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Blue Hawaii, Elvis and Hawaiian Radio in 1961

Image of 1961 Elvis BHI Soundtrack Album

‘Blue Hawaii’ was Billboard’s #1 Pop Album for 1961/62
© Wikipedia

In 1961, Hawaii was into its second year as the 50th state of the union, the state wide population was estimated at around 642,000 from the US Census the previous year, and the presidential elections held at the same time gave the Democrats the slightest of majorities in the state with 50.03%.

The Pali Highway opened that same year, making travel across Oahu much faster, whilst the nation’s first state wide zoning authority was established with the State Land Use Commission.

Across the islands, an ever growing number of radio stations had already reached 20 on AM and 3 on FM, with all but 5 located on the island of Oahu. For such a small and concentrated population, radio market saturation was already clearly in evidence.

Map of Hawaii

Map of Hawaii, detail from a Hawaii Visitor Bureau advertisement 1960
© Radio Heritage Foundation Collection

The most popular music on the radio dials that year according to the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 ranged from Bobby Lewis at #1 with ‘Tossin’ and Turnin’’, Patsy Cline at #2 with ‘I Fall to Pieces’ through songs by Roy Orbison, Del Shannon and Chubby Checker amongst others, whilst the #1 Pop Album was the soundtrack to the movie ‘Blue Hawaii’ by Elvis Presley.

Recorded in March 1961, ‘Blue Hawaii’ was released later in the year, around a month before the movie itself. Filmed at the famed Coco Palms Resort on Kauai, the movie went into release in the weeks before Christmas and with timing that brought smiles to the faces of hoteliers across Hawaii as tourists flocked to the islands that winter.

Sheraton Hotels advert

Sheraton Hotels already had a group of properties near the beach at Waikiki as shown in this magazine advertisement from 1959
© Radio Heritage Foundation Collection

With radio stations such as KPOI, KORL, KGMB and KULA providing the music soundtrack, life in Hawaii was relaxed for the visitors, the locals and the thousands of military personnel stationed across the islands.

Cable TV was introduced by Kaiser Teleprompter in 1961 and the famed Dillingham Corporation was forged from the merger of the Oahu Railway & Land Company with the Hawaii Dredging & Construction Company.

Reflecting the growing strength of the local tourism industry as jet aircraft began to replace cruise ships as the way to visit the islands, the Federation of Hotel Workers was also established that year.

More seriously, it was also the 20th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and one of the hotel guests at the Kaiser Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel in 1961 gave a charity concert to raise funds for the Arizona Memorial.

Poster for 1961 Elvis Pearl Harbor Show

Elvis Presley performed this benefit show for the Pacific War Memorial Commission just two days after concluding his Hollywood recording sessions for ‘Blue Hawaii’ in March 1961

Change was coming in other ways as well, with Chinese businessman Chinn Ho leading a group of local business interests to buy a controlling interest in the long established local newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin which also owned radio KGMB Honolulu and its Hilo sister station KHBC.

Radio had arrived in the islands in 1922 with KGU, owned by competing local newspaper the Honolulu Advertiser, and KGMB had followed some years later as the second station in the then Territory of Hawaii.

After World War II, a growing number of radio broadcasters emerged to build local stations, and even by 1961, most of these local and original owners were still in charge and off-shore owned stations and ‘clusters’ were some years away.

This was still a time of local hometown radio, with studios largely clustered around downtown Honolulu and along Ala Moana Boulevard as it swept towards the beach at Waikiki. Listeners could drop by, talk to the DJ and the atmosphere was laid back, island time and island style.

1961 Bell Aloha Shirt

Communications with Hawaii were expensive as these Bell Telephone rates from the mainland at the time clearly demonstrate. Love the shirt though!
© Radio Heritage Foundation Collection

Within the islands themselves, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii were still sleepy backwaters, and the outer islands had but a handful of local stations in 1961 with KMVI on Maui, KTOH on Kauai, and KIMO and KIPA on Hilo in addition to KHBC.

