Sol Hoʻopiʻi: Steel Guitar Virtuoso And 21st Child

Have you ever read those articles about birth order? You know, the ones that say things like this?

Frankly, I don’t think any of these would apply to today’s funny-named musician; Sol Hoʻopiʻi was born Child Numero 21 to his large Hawaiian family. TWENTY-ONE, y’all. That SURPASSES both the Duggars AND the Bates Family, who both only bore 19 total. I’d like to know if all his siblings had apostrophes in their names, too! What’s up with all the apostrophes?

Per, the ‘Okina is the apostrophe mark and is a glottal stop – or a brief break in the word… As an example, think of the English oh oh – the small break, or silence, between the first oh and the second oh is the same break you would make if an ‘Okina appeared in the word (for example… oh’oh).

All told, Solomon Hoʻopiʻi Kaʻaiʻai  has four breaks in his full name.

Born in 1902 in Honolulu, little Sol began to sing and play at an early age. By three, he was playing the ukulele, and added the Hawaiian steel guitar to his repertoire a decade later. Little did he know he would one day be considered the all-time best lap steel guitar virtuoso, among notable Hawaiian steel guitarist such as Joseph Kekuku, Frank Ferera, Sam Ku West and “King” Bennie Nawahi.

At age 17, Sol and two of his buds stowed away on the ocean liner Matsonia. They busked and charmed other passengers, who evidently took up a collection to pay their fares. After landing in San Francisco, the teens played a few clubs and headed to Los Angeles. Sol’s friends eventually returned to Hawaii, but Sol remained in The States. In 1924, he formed the Sol Hoʻopiʻi Trio with Glenwood Leslie and Lani McIntyre, performing at popular Polynesian-themed night venues.

78 Revoluciones -

78 Revoluciones –

From 1933-1938, he recorded his best-known Hawaiian hula and hapa-haole songs as Sol Hoopii’s Novelty Trio, Novelty Quartette and Novelty Five. Preferring the acoustic lap steel guitar, he switched to electric lap steel at the age of 33 and developed an original tuning, in addition to the open A or open G tunings commonly in use at the time.

In 1938, Hoʻopiʻi said sayonara to his secular career and joined the evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson on tour. See the video below of him playing hymns on his lap steel guitar, accompanied by Christian composer Phillip Stanley Kerr  on the piano. Kerr introduces him as “hope-y,” though it was pronounced “hoopy.” Cheeky wikipedia added, “Both prior to, and for years after, Hawaii’s attaining statehood, many mainlanders mispronounced the state’s name as How-Wah-Yah, leading to show biz jokes about the 50th state of “How Are Ya?” ). Didja know that?

Six months before Sol’s death, he and fellow Christian Hawaiian steel guitar player Bud Tutmarc recorded a live Seattle performance of Indiana March and other gospel medleys. Sol passed in November of 1953. Aloha.

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25 Responses to Sol Hoʻopiʻi: Steel Guitar Virtuoso And 21st Child

  1. Benson says:

    What an interesting man. I bet he had some stories to tell. Do you have any knowledge of Indiana March. I asked Mr. Google and he was clueless.

  2. Dave says:

    Totes reasonable to start referring to him as “Sol” midway through the post…. that’s a lot of apostrophes. Great find, kerbey!

  3. Sol was child no. 21, but was he the youngest? Hells bells, poor mumma!…I didn’t know the apostrophe was called the ‘okina in Hawaiian. Very hard to pronounce a word starting with a glottal stop…

  4. Now I’ve learned something. How amazing, hymns Hawaiian style! My cat went running for cover!

  5. Bumba says:

    Good to see BOFN hot on the trail of multiple apostrophes. BTW, there’s the joke about a tourist asking someone about the correct pronunciation of Hawaii. He’s told it’s HAVAII. Thanks says the tourist. You’re velcome is the comeback.

  6. My husband thinks I am from a big family (I am #5 of 8 kids) and people comment that I have a lot of kids (I have four boys – hardly a huge number) so I feel like I should make up a little index card about this chap being the 21st child so that I can silence people.

    • kerbey says:

      That’s the only reason I posted it. I’m tired of people getting on your case. Tell them to step off, that Hoopi’s parents didn’t stop at 20. Actually, 8 is big! In fact, I grew up watching a show called “Eight Is Enough.” But what does that imply? Four will suffice? Then you are sufficient. 🙂 Oh, how I wanted a big family!

      • Well my siblings and I came in batches – 4-2-2 – so there were never all eight of us in the house at once. My older brothers were married with kids and I was in my mid-teens by the time my youngest siblings were born. It didn’t feel like a big family – though there was no way I was going to have eight kids. I have friends who have 7 and 9 kids each. My four is quite modest really. I know a lot of families with four kids. I don’t think it is that unusual. 21, however, does deserve being noted.

  7. I can’t imagine having 21 children. After four, your husband could just pull out a catcher’s mitt. One of my neighbors has 7 children. It’s amazing watching them pile into the “mini” van. Mini being the oxymoron.

  8. ksbeth says:

    what a cool story –

  9. wdydfae says:

    “. . . after knocking off the Big Kahanamoku in 2014, Kerbey returns to hit the Hawai’ian surf once more with this bright sunny splash of a post . . .”

    “. . . few could combine birth order ruminations, instruction in Hawaiian phonetics, and slide guitar Gospel to such potent effect . . . kudos . . .”

    “. . . Kerbey traces the rich life of this musical stowaway, in the process making us rethink everything we thought we knew abou’ apostro’es and glo’al stops . . . It’s ma’ical! . . .”

  10. Pingback: Mopsy Strange Kennedy, Ph.D. | The Blog of Funny Names

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