"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 vocalist Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs!
Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs Sr. is a Hawaiian composer, singer, musician, band leader, and recording artist. He was one of Hawaii's most prolific song writers.
Kaleolani was born on September 9, 1904 in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. As a young man he taught himself to play the steel guitar, following the styles of Pale K. Lua and Joseph Kekuku. While playing music with various bands, he began his career with the Honolulu Police force as a motorcycle patrolman.
But his career with the police force was cut short because of a traffic accident that hospitalized him for one year, and left him with permanent leg injuries. The accident forced Kaleolani to leave the police force so he turned to a life as a musician.
In 1929 he organized his first big-time orchestra called the K.M.M. Syncopators, playing at hotels, restaurants, bars, and clubs in Waikīkī and around Honolulu. Later he formed the original Royal Hawaiian Serenaders which featured vocalist Ray Kinney. His next group was the Islanders, who enjoyed a long run playing at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
From 1935 to 1940 he joined the Harry Owens Orchestra at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and was the featured singer and comic hula dancer.
In 1940 he reorganized the Islanders and played at the Alexander Young Hotel Roof Garden in downtown Honolulu. During the war years Kaleolani joined the U.S. Engineers and toured with his band on the U.S.O. circuit entertaining troops around the islands.
The Royal Hawaiian Serenaders: Benny Kalama, George Kainapau, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, and Tommy Castro.
PC-Austin Casey via YouTube
In 1947 he assembled one of the finest quartets Hawai‘i has ever heard, the Royal Hawaiian Serenaders. It included Tommy Castro on steel guitar, Benny Kalama on bass, George Kainapau on ‘ukulele, and Kaleolani Isaacs on guitar. The Royal Hawaiian Serenaders was the house band at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel from 1947 to 1951. The group made many classic recordings for Bell Records and embarked on four mainland tours breaking attendance records at leading West Coast hotels.
It was this West Coast exposure which introduced Kaleolani to Bing Crosby who featured him on his radio program, and which led to Hollywood sound stages with Harry Owens.
Kaleolani was one of Hawai‘i's most prolific writers, with more than 300 songs to his credit. He composed beautiful, poetic Hawaiian mele as well as hapa-haole songs that continue to be sung today. They include "Analani E," "Nalani," "Kauionalani," "The Poi Song," "Moon of the Seven Seas," "Ho‘omalimali," "Nani Nani," "Mama E," "Moe Kokolo," "Manowaiopuna," "Na Ono O Na Kupuna," "Aloha Ku‘u Pua," "E Mau," "Hula Mokulele E," "Auhea Oe," and many others. He also composed the comedy classic "No Huhu" featuring a Chinese-dialect vocal. It remains a staple of the Hawaiian comedy repertoire often featuring the steel guitar.
Kaleolani was also active recording music with his own band and with other Hawaiian groups. He recorded on the Brunswick, Bell, Columbia and Victor labels with groups such as "The Kaleolani Hawaiians," the "Royal Hawaiian Serenaders," the "Royal Hawaiians," "Randy Oness and the Select Hawaiians," "Ray Andrade and his Hawaiians," "Harry Owens and his Royal Hawaiians," and many others. In 1948 his song "Nalani" was recorded by American singer Nat King Cole and was a popular hit at the time.
Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs and Sons Barney, Norman, and Atta. PC-Territorial Airwaves
On May 19,1984 Kaleolani Isaacs died at age 79. During his lifetime, three of his musician sons carried on his musical legacy. They include steel guitarist Barney Issacs, slack key guitarist Atta Issacs, and bass player Norman Issacs.
In 1996 Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of fame.
Today fans seek out the songs and recordings of Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs. He continues to inspire musicians seeking to emulate his pure 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: Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs
|Hula Mokulele E||Territorial Airwaves / Cord International-Hana Ola Records|
|Nalani||Randy Oness' Select Hawaiian Serenaders / The Legends of Waikiki / Cord International-Hana Ola Records|
|Manawaiopuna||The Royal Hawaiian Serenaders / Vintage Hawaiian Treasures, Volume Five: Show Biz Hula Hawaiian Style / Cord International-Hana Ola Records|
|Aloha Ku‘u Pua||Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs / Vintage Hawaiian Treasures Volume Six: Night Club Hula Hawaiian Style / Cord International-Hana Ola Records|
|Analani||Randy Oness' Select Hawaiian Serenaders / Lei of Stars / Cord International-Hana Ola Records|
|E Ku`uipo||The Royal Hawaiian Serenaders / The Legends of Waikiki / Cord International-Hana Ola Records|
"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.Feature
2023 Festivals and Workshops
2023 Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Livestream Broadcasts
HIMELE is a Hawai‘i non-profit corporation that supports music enrichment and education for people of all ages. Our purpose is to educate, promote, and perpetuate Hawaiian music, Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian musical instruments.
Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival
Maui Steel Guitar Festival
Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week
Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Festival
Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
Kona Steel Guitar Festival