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Michael H. Goldsen and the Hawaiian Music He Published

(Michael H. Goldsen is CEO of Criterion Music, Hollywood)
Michael H. Goldsen
Michael Goldsen (center) with "Bud" Dant and Don Ho (right).

According to Michael Goldsen, his enthusiasm and interest in Polynesian music "all started in 1951 in a dentist's office." He began reading a "Holiday" magazine chapter about "an American ex-song plugger, Eddie Lund, who became the Irving Berlin of the Islands (Tahiti)" in a chapter from James Michener's "Return to Paradise". Goldsen contacted Lund "and a 43 year association began which was the entry of Criterion Music to Island music."

Soon, in Los Angeles, Goldsen joined the Polynesian Society, a charitable organization of natives of the Pacific Islands and "American aficionados". Sunday afternoons were spent enjoying Polynesian shows at a club called "Whislin's" on Sunset Blvd. The owner, Bill 'Whislin' Omellas was from Hawai`i. "The songwriters, singers, musicians and dancers who performed were a great introduction to Island music," Goldsen reports.

The next 45 years produced the wealth of authentic to hapa haole to exotic songs for which Criterion published the sheet music. In all the visits he made to Hawai`i, Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand (for Maori tunes) to acquire the songs, Goldsen notes "it proved one thing, the writers, artists and producers were the most wonderful, loyal and friendly people I have ever met", and the music "great songs by great writers."

Among the composers in Criterion's collection of sheet music and tapes are Irmgard Farden Aluli, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, Victoria I`i Rodrigues, R. Alex Anderson, Bina Mossman (all Hall of Fame honorees); Andy Cummings, Webley Edwards (Hawai`i Calls), James Norman Hall, Mel Peterson, Leon Pober, Jack Pitman, Tony Todaro & Mary Johnston, and Bob Nelson (Hall of Fame member and composer of the popular "Hanalei Moon" and "Maui Waltz")

Recognizable among the vocalists who sang the songs are Alfred Apaka, Bing Crosby, Don Ho. Many of the songs Michael Goldsen published were used in movies like "Donovan's Reef", "Hell's Half Acre", "Mr. Roberts", "The Revolt of Mamie Stover:, "Smokey and the Bandit". In 1962, as a result of his work in finding suitable Tahitian native songs for the MGM film "Mutiny on the Bounty", Goldsen (already an ASCAP member) received membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

After 63 years in the music business, Michael Goldsen is still turning out hits, and still services film companies with memorable Hawaiian music. Most recently he placed Andy Cumming's "Waikiki" in the film "Punch Drunk Love."

Criterion's output of sheet music, song books. LP recordings and audio tapes was made available internationally. Hawai`i and performing artists in many countries are the richer for it, as are we who just love to listen to the sound of songs which speak "Hawai`i" around the world.

If you would like to contact Criterion for its catalog, please email or write your name and address to our office with your request. (Out of respect for their privacy, we do not publish members' addresses.)

How Hawaiian Recording Popularity Surged

From his personal recollection, Goldsen relates that Hawaiian music popularity "began with the 1937 film 'Waikiki Wedding'". It featured Big Crosby singing "Blue Hawai`i" and "Sweet Leilani". He says both songs became big hits around the world and are now standards. The next phase, he recalls, was Andy Williams' recording of the "Hawaiian Wedding Song" in 1958, "with Al Hoffman and Dick Manning's new lyrics to Charles King's standard 'Ke Kali Nei Au'".

In the early 1950's, Goldsen says "there was resistance to new songs" when he started to get some of his Island songs recorded. "They were only interested in 'Blue Hawai`I' and "Sweet Leilani'". That's when he started producing records under his own label and for other companies. In 1951, he was asked to submit typical hapa-haole songs for the film "From Here to Eternity". Result: 6 songs in an LP on Coral Records by a band Goldsen organized. Five songs were used as background in "Mr. Roberts", for which Goldsen was made Island music consultant.

RCA commissioned him to record an LP "Hawaiian Guitar", which he made with Danny Kala`aua Stewart in Hawai`i. In the same year, Henry Kaiser hired him to produce Alfred Apaka's "Broadway Wears A Lei", now a collector's item.

"The real breakthrough in the lull experienced by island music in the late '50's and early '60's came in 1965", states Goldsen. "Don Ho recorded 'Pearly Shells' and it became an international hit." Goldsen goes on "then in 1966 he recorded "Tiny Bubbles" which exploded into a universal hit which launched him into world class stardom." (Criterion published "The Don Ho Songbook" in 1979.)

Michael Goldsen says his remembrance would be incomplete "without one wonderful man", Webley Edwards who produced the weekly radio show "Hawai`i Calls". "He wrote the shows, wrote the scripts, supervised the music, announced the shows, and "personally distributed tapes of the shows to a high of 650 stations world-wide." Edwards' "Hawai`i Calls" albums for Capitol Records "sold in the millions". More than that "he gave local (Hawaiian) artists and musicians a universal audience." Goldsen concludes that the caliber of writers and songs he worked with "represent a chapter in my publishing career that helped make it all worth while."

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Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 4717, Honolulu, HI 96812-4717
Phone: (808) 372-8921
Fax: (808) 596-8680
Email: HMHoF