Lost Classics! Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band


For a short time in the mid-1970s, this album by Hawaiian musician Gabby Pahinui and his band was a stoner’s delight.  Produced by ace guitarist/producer/musical historian Ry Cooder, The Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band Vol. 1 was the highlight of Pahuini’s long career.

Gabby Pahinui started recording in 1946.  Pahinui played guitar, in the slack-key style found in a lot of Hawaiian music.  In fact, his record “Hi’ilawe” may be the first recording of the slack-key guitar (“slack key” is a form of tuning achieved by detuning or “slacking” guitar strings).  Gabby was a huge star in the Hawaiian islands in the 1950s, and in the early 1960s Dave Guard of the Kingston Trio produced a record on Gabby but mainland audiences didn’t bite.

Despite his success as a regional performer, 3169918152_49358c4cfbPahinui didn’t make that much money.  In fact, he worked a shovel for city and county crews around Honolulu to make extra cash.  In the early 1970s Americans started to rediscover their indigenous music (Cajun music went through a similar renaissance) and Gabby’s music was at the forefront again.  Ry Cooder joined the “Gabby Band” for four albums, one of which appeared on the Warner Bros. label in 1975.  The music, sung in the language of the islands, was instantly more authentic than the Don Ho nightclub stuff we were so accustomed to hearing.  The guitar work on this album is excellent – Gabby had taken up the more modern Hawaiian steel guitar and with Ry Cooder on board, as you can imagine this album featured some guitar playing that is absolutely breathtaking, sort of an aural version of Hawaiian scenery.  I always loved the photo of the band members on the back of the record – it gives the impression that no man in Hawaii ever wears a shirt. 

Health problems (and a lifetime of hitting the booze) caught up with Gabby Pahinui in the late 1970s, and he retired from the road repair crew and started teaching cultural programs to kids.  He died in 1980 at age 59, and his music is still played around the Hawaiian islands.  He was a big influence to many musicians who followed him, including Israel Kamakawiwo’le, who can be heard dedicating his song to Gabby at the beginning of his oft-played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World.”

MP3: “Aloha Ka Manini”

MP3: “Blue Hawaiian Moonlight”

MP3: “Moani Ke’Ala”

MP3: “Oli Komo (Chant)”

MP3: “Ipo Le Manu”

MP3: “Moonlight Lady”

MP3: “Hawaiian Love”

Ry Cooder page at Nonesuch Records

Stevo’s Hawaiian Music Guide website

One Response to “Lost Classics! Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band”

  1. Nicely written tribute to a great man. Thank you and Aloha.

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