One noticeable feature of Hawaiian broadcasting in 1961 was the amount of airtime already dedicated to Japanese and Filipino language programs, with KOHO 1170 all Japanese all the time. Lacking, apart from popular music shows like ‘Hawaii Calls’, was a dedicated Hawaiian language broadcaster

Hawaiian Radio Dial in 1961

550KMVIWailukuMauiMaui Publishing Company

Letterhead from KMVI Maui

Letterhead from KMVI Maui
© David Ricquish Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

The only station on the island of Maui, KMVI was another post-war baby, having commenced on March 17, 1947 and with 9 hours in Japanese and 3 hours in Filipino as part of its weekly broadcast schedule.

Part of the NBC and All-Islands networks, representatives were Don Pickens [San Francisco], Clark [New York], Oakes [Los Angeles] and Hartley Ward [Chicago].

Card from KMVI Maui

Chief Engineer Spencer Shiraishi often sent cards to listeners
© David Ricquish Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

J Walter Cameron held the role of president whilst station manager was Richard E Mawson. Program director was Nora Cooper, promotions manager Bert Biehl, news director Earl I Tanaka and chief engineer Spencer Shiraishi.

590KGMBHonoluluOahuHawaiian Broadcasting System Ltd

The second station in the territory at the time, KGMB began in 1929 and was owned by the publishers of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper. It operated from studios at 1534 Kapiolani Blvd and was relayed through KHBC in Hilo.

Confirmation message from KGMB Honolulu

Simple reception confirmation message from KGMB Honolulu
© David Ricquish Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Elizabeth P Farrington was president, whilst M Franklyn Warren was both VP and general manager. John De Marco was program director, Bette Edgerton the promotions manager and Wayne L Collins handled the role of news director. Chief engineer was Ronald T Miyahira.

650KORLHonoluluOahuRadio Hawaii Inc

Established just after WWII, KORL broadcast from studios at 575 Kamoku St and included a couple of hours of Filipino in its weekly schedule.

Confirmation letter from KORL

KORL Honolulu changed it’s call letters from KKAA a few weeks before the start of 1961
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Represented by Eastman, Robert G Monroe held the position of president whilst Harold J Davis was general manager.

690KULAHonoluluOahuKULA Broadcasting Corporation

Since signing on in May 1947, KULA covered the islands with a strong signal, and broadcast from studios at 830 Ala Moana Blvd. The station was represented by McGovern.

Image of KULA hula girl

For some time KULA used a curvy hula girl as part of its promotions
© Des Davey Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Charles Stuart III held the role of president, whilst Robert L Johnson was general manager and Wayne Killmer was local sales manager. J A Lawton was program director, John Hughes the news director and Bob Miller the chief engineer.

760KGUHonoluluOahuAdvertiser Publishing Company Ltd

The publishers of the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper started radio in the islands with KGU back on May 11 1922, and in 1961 it had one of the three most powerful signals in Hawaii with 10,000 watts power along with KORL and KULA.

NBC and All-Islands were the two networks and NBC Spot Sales handled representation. KGU also broadcast Japanese and Filipino language programs during its weekly schedule in 1961.

Image of KGU logo

KGU Honolulu identified with its early Hawaiian heritage
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

KGU president was Lorrin P Thurston, William O Paine was VP and general manager, George C Mansfield was the commercial manager and Patt Patterson was busy as program director and promotions manager. Alex Noh looked after the news department and Takumi Shigetani handled technical matters as chief engineer.

830KIKIHonoluluOahuKIKI Ltd


Gladys Lunasco at the original KIKI found time to sign off some station correspondence
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Broadcasting from studios at 323 Kamani Ave and represented by Meeker, KIKI included 21 hours of Japanese programs and 8 hours of Filipino programs in its weekly schedule and began broadcasting ten years earlier in April 1951.

President and chief engineer was Royal V Howard, Angelo J Rossi held the roles of executive-VP and general manager, Gladys Lunasco was office manager and sales manager position was held by Chubby Rowland.

