Steel Trappings

On the Playlist

On the Playlist: Alfred Apaka

September 1, 2022 • 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 feature vocalist Alfred Apaka!

Alfred Apaka was a Hawaiian singer whose romantic baritone voice was closely identified with Hawai‘i between the late 1940s and the early 1960s. He was arguably the foremost interpreter of hapa-haole music. He was known as "The Golden Voice of Hawai‘i," and his performing bands and studio recordings always featured the best Hawaiian steel guitarists.

Alfred Apaka

Alfred Apaka was born on March 19, 1919 in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. He was of Chinese, Portuguese, and Hawaiian ancestry. He enjoyed playing the ukulele, swimming and surfing at Waikīkī during his school years. He also sang in the Mormon Church choir, although he did not read music nor was he formally trained as a vocalist. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1938.

Shortly thereafter, Apaka auditioned with Don McDiarmid who was looking for a vocalist for his band "The Royal Hawaiians." He was hired and the group performed regularly at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. At the same time, Alfred also played music with Gigi Royce and his band at the Roof Top Garden of the Alexander Young Hotel in downtown Honolulu.

From 1938 to 1944 Apaka joined Ray Kinney as the featured vocalist for the Hawaiian Musical Ambassadors. Kinney's house band played at the world famous Hawaiian Room at the Lexington Hotel in New York City.

Upon returning to Hawai‘i, Apaka and his band played at the La Hula Rhumba night club in Honolulu. He also increased his popularity when he became a featured singer on the Hawai‘i Calls Radio show. In 1947 he became a member of the house band, with Al Kealoha Perry's Singing Surfriders.

In 1949 the group Alfred Apaka and his Hawaiians was formed. It consisted of Benny Kalama, Steppy De Rego, and steel guitarist Tommy Castro.

In the 1950's Alfred Apaka's career was on the rise, and his career was beginning to take off nationwide. He appeared many times on the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby radio and television broadcasts, and in 1957 he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Back in Waikīkī, Apaka was the headliner at the newly constructed Henry Kaiser's "Hawaiian Village."

Alfred Apaka

On January 30, 1960 Alfred Apaka died suddenly of a heart attack while playing paddle ball at the Honolulu YMCA. He was 40 years old, and his death was a shock to Hawaiian music fans the world over.

Apaka's studio recordings are the legacy he left behind. They include sessions for the Bell, Decca, Aku, and Victor record labels. He recorded with groups such as Alfred Apaka and his Hawaiians; with Danny Stewart's Hawaiians; the Select Hawaiians; J. Aku and the Moana Serenaders; with the Hawaiian Village Serenaders, the Andrew Sisters; Randy Oness and the Select Hawaiians, Al Kealoha Perry and the Singing Surfriders; Ray Kinney's Musical Ambassadors, and many others.

His studio recordings of classic hapa-haole songs include Beyond the Reef, My Isle of Golden Dreams, Bal Hai, Lovely Hula Girl, White Ginger Blossoms, I Will Remember You, and many, many others.

The great steel guitarists who played with Alfred Apaka over the years include Pua Almeida, Jules Ah See, Jake Keli‘ikoa, Danny Stewart, Tommy Castro, David Keli‘i, and others.

Alfred Apaka

In 1997 Alfred Apaka was honored by a posthumous Nā Hōkū Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award. That same year a life-sized bronze statute was dedicated to him at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikīkī Resort. It is located in the Tapa Tower lobby entrance and he is seen standing tall, arm outstretched, and holding an ‘ukulele!

Today fans seek out the recordings of Alfred Apaka and his beautiful voice. He continues to inspire steel guitarist seeking to emulate his band's fluid Hawaiian style in the hapa-haole genre. 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: Alfred Apaka

Song CD Album
Twilight in Hawaii Al Kealoha Perry's Singing Surfriders with David Keli‘i on steel guitar / Aloha Hula Hawaiian Style / Cord International-Hana Ola Records
Beyond the Reef Danny Stewart's Hawaiians with Danny Stewart on steel guitar / Hawaiian Favorites / MCA Records
Nalani Randy Oness' Select Hawaiian Serenaders with Pua Almeida on steel guitar / Hawai‘i's Golden Voice / Cord International-Hana Ola Records
Na Moku Eha Alfred Apaka's Hawaiians with Tommy Castro on steel guitar / Hawai‘i's Golden Voice / Cord International-Hana Ola Records
Two Shadows On The Sand Al Kealoha Perry's Singing Surfriders with David Keli‘i on steel guitar / Aloha Hula Hawaiian Style / Cord International-Hana Ola Records
Hawaiian Hula Eyes Randy Oness' Select Hawaiian Serenaders with Pua Almeida on steel guitar / Hawai‘i's Golden Voice / 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.

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2022 Festivals and Workshops

Maui Steel Guitar Festival
October 15, 2022 – The Shops at Wailea, Wailea, Maui, Hawai‘i
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST
October 16, 2022 – Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center, Kahului, Maui, Hawai‘i
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST

Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Experience at Mauna Lani
December 8-11, 2022 – Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, Kamuela, Hawai‘i Island

2022 Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Livestream Broadcasts

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Livestream Steel Guitar Saturday

November, 2022 TBA – 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

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Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Experience at Mauna Lani

December 10, 2022 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM HST
December 11, 2022 Saturday Twilight at Kalāhuipua‘a concert – 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM HST

2023 Festivals and Workshops
Kona Steel Guitar Festival   
March 24-25, 2023 – Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa, Keauhou, Hawai‘i

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week   
July 10-15, 2023 (tentative) – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival   
July 14, 2023 (tentative) – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival   
July 15, 2023 (tentative) – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī

2023 Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Livestream Broadcasts
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Kona Steel Guitar Festival

March 25, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 12:00 Noon - 3 PM and 5 PM - 8 PM HST

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Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival

July 14, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert (tentative) – 4PM - 6:30PM HST


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Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival

July 15, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert (tentative) – 11AM - 2PM and 4:30PM - 6:30PM HST

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