Born Donald Tai Loy “Don” Ho, August 13, 1930 in Oahu, Hawaii, one of nine children. His father, James Ah You Puao Ho, of Chinese descent, and mother, Emily “Honey” Leimaile Silva, of Portuguese descent, all deserving the attention of funny name enthusiasts.
Attending Springfield College in Massachusetts on a football scholarship in 1949, he grew homesick after a year and returned to Hawaii where he married high school sweetheart, Melva May Kolokea Wong in 1951. The were married 48 years until her death in 1999. She was the mother of his first six children. He fathered four more in subsequent relationships.
They are Donnie Jr., Donalei, Dayna, Dondi, Dori, Dwight, Kea, Healii, Hoku, and Kaimana. (Funny Names Theorists: Don’t you feel the Izzy Skenazy Postulate here?)
He earned a B.A. in sociology from the University of Hawaii in 1953. After graduation he joined the Air Force and became a fighter pilot. When he transferred to Hamilton AFB, California, he purchased the Hammond electronic keyboard, which started his career.
His mother became ill in 1959. So Don left the Air Force, honorably discharged, to help with his family’s cocktail lounge named Honey’s in Honolulu. His father encourage him to perform his music to attract patrons. He formed a small band and with his easy, lei’d back style (it’s Hawaii), and humorous banter the lounge boomed. Even attracting customers from the Kaneohe Marine Base. He always honored the military because of his own years of military service.
Soon he played for the larger hotels in the area. By 1965 he signed with Reprise Records and his popular live albums, “The Don Ho Show” and “Don Ho–Again!” were released. In 1966 he released “Tiny Bubbles”, which rose to number eight that year on the billboard charts becoming his signature song.
By the Seventies he’d made cameo appearances on “The Brady Bunch”, “I Dream of Jeannie”, “Batman”, “Charlie’s Angels”, “Fantasy Island” and “McCloud”.
By the latter seventies, his popularity on the mainland faded. However, with his charisma and natural charm he never lacked for an audience on his home surf, (I love Hawaii). Hailed as Hawaii’s equivalent to the Rat Pack in terms of style and enduring popularity, he performed for over forty years.
He would open and close his shows at the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel with his signature song, “Tiny Bubbles” where he made his last appearance two days before his death in 2007. He would often include his children in his shows. One of his daughters, Hoku, his seventh child, launched her own career as a result. His show still goes on as the Ohana Ho Show (Ohana meaning family). Some of his family, band members and members of the original production staff are part of the show.
In this video at the Hollywood Palace in 1961, he gives a shout out to Lawrence Welk, and the man shaking his hand at the end is Donald O’Conner.
Mahalo Mr. Ho.