Steel Trappings

On the Playlist

Andy Iona

June 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 profile Andy Iona!

Andy Aiona Long (1902 – 1966) was one of the most talented and prolific of the Hawaiian-born second generation steel guitarist. As a young man Andy Iona attended Henri Berger's School of Music in Honolulu, where he studied woodwind instruments. He later played saxophone in the Royal Hawaiian Band under Mekia Kealakai and later with Johnny Noble's Orchestra at the Moana Hotel in Waikīkī. He was known in the islands as the "saxophone wizard!"

Although now known for his virtuosity on the steel guitar, Andy did not take up the instrument until he was in his mid twenties! He lost the thumb on his right hand due to a machine shop accident at school. But he compensated by turning one fingerpick backwards to be used for strumming. Those who witnessed Andy play the steel guitar called it a "display of magical coordination."

Andy Iona

Andy Iona moved from Hawaii to Los Angeles in 1921 and appeared shortly thereafter on the radio with his band "The Islanders". He was one of the first musicians to successfully combine traditional Hawaiian song forms with American swing. He was soon touring the country, back and forth between New York and Los Angeles!

He was in demand as a saxophonist as well as a steel guitarist as the new sound he was creating melded Hawaiian music with danceable rhythms. As a composer and arranger he wrote steel guitar instrumental classics such as "How D'ya Do," "Sand," and "Carefree." Vocalists thank him for writing "South Sea Island Magic," "A Million Moons Over Hawaii," "Maui Moon," "Forever More My Kuuipo," and many, many other songs.

He did the musical score for the film "Honolulu" and he even had roles in the films "Bird of Paradise," "Waikiki Wedding," and "Song of the Islands." Andy was also the featured steel guitarist at the Lexington Hotel's Hawaiian Room in New York City, and in the 1950's he toured the country with the Sonja Heine Hollywood Ice Revue.

Finally, Andy Iona was one of the first to play the newly invented Rickenbacher frying pan A25 model electric steel guitar when it came out in 1932. His warm Hawaiian tone and fluid, melodic lead playing on the steel guitar is unmatched!

Today fans and collectors alike seek out the original 78 rpm recordings of Andy Iona. His music is now available on CD to a new generation of steel guitarist who can appreciate this innovative and unique Hawaiian musician!

On the Playlist of Hawaiian Steel: Andy Iona

Song CD Album
Minnehaha On a Coconut Island* / Harlequin
How D'ya Do Na Mo‘olelo Mele Hawaii* / Omagatoki, Japan
Kaleponi Hula Girl* / Cumquat Records, Australia
Some Hawaiians Lying The Pick of the Crop* / Cumquat Records, Australia
Hawaiian Stomp Fair Hawaii* / Cumquat Records
Ho‘oheno Keia No Beauty Hawaiian Favourites / Goldies Records

* Out of print but may be available on auction sites or streaming services.

"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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