Steel Trappings

On the Playlist

Gabby Pahinui

October 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 Gabby Pahinui!

Gabby Pahinui is a legend in Hawaiian music. He is known as the father of modern Slack Key guitar, and master of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar!

Gabby was born Charles Kapono Kahahawai Jr. on April 22, 1921. He was hānaied to the Philip Pahinui family and spent his childhood living in the Kaka‘ako area of Honolulu. He spent his youth supporting his family by selling newspapers and shining shoes. He dropped out of school after the 5th grade.

Gabby Pahinui

As a young man Gabby played music with steel guitarist Puni Kaulia at his home in Kaka‘ako. Kaulia was known for his harmonic "bell work" on the steel guitar and he greatly influenced Gabby. In addition to Kaulia, Gabby credits Sol Ho‘opii, David Keli‘i, Tommy Castro, Jake Keli‘ikoa, and Jules Ah See as his steel guitar mentors.

Gabby is a self taught musician, and his guttural falsetto and growing reputation for Hawaiian steel and slack-key guitar found him in the company of the top musicians of the day. Over the years they include Lena Machado, Andy Cummings, Mikilani Fo, Sam Kahalewai, Joe Marshall, Feet Rogers, Moe Keale, Peter Moon, Ry Cooder, and many others.

In 1946 he recorded the classic slack key mele "Hi‘ilawe" with its haunting vocals and gentle strings. In the 1960s Gabby and Eddie Kamae formed the Sons of Hawai‘i. They were the seminal Hawaiian "roots music" band. The Sons brought back traditional old style Hawaiian songs not heard for a long time. The music was fresh again and a new younger audience was ready!

In 1972 Gabby formed the Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band together with his sons Cyril, Bla, Martin, and Phillip. He also featured slack key stylists Sonny Chillingworth and Atta Isaacs. This band's kanikapila backyard jam style playing was the musical background to the Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance of the 1970s.

In his early days Gabby played a Rickenbacher Frying Pan steel guitar. He later switched to a Fender 8 string Deluxe model tuned to C13 tuning.

Gabby Pahinui Waimānalo Kanikapila

On October 13, 1980 Gabby Pahinui died. Thereafter, the annual Gabby Pahinui Waimānalo Kanikapila was initiated to celebrate the man and his music. It continues to draw a worldwide audience!

Today fans seek out the recordings of Gabby Pahinui. He continues to inspire steel guitarists seeking to emulate his soulful Hawaiian style. 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: Gabby Pahinui

Song CD Album
Hawaiian Love Gabby Band Vol 1 / Panini
Pua Kukui Gabby Band Vol 2 / Panini
Punahou The Maile Serenaders: Slack Key and Steel Guitar Vol 2 / Hula
How D'ya Do Gabby Band Vol 2 / Panini
Aloha Ka Manini Gabby Band Vol 1 / Panini
My Sweet Sweet The Maile Serenaders: Slack Key and Steel Guitar vol 2 / Hula

"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 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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October 30, 2021 – LIVE STREAMED on Facebook and YouTube 2PM - 4PM HST

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Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival
incorporating the
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Saturday Performances 11AM - 2PM and 4:30PM - 6:30PM HST

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Livestream Steel Guitar Saturday - LIVE from Maui
November 20, 2021 – LIVE STREAMED on Facebook and YouTube 3PM - 5PM HST

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Livestream Steel Guitar Saturday
December 18, 2021 – LIVE STREAMED on Facebook and YouTube 3PM - 5PM HST (tentative)

COVID-19 Advisory: HIMELE™ plans to resume in-person live steel guitar festivals in 2022, contingent on pandemic directives and venue approvals. Livestream Showcases will continue through 2021.

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