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Author Topic:  Billy Hew Len
Michael Lee Allen


From:
Des Plaines Illinois just NW of ChIraq
Post  Posted 10 Dec 2016 8:53 am    
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"Billy's music seems relatively, shall we say, un-TAB'd compared to other players?'

MY opinion...as far as I know Billy only did two 45RPMs named as leader and they were both vocals, on a Christmas song and the other was probably a similar thing about May Day being Lei Day. He never had a solo LP as a leader, only the MOP LP as co-leader with Barney. He had to have played on hundreds of sessions but good luck finding any sideman credits on any Hawaiian LPs up to recent times. So you may hear something you like and want to learn but you have no idea who played the thing. About your only recourse is Musician Union recording session files in Honolulu or Los Angeles if you can access them, or talking to the people who were there and participated, and there aren't many of them left anymore. Jules Ah See is another example. He's way better known for his Pidgin-English comedy single "No Hu-Hu" than his handful of instrumental recordings. Most of those never even had a single release of their own but are scattered on compilation LPs that are long out-of-print and have to be hunted down. Barney Isaacs? Eddie Pang? Joe Custino? Where are their solo LPs as bandleaders and featured instrumentalists? There are none. Record companies didn't think there was a market for that kind of thing big enough to make a profit on so they didn't bother. Jerry Byrd is a different matter, he already had a long career and many major label LPs out before he moved to Hawaii, plus he taught on a regular and formal basis, and published instruction material. So most of the real heavy Hawaiian guys were strictly "local", they never toured or went to the mainland (except to record) , and they almost never got any credit on record labels or liner notes. They had plenty of work, everybody knew who they were and they were just a phone call away, the singers, promoters, and producers could find them, there was a strong union and they got paid. Everybody was pretty happy and it was a self-contained little world. An outsider thinks they had no recognition and they're right, outside of their own little world nobody knew or cared who they were. But they were successes in that little world of theirs, they were known, respected, and made a decent living.
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Chris Templeton


From:
The Green Mountain State
Post  Posted 10 Dec 2016 10:22 am    
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My pic of Billy at Jerry Byrd's Ho‘olaule‘a,1985:


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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 10 Dec 2016 10:25 am    
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Michael Lee Allen wrote:
"Billy's music seems relatively, shall we say, un-TAB'd compared to other players?'

MY opinion...as far as I know Billy only did two 45RPMs named as leader...... He had to have played on hundreds of sessions but good luck finding any sideman credits on any Hawaiian LPs up to recent times. So you may hear something you like and want to learn but you have no idea who played the thing. ..


Thank you for a well-thought out response.
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David Matzenik


From:
Cairns, on the Coral Sea
Post  Posted 10 Dec 2016 12:32 pm    
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Mike Neer wrote:
I have an audio DVD made by Hal Smith, a real gentleman from Canada, who recorded hours of lessons with Billy and also some of his performances. It's really great to listen to Billy's off the cuff demonstrations on his Frypan, changing his tunings drastically and showing the effects. A real treasure that I can't find at the moment.


That was Billy Hew Len: The Hal Smith Archive on mp3. We were very fortunate to be around when that was made available. One of the most important documents from the Hawaiian music era. Billy was a strong proponent of A6th tuning.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 10 Dec 2016 1:27 pm    
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David Matzenik wrote:
Mike Neer wrote:
I have an audio DVD made by Hal Smith, a real gentleman from Canada, who recorded hours of lessons with Billy and also some of his performances. It's really great to listen to Billy's off the cuff demonstrations on his Frypan, changing his tunings drastically and showing the effects. A real treasure that I can't find at the moment.


That was Billy Hew Len: The Hal Smith Archive on mp3. We were very fortunate to be around when that was made available. One of the most important documents from the Hawaiian music era. Billy was a strong proponent of A6th tuning.


I'd be happy to purchase those recordings!

I'm both a "strong proponent of A6th tuning" and a a fan of Billy Hew Len.
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post  Posted 5 Apr 2019 6:32 pm    
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The pictures in this thread are great! I visited Billy Hew Len's grave at Diamond Head Memorial Park (my first visit to Hawaii) a week or two ago...also where Barney Isaacs, Jules Ah See, Alfred Apaka, Haunani Kahalewai, and Randy Oness are interred. It felt a bit like hallowed ground.

As a (relatively) new convert to Hawaiian music I haven't found too many recordings of Billy (as compared to Jules and Barney) but the one I come back to repeatedly is the Jack de Mello album. Barney's playing on that is so muscular and swinging!

I've also wondered what copedents the Hawaiian pedallers (such as Jules, Barney from what I hear, and definitely Billy) used. Billy used A6 pretty regularly, but the recorded tapes of him describing his tunings (also on here somewhere) show him being pretty adaptable to a variety of tunings. I have my opinions on a few of the ways Jules Ah See had his Fender 1000 set up, just from listening to recordings, but I imagine the precise details are only open to conjecture at this point.

Some images:













After putting a couple leis on the statue at the Hawaiian Village and playing some of his classic tunes, there...it was his 100th birthday, March 19 2019:


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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 6 Apr 2019 4:47 am    
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I co-produced the audio DVD. Hal Smith very generously made these available as a fund raiser for the HSGA. The original discs are long sold-out but the content is now available here:

https://archive.org/details/LenThree03

Chuck Wilson did the heavy lifting of re-mastering these to digital from tape. Billy was a very generous cat.
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Last edited by Andy Volk on 6 Apr 2019 7:33 am; edited 1 time in total
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basilh


From:
United Kingdom
Post  Posted 6 Apr 2019 5:34 am    
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Excellent.. Many thanks Andy.
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Mike Anderson


From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2019 4:23 am    
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Can't forget the videos! Smile

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IrSq1rOoL4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP2SK7zc3wc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDfAdRlWEYE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOXCW7MD2wQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfqppDCKqgk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7R-UgsY8Ns
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