Bing Crosby

The Golden Voice of Hawaii

Music is one of the best way for people to express themselves personally and to share the cultures from which they come. Since every person in the United States is either an immigrant or a descendant of an immigrant, the music in this nation is amazingly diverse. There is one style of music that is uniquely different than other American music while still being very American:  music of the Hawaiian Islands. Associated with smooth and calming sounds and using such instruments as the ukulele and the steel guitar, Hawaiian music today is rarely heard by mainlanders but, immediately after World War II and even more after Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959, Hawaiian music became extremely popular in the contiguous 48.

George Kanaipau - Gold Voice of Hawaii.jpg

The name George Kainapau may not be well known today, but he definitely made his mark on the genre during his life. Known as the Hawaiian King of Falsetto, his singing career began in the 1920’s – fully three decades before statehood! As recording technology improved, the beauty of George’s voice became more and more appreciated by fans both on the islands and on the mainland. Born in Hil on the Big Island in 1905, Kainapau had a long career, even singing a duet with Bing Crosby on the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” in the movie Waikiki Wedding.The Treasure Tour is glad to display some of Kainapau’s records throughout the tour, including his 1968 album The Golden Voice of Hawaii,including such classics songs as “Ke Kali Nai Au (The Hawaiian Wedding Song),” “Blue Hawaii,” and “Kuu Ipo (My Sweetheart).” If you are unfamiliar with Hawaiian music, Kanaipau is a great man to introduce you to its charm. 

Tunes on Tuesday

I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart.jpg

In the early days of the music industry, there were far fewer protections in place for song writers than there are today, which is to say they made a lot less money – and credit – for their creations. And a popular song could be performed and recorded by numerous different musicians without being held accountable to the original songwriters.  “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” was composed in 1938 by the unforgettable Duke Ellington, with lyrics added by Irving Mills, Henry Nemo and John Redmond.  Three lyricists working together came up with this:

I let a song go out of my heart
It was the sweetest melody
I know I lost heaven 'cause you were the song

Since you and I have drifted apart
Life doesn't mean a thing to me
Please come back, sweet music, I know I was wrong

Am I too late to make amends?
You know that we were meant to be more than just friends, just friends

I let a song go out of my heart
Believe me, darlin', when I say
I won't know sweet music until you return some day

I let a song go out of my heart
Believe me, darlin', when I say
I won't know sweet music until you return some day


The song definitely struck a chord, because it reached number one upon its release for Ellington when he recorded it.  It was also a hit – the same year – for Benny Goodman (with Martha Tilton singing), Connee Boswell, Hot Lips Page, and Mildred Bailey.  Over the years since then, other luminaries have also recorded their own versions of it, including Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, and Thelonious Monk.  Clearly, no one is ready to let this song go out of their hearts!

Tunes on Tuesday

Alexanders Ragtime Band.jpg

If you have ever been to a superstore, I'm sure you've noticed the music piped through the building. Maybe popular music of a decade ago or instrumental interpretations of your favorite tunes from the 1960s can be heard wherever you are. If you're lucky, it remains in the background.  But, if you notice it it may stick with you all day.  The American Treasure Tour is also always playing music, but ours is definitely NOT pumped in.  Our mechanical musical machines (nickelodeons, band organs, dance hall organs and music boxes) actually play instruments using complex and fascinating devices we won't even begin to try to explain here.  While some of the many songs you can hear here may be new to you, much of it is iconic.  Today, the blog is going to honor one of the songs currently echoing through my head:  "Alexander's Ragtime Band."

The famous songwriter Irving Berlin wrote this song in 1910, and it became his first major hit the next year. He never conclusively explained his inspiration for it, so there's only conjecture today, but it is believed that he wrote it in honor of a man named Alexander Joseph "King" Watzke, a musician from New Orleans, and one of the first white bandleaders to popularize the new African-American ragtime sound.  Watzke's career peaked between 1904 and 1911. There is an argument that Berlin may have borrowed from Scott Joplin in creating the song, but ultimately the credit went to Berlin and to Emma Carus, a famous vaudeville performer for whom "Alexander's Ragtime Band" became her signature song. That is not to say other singers didn't embrace the catchy tune, too.  In fact, dozens of artists have recorded their own renditions of it over the more than a century since it was first published, including Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and, of course, the Bee Gees.  

Fred Astaire - Keep on Dancing

QUESTION:  Which of the following women did Fred Astaire never have the opportunity to dance with on screen?
A). Cyd Charisse
B). Jane Powell
C). Leslie Caron
D). Jayne Mansfield

In yesterday's exploration into the life and career of Fred Astaire, one of the talented performers whose image is on display in the American Treasure Tour's Music Room, we learned a little bit about Fred Astaire's humble beginnings and his rise to fame. The year was 1933. Famous RKO producer David O. Selznick was responsible for Astaire's introduction to the cinema; however, he was not impressed with Astaire's skills as an actor or singer, and certainly did not see in him a cinematic heartthrob. But he recognized talent when he saw it, and cast him opposite John Crawford in that year's Dancing Lady.  The same year, he received fifth billing behind a young dancer named Ginger Rogers in the musical Flying Down to Rio. The chemistry between Astaire and Rogers worked, the film was popular, and it led to greater success for the partnership. In fact, the two would be paired together in ten musicals. 

Astaire moved on from his near-perfect dance partner Rogers by the 1940's, and he made films with Bing Crosby, Rita Hayworth, Joan Leslie, and Gene Kelly prior to his retirement in 1946. Which lasted two years. In fact, despite numerous efforts to retire, Astaire simply did not have it in him to hang up his dancing shoes. He established his own dance studio, appeared on numerous television programs, and returned to movies a number of times. His final film appearance was in 1981's Ghost Story, in which he costarred with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Melvyn Douglas. He may not have been a dancer in that film, but Astaire proved his own longevity by then, having entertained for 76 of his 88 years, and creating a catalog of thirty-one musicals.

ANSWER:  D). Jayne Mansfield.  She was not known for her dancing skills.

Holiday Inn

QUESTION:  Not only is Holiday Inn the name of a globally-famous hotel chain, but it is also a popular film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  In what year was the film released?
A)  1932
B)  1940
C)  1942
D)  1950

As the American Treasure Tour blog continues to explore our phillumeny collection - better known as our matchbooks - we have discovered a destination perfect for the current season: Grand Cayman.  Notably, the Holiday Inn located in Grand Cayman. So today, we would like to examine the birth of one of the best known and most popular hotel chains in the world: Holiday Inn. It all began in the mind of a man named Kemmons Wilson. Born in Arkansas in 1913, Wilson's father died before his first birthday. His mother moved him to Memphis, Tennessee, and that's where he lived for the remainder of his life - ninety years. He did travel, of course. And he found great inconsistencies in the places where he and his own family stayed as they drove cross country. He developed something of a fear of motels, and decided he would start his own that guaranteed quality accommodations. The first Holiday Inn was built in Memphis in 1952, and jokingly named after the popular Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire movie.

Wilson partnered with a man named Wallace Johnson to develop more motels, building their first headquarters out of a modified plumbing shed, and spreading their motels across the country. Within seven years, there were fifty motels dotting the landscape. By 1972 - only twenty years after Wilson built his first Holiday Inn - there were 1,400 motels scattered across the world. There are currently just around 2,700 Holiday Inns of different shapes, sizes and designs available in which to find lodging internationally.

ANSWER:  C)  1942