850KIMOHiloHawaiiJames E Jaeger

Image of James Jaeger's signature

James Jaeger often wrote personally to KIMO listeners
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

James Jaeger was president and chief engineer of this local station, originally established on April 1 1950 and part of the Keystone Network. Represented by Continental Sales, KIMO broadcast some programs each week in Japanese and Filipino languages. Station manger and program director was Mrs Lillian Cunningham, commercial manager was Lorrin Henry, and Bill Wilson was the news director.

Image of KIMO QSL

KIMO station manager Lillian Cunningham also took the time to write.
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

870KAIMHonoluluOahuChristian Broadcasting Association

Started just five years earlier on August 31 1956, KAIM was represented by Fine Music Hi-Fi Broadcasters and Tracy Moore and offered 15 hours a week in Japanese and another 10 hours weekly in Filipino as part of its program line-up.

Image of KAIM letterhead 1961

KAIM promoted both its AM and FM stations on its letterhead in 1961
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Robert C Loveless was president, Cornelius Keur was another busy man as executive VP, general manager and commercial manager, whilst Geral Fogelsong handled roles as program director and news director. Robert L Lyon was chief engineer.

Since November 1 1953, the station had opened KAIM-FM and was at 95.5 FM, one of just a handful of FM signals to be found along the dial in the islands.

920KAHUWaipahuOahuRural Broadcasting Company

On the air since September 1950 and broadcasting to the plantation workers north of Honolulu, KAHU included over 37 hours in Japanese, almost 17 hours in Filipino and almost 3 hours weekly in Chinese.

Letterhead from The Voice of Rural Oahu, KAHU

Letterhead from The Voice of Rural Oahu, KAHU
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Represented by Pearson, station president was Timothy Wee whilst general and commercial manager was Harry Chu. John Livingston was program director, news director and promotions manager and Robert Parson held the role of chief engineer.

970KHBCHiloHawaiiHawaiian Broadcasting System Ltd

One of just three radio stations on the Big Island in 1961, KHBC was also a relay station for KGMB Honolulu. It was established 25 years earlier in 1936.

KHBC logo

The KHBC logo was one of the very few to include some Hawaiian
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

990KOODHonoluluOahuAla Moana Broadcasting Company

Another relative new comer to the radio dial, KOOD was in the process of upping its signal power in 1961, and broadcast from studios at 1450 Ala Moana Blvd with programs including 28 hours a week in Japanese.

KOOD letter

The Japanese Variety Hour from KOOD 990 AM Honolulu was heard from California to New Zealand wrote Ted Scott
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Represented by Theo B Hall, KOOD was headed by president Alister W MacDonald with Perry W Carle as general manager. Ted R Scott was both sales manager and program director, MacDowell Starkey handled roles as production and promotions managers and Neal J Nagata was chief engineer.

1040KHVHHonoluluOahuKaiser Hawaiian Village Radio Inc

Broadcasting from 1290 Ala Moana Blvd, KHVH signed on March 18 1957. The station also broadcast 30 minutes a week in Spanish, whilst representation was handled by Young.

KHVH logo

From tall towers atop the ultra modern Hawaiian Village Hotel at Waikiki, KHVH liked to present itself as the little station from the original grass shack
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

VP was Richard C Block, general manager was John A Serrao and station manager was William H Coney. Harold O’Hara was business manager, Peter V Taylor the program director, John Galbraith the news director and Robert Z Kendall handled promotions.

1090KHAIHonoluluOahuRobert Sherman

Licensed but not on the air in 1961.

1110KIPAHiloHawaiiBig Island Broadcasting Co

Another of a cluster of stations started shortly after WWII, KIPA began operations on September 10 1947 and joined several networks, MBS, NBC and the Inter-Island & All-Islands Network. Representation was by Hollingberry. KIPA’s specialized programs included 29 hours weekly in Japanese and just over 7 hours weekly in Filipino.

KIPA logo

Very classy and modern 1950’s studio design from KIPA Hilo
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Thomas J McBride was president in 1961, R W Jaderstrom was busy as general manager, vice-president and chief engineer, and Larry Tavares was the program director.

1130KEKOKailuaOahuEgal Radio

One of several stations licensed to Kailua on the opposite side of the island from Honolulu, KEKO was not yet on the air.

