Hawaiian Transcription 1

Hawaiian Transcription Productions (Hawaii) / 1938

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Design: The lei, a garland of welcome and blessing, was traditionally used by Hawaiian islanders to place around the necks of those who managed to arrive on their shores after a long and dangerous sea voyage. It might be composed of flowers, leaves, shells, seeds, nuts, feathers or even bones, the yellow-and-green one depicted here apparently being made of the leaves of the maili vine, which in Hawaiian folklore symbolizes peace.

Though the illustration is printed lithographically, the imprinting was done by the letterpress process, using typefaces cast on the Linotype machine, most often used for newspaper or book production. Advertiser Publishing, whose name appears in tiny print at the foot, published the Honolulu Advertiser, the biggest of the islands' newspapers (founded in 1856 and still in business today, after corporate mergers, as the Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

The Matson steamship line, which had been running sea-cruises from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii since 1882, built the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Honolulu's downtown waterfront in 1927 to accommodate wealthy clientele such as U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Colloquially known as 'The Pink Palace of the Pacific,' its guests were entertained on the seafront with 'authentic' Hawaiian hula song-and-dance routines by the Royal Hawaiian Girls Glee Club.

Kalala 'Clara' Haili (1901-1979, a.k.a. 'Hilo Hattie'), was a full-blooded Hawaiian who, in 1917, took a $3 a week job in the bindery department of the Honolulu Advertiser, the newspaper company that eventually would sponsor the production of this record. After further work as a schoolteacher, she joined the Royal Hawaiian Girls Glee Club troupe in 1936, and went on to enjoy a long and successful international career as a singer and actress in TV and film. (To hear her first recording success, Manuela Boy, click here; for the B-side, Pidgin English, click here.)

The 'HT' prefix in front of the serial number represents 'Hawaiian Transcriptions,' a subsidiary of KGU, a radio station that had begun releasing transcripts of live radio shows in the late 1930s. Originally housed in the Honolulu Advertiser's premises on King Street in downtown Honolulu (see pic below), its powerful signal, according to Hawaiian historian Ron Hashiro, was used as a direction-finder by Japanese forces when making their way to attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Johnny Noble, whose name appears at the top, was a Hawaiian-born musician, composer and arranger. Highly influential on the Hawaiian music scene, he blended Hawaiian guitar with American ragtime to create a commercially successful sound known as 'hapa haole' ('half-foreign'). After making over 100 recordings, mostly on the Brunswick label, he died in 1944 at the early age of 51.

History: The Honolulu Advertiser, a local newspaper, also owned KGU radio station, which began broadcasting in-studio performances by local musicians in the mid-1930s. 78 rpm transcriptions of these were made for broadcasting by other mainland radio networks, and beginning in 1936, were made available to the local market and for tourists under the aegis of Hawaiian Transcription Productions (as suggested by the HT catalogue number prefix). Unfortunately, the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces in late 1941 brought an end to this endeavour because shellac, the material used for pressing records (generated by a species of South Asian beetle), was deemed essential for the manufacture of electronic components needed for the war effort. After the war, when rationing was lifted, record production in Hawaii was revived by Bell Records.

Above: the Honolulu Advertiser building, incorporating the offices of radio station KGU,
with its transmission towers. Photo: Ray Jerome Baker,
Hawaiian Yesterdays

Design variations of this label in this decade (click on image to view page):

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