Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Pearly Shells

Performed (as “Pupu a ‘o ‘Ewa”) in Donovan’s Reef (“1963).
Also recorded by The Hawaii Calls Orchestra & Chorus (1965).
Hit album version by Don Ho (1965).

From the wiki: “Donovan’s Reef, the last John Ford movie to star John Wayne, was scored by the legendary Cyril Mockridge. The opening main title theme uses the traditional Hawaiian song ‘Pupa O Ewa’ as its basic motif, reappearing throughout the movie. The song’s history is traced to the discovery of pearl oysters at Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor).

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

“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 1965 by the Hawaii Calls Orchestra and Chorus for the album Webley Edwards Presents: Hawaii Calls, Waikiki After Dark.

“Don Ho was a singer of Native Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, and German descent, born in Honolulu. In 1954, Ho entered the United States Air Force and spent time flying C-97s with the Military Air Transport Service (MATS). Transferred to Travis AFB, California, he went to the local city of Concord and bought an electronic keyboard from a music store, and recalls, ‘That’s when it all started.’

“Ho left the United States Air Force in 1959 due to his mother’s developing illness and began singing at her club, ‘Honey’s’, in Kaneohe. Honey’s became a hotspot for servicemen from nearby Kane’ohe Marine Base. In 1963, Ho moved the Kāne’ohe Honey’s to Waikīkī. After much success there, promoter Kimo Wilder McVay sought Ho to play at a night club called ‘Duke’s’, owned by surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku, where he caught the attention of record company officials. Signed to Reprise Records, Ho released his debut album, The Don Ho Show!, in 1965, on which was included ‘Pearly Shells’.

“In the 1970s, C&H Sugar used the melody for their jingle. (The ‘C&H’ in the brand name stands for ‘California” and ‘Hawaii’.)”

The Hawaii Calls Orchestra & Chorus, “Pearly Shells” (1965):

Don Ho, “Pearly Shells” (1965):

Don Ho & Glen Campbell, “Galveston” and “Pearly Shells” (1969):

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