole Hula." It was followed by "Lovely Hula Hands," "Mele Kalikimaka," "The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai," "White Ginger Blossoms," "Blue Lei," "On a Coconut Island," "Lei of Stars," "Punahou" and many others. His songs are sung in Hawai‘i and are popular throughout the world!

Anderson was considered the "most Hawaiian" of the hapa haole composer songwriters. He wrote songs based on traditional Hawaiian themes telling of flowers, island scenes, tropic seas, nature, native people, and their customs. His ear for the special sound and rhythm of Hawaiian music was exceptional.

He was regarded as the successor to composer Charles E. King in maintaining the melodic and lyrical qualities which are Hawai‘i's musical identity. Few Hawaiian composers can claim as many popular standards over a long writing career. His songs were sung and recorded by Alfred Apaka, George Kainapau, Lani McIntire, Ray Kinney, Danny Kaleikini, Ray Andrade, Andy Cummings, Charles K.L. Davis, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, Eddie Kekaula, Sterling Mossman, Randy Oness, Al Kealoha Perry, and many, many others.

R. Alex Anderson

In spite of the world wide popularity of "Lovely Hula Hands," Anderson felt that "Haole Hula" best expresses his love for his native Hawai‘i. The song lyrics state: "I love to dance and sing of the charms of Hawai‘i, and from a joyful heart bring aloha to you."

R. Alex Anderson died on May 30, 1995. He was 101 years old. In 1998 he was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame. His life story is described in a book by Scott Stone called "From a Joyful Heart" by Island Heritage.

Today fans seek out the recordings of songs written by R. Alex Anderson. He continues to inspire vocalist and steel guitarists seeking to emulate his hapa haole song stylings. His music is now available online and on CD to a new generation of steel guitar fans who can appreciate this innovative and unique Hawaiian musician!

On the Playlist of Hawaiian Steel: R. Alex Anderson

Song CD Album
Lovely Hula Hands Treasury of Hawaiian Steel Guitar / Cumquat
Al Kealoha Perry and the Singing Surfriders
Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai Royal Hawaiian Hotel / Cumquat
Dick McIntire and his Harmony Hawaiians
White Ginger Blossoms Hawaiian Favorites / MCA
Danny Stewart and his Hawaiians with Alfred Apaka
Haole Hula Sweet and Lovely / Raiatea Helm
Raiatea Helm
I'll Weave a Lei of Stars For You Territorial Airwaves / Hana Ola
The Royal Hawaiian Serenaders
On a Coconut Island South Sea Lullabies / Cumquat
Andy Iona and the Islanders

"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 on the radio dial.

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

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2022 Festivals and Workshops

Maui Steel Guitar Festival
October 15, 2022 – The Shops at Wailea, Wailea, Maui, Hawai‘i
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST
October 16, 2022 – Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center, Kahului, Maui, Hawai‘i
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST

Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Experience at Mauna Lani
December 8-11, 2022 – Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, Kamuela, Hawai‘i Island

2022 Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Livestream Broadcasts

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Livestream Open Stage Showcase

September 25, 2022 – 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

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Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Experience at Mauna Lani

December 10, 2022 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM HST
December 11, 2022 Saturday Twilight at Kalāhuipua‘a concert – 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM HST

2023 Festivals and Workshops
Kona Steel Guitar Festival   
March 24-25, 2023 – Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa, Keauhou, Hawai‘i

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week   
July 10-15, 2023 (tentative) – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival   
July 14, 2023 (tentative) – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival   
July 15, 2023 (tentative) – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī

2023 Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Livestream Broadcasts
Facebook LiveYouTube
Kona Steel Guitar Festival

March 25, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 12:00 Noon - 3 PM and 5 PM - 8 PM HST

Facebook LiveYouTube
Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival

July 14, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert (tentative) – 4PM - 6:30PM HST


Facebook LiveYouTube
Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival

July 15, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert (tentative) – 11AM - 2PM and 4:30PM - 6:30PM HST

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