The greater 78rpm record collecting world is sparsely populated with its largest worldwide Facebook collectors group just recently surpassing the 4000 mark. Those of us passionate weirdos who devote huge chunks of our money and collection space specifically to Hawaiian steel guitar are a thin sliver of that elite group. But this is what initially brought Jim and I together. When I first met “Angry Jim” (virtually via Facebook Messenger) this is what he wrote. “Hi Christo! I have a feeling you may be my eBay nemesis!! I see on Instagram you have been collecting Sol Hoopii.” He had seen a post of mine about finding the records we share with you below.
Sol Hoopii is the undisputed “King of Hawaiian Steel Guitar”. Anyone who is even slightly familiar with the instrument and style undoubtedly brings his name up first. It’s with good reason! His hot jazz steel playing has cross genre appeal. He was both an amazing technical player and a passionate emotional improviser. Sol was one of the first to really blend Jazz improvisation with traditional Hawaiian repertoire. After traveling from Honolulu as a cruise ship stowaway he arrived in San Francisco and then moved to Los Angeles by 1924. This happened during the “Hawaiian Craze”, a time period when there were more Hawaiian records sold than any other style of music across America. Sol quickly got swept up in record deals and cameos in movies. He became a star and a hero for the native Hawaiian people!
Over the course of his spectacular career, life in the fast lane began to wear on Sol. He went through a personal and religious transformation and eventually converted to Christianity. By 1938 he had totally abandoned his secular career to join Foursquare Church founder, Aimee Semple McPherson as a part of her evangelical tours. After this conversion Sol signed contracts to record with various Christian record labels including Eldee, Sacred Records, and Campus Christians. It was during this time that Sol met and began regularly collaborating with organist and vibraphone player, Loren Whitney. Many of these sacred recordings still featured amazing traditional Hawaiian song interpretations on the B sides of the 78 releases. But the days of fiery jazz and pop recordings were gone.
According to a contact I made who was a church member, these extremely rare circa 1941, Haven Of Rest 78s were not sold in stores. They were distributed for “Singspiration” nights in the Foursquare Church. The main Foursquare church was in LA, but at its peak it was one of the largest church denominations with congregations scattered all over the US. Many of them were too poor to afford a professional musician to lead music. At ”Singspiration” events church members would get up to sing “specials”, a song they had chosen to sing solo for the congregation. Sometimes members would provide their own instrumentation, but often these church issued Haven Of Rest 78s were played as their accompaniment. It is obvious when listening to the recordings that there is ample space for singing over the music. Please enjoy these extremely rare Sol Hoopii recordings. And if the spirit moves you…sing along!
**Special thanks goes out to Jim for giving me my copy of HR530, helping me with research for this post, and being more of a collaborator than a nemesis! Thanks also to Keith Cordell for giving me insight into how these rare recordings were used at Foursquare from an insiders perspective.**
1941 Haven Of Rest Records, Loren Whitney – Organ and Vibraharp. Sol Hoopii – Steel Guitar
Here is a complete set of the Songs Sol Ho’opi’i and His Novelty Five recorded on Decca. These were his last recordings before he started focusing on sacred music, all played on electric lap steel. These are from Australian pressings but they were released in The U.S. on Decca as well.
Later in Life Sol Ho’opi’i focused primarily on sacred Music. I found a box from his record label (on ebay) from this time with many of these records. There was a label on the box listing the available records from them and I have managed to find all of the ones listed. One of my records is autographed march of 1950, so I believe these records must have been made in 1949 or maybe a little earlier. So here is, I believe, his complete recorded songs from Eldee. Enjoy.
Here is the box the records came in:
And here is an image I found online (Courtesty of the Collection of Les Cook) of some ephemera from this period:
and a photoshop recreation of the flyer on the box based on Les’s poster and the torn fragment on mine:
New arrivals from London! A few Hawaiian 78s. A couple Sol Hoopii tracks (reissues of American records) with a b-side by Linn Milford and His Hawaiian Players, the Hawaiian Silver Strings Quartet on British Columbia (which came in the neat sleeve seen below)
Sol Hoopii and His Novelty Quartet Don’t Stop Loving Me Regal Zonophone MR 3509 LA 41 10/4/1933
Sol Hoopii and His Novelty Quartet Iniki Malie (Song of the Breeze) Regal Zonophone MR 350 LA 352 2/16/1936
Sol Hoopii’s Novelty Trio Breeze (Blow My Baby Back To Me) Regal Mr79 W142796 10/18/26
Linn Milford and His Hawaiian Players Silv’ry Moon Regal Mr 79 (war 37) 3/7/1930
Hawaiian Silver Strings Quartet Kawaihau Waltz /Honolulu March Columbia 5431 146685/146686 5/25/28
Here’s a couple 78s by Sol Hoopii and His Novelty Quartette I just got. A couple of these songs were not available previously on the internet in any format.. Regal Zonophone was a british company that released Brunswick recordings in the UK. Those are identical to the Brunswick records of the same title.
Pidgin English Hula b/w My Isle on Hilo Bay (1935) Regal Zonophone MR 3539
I just got back from Waikiki, and you can’t come away from there not hearing about Duke Kahanamoku. There’s a big statue of him there next to the beach. He was a legendary surfer from the early 20th century. Maybe the most famous surfer ever. Anyway, while I was there I found a Sol Hoopii record on ebay with a song about Duke that I didn’t know existed! What Luck! So I’ll share that with you below (as well as the B side of that record and another record I bought from the same seller).
Incidentally, no one there seemed to know Sol Hoopii or play his style of music there at all. No compilations at the record shops. No bands (that I saw down in the tourist areas anyway) playing Hot jazz at all. I wish there were more bands at the hotels etc playing 1930s style hawaiian music rather than the newer easy-listening singer-songwriter style… maybe that’s just what the tourists want now. Well, EXCEPT I did find a great radio show, Territorial Airwaves, that does play a LOT of the great old historical Hawaiian music from the 78 era. You can listen to Territorial Airwaves online from anywhere at anytime here! (it’s also broadcast on all Hawaiian Airlines flights). They did a whole show about Sol Hoopii (where he played the Duke Kahanamoku track and gave a little more context than I have here) and released a nice collection of his music on CD a while back which you should buy. It contains a very nice biography of Sol in it.
So here’s 2 78 records from Sol Hoopii and His Novelty Quartet:
Another oldie from Sol Ho’opi’i and His Novelty Quartet
Kolo Pa b/w My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua Hawaii
Brunswick 6704, 1933
This old Brunswick record sounds quite different played on my 1920s RCA Victor suitcase phonograph. You lose some low bass but you also lose a lot of the hiss. check out both versions here (first electrical modern turntable, second acoustic phonograph):
Seems to be a Hawaiian take on Back In Hackensack, New Jersey. Which I’ll upload here for comparison. This version is by Benson Orchestra Of Chicago. (from the compilation Dancing The Devil Away – 1920’s Dance Bands Vol. 2 – released By Stephen Worth a few years ago.. but it doesn’t seem to be available anymore..)