Skip to main content

The Edison Files: Waikiki Hawaiian Orchestra

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877. No one knows for sure who the very first recording artist was. Here is a look at the early recording artists I have in my collection.

Steel guitar virtuoso Frank Ferera, called Palakiko Ferreira on early Edison recordings, was born on June 12, 1885 in Honolulu. Ferera was featured on the cover of the December 1916 issue of Edison Phonograph Monthly, and an article states, "Frank Ferera has the distinction of being the one who first introduced the Hawaiian style of playing the guitar into the United States. It was in 1900 that he brought the first ukelele [sic] here and commenced to charm vaudeville audiences. For quite a while he had the field to himself" His first wife was named Eva Perkins, but they divorced. He married Helen Greenus, who played ukulele as well as guitar. The two performed widely in vaudeville as Helen Louise and Frank Ferera. When Hawaiian records became incredibly popular in 1916 and 1917, Louise and Ferera recorded prolifically, benefitting from the sudden craze for Hawaiian records but also providing fuel for the craze with their many records featuring charming, always polished but never flashy performances. Ferera was a crossover artist from the beginning. In fact, the debut record of Louise and Ferera featured a Stephen Foster song. The duo often recorded songs that had originated in Hawaii but other times recorded songs of other genre. Louise and Ferera made their recording debut in New York City for Columbia in late July 1915. The four songs recorded were "My Old Kentucky Home," "Medley of Hawaiian Waltzes," "Honolulu Rag," and "Kaiwa Waltz." For Edison, Frank Ferera made his recording debut as a solo artist in September 1915 with "Ua Like No Alike and "Medley of Hawaiian Hulas." In 1917 Louise and Ferera made recordings for virtually every company, including Victor, Columbia, Edison and others. Their Edison recording debut was "Medley of Hawaiian Airs--No. 1," issued on Blue Amberol 2917 in July 1916. Ferera managed the Waikiki Hawaiian Orchestra, which often recorded for Edison, but neither Edison literature nor labels credit Ferera for leading the orchestra. Louise and Ferera did not record as often in 1918 as they had in 1917, perhaps partly due to touring engagements, perhaps also due to the demand for war songs far exceeding that for any other type of music. Frank Ferera recorded for most companies in the 1920's. One Edison recording made in May 1924 and issued on Diamond Disc 51361 in August (then issued as Blue Amberol 4898 in September) helped popularize "hillbilly" music: Frank Ferera accompanied Vernon Dalhart as he sang and played harmonica on "The Wreck On The Southern Old 97." Ferera died on June 26, 1951.

To listen to the Waikiki Hawaiian Orchestra, or recordings by Frank Ferera, visit the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara.


Popular posts from this blog

The Tornado at Beaty Swamps

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, May 10, 1933, Beatty Swamps, TN ( also known as Bethsaida), a small rural community located in Overton County, Tennessee, approximately 6.7 miles from Livingston, was struck by an F4 tornado that completely devastated the community. The funnel, anywhere from one-half to three-quarters of a mile wide, destroyed every home in the community, and killed or injured virtually every single resident. Much of the area was swept clean of debris. This is the second deadliest tornado ever to strike Middle Tennessee.

There have been tornadoes that have gained greater notoriety, such as the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, but never has a tornado affected a community as completely as the one that struck Beatty Swamps.

According to the National Weather Service, it had been a humid evening in the rural Cumberland Plateau community. In nearby Allardt, the temperature that Tuesday afternoon had climaxed at 82 degrees, a warmer-than-normal reading for early May. …

Ode To A Mule

James Arness died today. Gunsmoke was every one's favorite TV show back when I was a kid. For years, at my house, we watched every single episode that came on the TV. There's isn't any need to explain the show because I am sure that most of you have seen an episode of Gunsmoke at one time or another.

When I heard that Mr. Arness has passed away, I went online, because I wanted to read some quotes from the TV show - more specifically, I wanted to read some dialogue between Festus, played by singer Ken Curtis (Sons of the Pioneers), and the rest of the cast. Festus had a way of speaking, but he always spoke the truth and what he said always made sense, well in a Festus-sort-of way, I guess.

So, I went online to do that, and well, one click led to another click, and then another and another, and before I knew it, I found myself on YouTube, and that's when I heard, for the first time in many years, this beautiful story that I want to share with you.

If you paid close atte…

Long Live The Goat Man

(This photo was made in the 1950's as the Goat Man passed through my town)
Charles McCartney was born on July 6, 1901. In 1915, at age 14, he ran away from his family's Iowa farm. He eventually wound up in New York, and was soon married to a Spanish knife-thrower. When she got pregnant they tried to make it as farmers, but bad weather and the Great Depression wiped them out. About the same time, he experienced a religious awakening. A man on a mission, he hitched up his team of goats to a wagon and took to the open road with his wife and son. His wife made goatskin clothes for him and his son to wear as a gimmick during their travels, but she quickly grew tired of the road and returned to Iowa, taking their son with her.

Charles McCartney looked like a goat. He smelled like one, too because he rarely took a bath. You take a fellow who looks like a goat, travels around with goats, eats with goats, lies down among goats and smells like a goat and it won't be long before peop…