FEBRUARY 17, 2007

HAWAIIAN GUITARIST MARY KA’AIHUE (KAYE) DIED–FIRST LADY OF ROCK

Born on January 9, 1924, in Detroit, Mary was granddaughter of Prince Kuhio, brother of Queen Liliuokalani, last monarch of Hawaii.  At age 12, her father had Mary performing in his band, Johnny Ka’aihue’s Royal Hawaiians.  When Kaye split off to form the Mary Ka’aihue Trio, her brother Norman had her change her name to “Kaye” fearing audiences would expect Hawaiian music.  With Mary on guitar, Norman on bass, and Frank Ross, the group’s comedian, on accordion, the group played Las Vegas until 1966 and changed the history of the city.  In 1950, the owner of the “Last Frontier” on Vegas Strip wanted to keep the band there.  Without a room to go to, Mary suggested a stage be built in the bar area and called a “lounge.” The first act called a “Lounge Group,” they performed between 1 and 6 a.m. and helped turn Las Vegas into a 24-hour town.  Kaye performed solo into the 1970s.  Fender Guitars named a Stratocaster after her in 1956, though she usually used D’Angelico guitars.   

Source:  Valerie J. Nelson, “Mary Kaye, 83; singer brought all-night lounge acts to Las Vegas,” Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2007.  Retrieved 12/19/2019,  https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2007-feb-20-me-kaye20-story.html
Photo:  El Rancho Vegas Hotel, pre-1960.  Advertising Postcard.  Fair Use.  Source: https://www.ebay.com/itm/El-Rancho-Vegas-Nevada-Mary-Kaye-Trio-Entertainers-Vintage-Advertising-Postcard-/362875872676.

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