1170KOHOHonoluluOahuCosmopolitan Broadcasting Ltd

Only a year old in 1961, having commenced operations the previous February 3, KOHO was the only fulltime non-English broadcaster in the islands, with 18 hours daily in Japanese.

Confirmation card from KOHO

Frank Fitch signed this confirmation card for reception of KOHO
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Located at 1140-A 12th Ave, KOHO was represented by Grant Webb & Co, and general manager was Hideo Sato. National sales and commercial manager was Frank W Fitch, whilst program director was Rinzo Yano. Others on-board the station included Isao Murakami as promotions manager and Sinichiro Nishikata as news director.

1240KLEIKailuaOahuOahu Broadcasting Co Inc

Broadcasting from the Kailua Shopping Center since December 7 1954, KLEI then operated with low power 250 watts, and Jack Latham as president and Jack Irvine as VP and general manager.

Confirmation card from KLEI

Although such a low power, KLEI was heard as far away as New Zealand
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

1270KNDIHonoluluOahuJames T Ownby

Very new on the dial, KNDI began broadcasting on July 11 1960, and Jim Ownby was also general manager, whilst Raymer handled advertising representation.

Confirmation card from KNDI

Station owner and GM Jim Ownby took time out from his duties to sign this early card confirming reception of KNDI a few months after it began operations
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

1380KPOIHonoluluOahuKPOI Broadcasters

Anchoring the ‘top of the dial’ in Honolulu with 5,000 watts, KPOI was a strong signal heard throughout the islands since 1946, broadcasting from studios at 1701 Ala Wai Blvd.

Advertising revenue was gathered through representation in New York [Masala] and both San Francisco and Los Angeles [Torbet, Allen & Crane] and the station executive included H G Fernhead as president, Fin Hollinger as VP and general manager and Ray Gallagher as commercial manager.

Confirmation card from KPOI

KPOI president H G Fernhead signed this simple card for reception 5000 miles away from Honolulu in 1960
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Tom Rounds held the coveted program director role, Ronald Jacobs was promotions manager, Bow Lowrie the news director, and Ernest Lindman rounded out the executive suite as chief engineer.

Already preparing for the next generation of listeners, KPOI-FM was shortly scheduled on the air with a powerful 27,500 watts on 97.5 FM.

1490KTOHLihueKauaiGarden Island Publishing Co Ltd

Owned by publishers of the Garden Island weekly, KTOH signed on May 8 1940 and was still the only station broadcasting on Kauai 21 years later. Part of the NBC network it was highest station on the state radio dial but with a low 250 watts power.

Letterhead of KTOH

KTOH featured a relaxed garden setting on its letterhead
© Laurie Boyer Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Programs included Japanese and Filipino language broadcasts each week, and the station president and general manager was Charles J Fern. Sales manager was Tad Elo, and Katashi Nose was the chief engineer.

88.1KVOKHonoluluOahuKamehameha Schools

The only educational radio station in the islands, low power KVOK had been established back in October 1953 and included one hour of French language lessons in its schedule. Harold W Kent was president, Robert F Ritterhoof the general manager.

In 1961, the Hawaiian Association of Broadcasters included Cornelius Keur [KAIM-AM-FM] as president, Bob Severy [KGMB-TV] as VP and Richard H Lee [KOOD] as secretary-treasurer.

Here are some nice items of related ‘Blue Hawaii’ memorabilia you can buy from us and if you have any personal memories or memorabilia about radio in Hawaii back in 1961 or around that time, please 'email' us:
Enjoy this feature? See also our popular ‘Art of Radio Hawaii’ feature for more about the maps, hula girls and little grass shacks of broadcasting in Hawaii.
An evocative image from KLEI 1240

An evocative image from KLEI 1240 one of the many stations that feature in the ‘Art of Radio Hawaii’ Exhibition
© Laurie Boyer Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Basic station data derived from Broadcasting Yearbook 1961/62 scanned by courtesy of .

This feature is made possible thanks to
A Norwegian radio listener


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