Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Webley Edwards

Pearly Shells

First recorded (in English) by The Hawaii Calls Orchestra & Chorus (1962).
Performed (as “Pupu a ‘o ‘Ewa”) in Donovan’s Reef (“1963).
Hit version by Burl Ives (US #60/MOR #12 1964).
Also recorded (as “First Night of the Full Moon”) by Jack Jones (US #59/AUS #8 1964).
Hit album version by Don Ho (1965).

From the wiki: “The song’s history can be traced traced to the discovery of pearl oysters at Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor), Hawaii. Webley Edwards, of ‘Hawaii Calls’ fame, and Leon Prober wrote English lyrics to the traditional Hawaiian song ‘Pupu a ‘o ‘Ewa’, creating the popular hapa-haole hit ‘Pearly Shells’, first recorded in 1962 by the Hawaii Calls Orchestra and Chorus for the album Webley Edwards Presents: Hawaii Calls, Waikiki After Dark.

“In 1928, Edwards had relocated from Oregon to Hawaii where he became an auto salesman. It was during this time he developed a keen interest in native Hawaiian musical traditions. In 1935 he became the producer for a radio show which showcased authentic island music, Hawaii Calls, originating from the Moana Hotel on Waikiki Beach and later distributed to radio stations worldwide.

“In 1963, the last John Ford movie to star John Wayne, Donovan’s Reef,was scored by the legendary Cyril Mockridge. The opening main title theme uses ‘Pupa O Ewa’ as its basic motif, appearing throughout the movie.

“The light-hearted comedy, filmed in Kauai, Hawaii (but set in French Polynesia), was what director Ford termed ‘a spoof picture – a whammy, crazy sort of thing. We [were] not going for any prizes.’ Although it became only a modest financial success, Donovan’s Reef was still the 24th highest-grossing film of 1963 (a year with included such stellar releases as Cleopatra, How the West Was Won, Tom Jones, and The Great Escape among the top ten).

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