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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Rahsaan Roland Kirk

When we say someone plays a lot of instruments it usually doesn’t mean playing them at the same time. Unless it’s Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1935-1977).


Rahsaan Roland Kirk

But this wasn’t a street performer gimmick. Rahsaan was a legend, a prodigiously talented jazzman, an inspired and soulful performer, a one man reed section, and a tireless innovator, adapting not only music but also numerous musical instruments (many of them rare) to his needs. He was also a poet, a dreamer, an impromptu stage comic and political ranter.

Rahsaan often played with the greatest of the greats. For a sampler, here is Rahsaan with McCoy Tyner (piano), Stanley Clarke (bass), Lenny White (drums), and Quincy Jones (emcee) at a Downbeat poll awards concert in 1975.

Our faithful Wikipedia offers a commendable entry that follows Rahsaan’s life and assesses his music and legacy. Theodore Ronald Kirk lost his sight at an early age because of bad medical treatment. He was prompted in a dream to switch the “n” and “l” in Ronald, and later, in another dream, was induced to drop the Theodore, and adopt “Rahsaan” instead.

More from Wikipedia:

Kirk played and collected a number of musical instruments, mainly various saxophones, clarinets and flutes. His main instruments were tenor saxophone supplemented by other saxes, like two obscure saxophones: the stritch (a straight alto sax lacking the instrument’s characteristic upturned bell) and a manzello (a modified saxello soprano sax, with a larger, upturned bell). A number of his instruments were exotic or homemade. Kirk modified instruments himself to accommodate his simultaneous playing technique.

He typically appeared on stage with all three horns hanging around his neck, and at times he would play a number of these horns at once, harmonizing with himself, or sustain a note for lengthy durations by using circular breathing. He used the multiple horns to play true chords, essentially functioning as a one-man saxophone section. Kirk insisted that he was only trying to emulate the sounds he heard in his head. Even while playing two or three saxophones at once, the music was intricate, powerful jazz with a strong feel for the blues.

Yes, folks, Rahsaan played  stritch, manzello, and saxello.

Among his other achievements, Rahsaan was one of the great jazz flautists. You may know that without knowing you know; his is the brief flute solo in “Soul Bossa Nova,” the Quincy Jones’ arrangement that became the Austin Powers theme. Rashaan plays from 1:38, in his characteristic breathless style:

In my younger days I mostly listened to his live albums Bright Moments and Volunteered Slavery. In the latter he memorably quipped from the stage:

“I was totally blind when I came on here.”

You can hear it at 6:42 in this clip. The soul postlude that starts at 15:47 is also one of my favorite vamps.

If you’re still with me, let’s round this up with the title cut from Bright Moments, which includes some classic (and beautiful) poetic banter from Rahsaan:


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Blixa Bargeld Just Needs To Be Held

Hello, dear readers of Funny Names! Today we learn about an odd fellow indeed. On this very day in 1959 (the same year that the US would grant statehood to both Alaska and Hawaii and then ne’er again add a star to our unfurled Stars and Stripes), little future-musician Blixa Bargeld was being birthed across the ocean. Presumably he looked as all infants do, squishy and diminutive, but then he grew up and made some questionable life choices. See below.



It’s like a goth/punk Edward Scissorhands stapled his head to a mirror during a rebarbative hallucination. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This precious child was initially born with the perfectly good name of Christian Emmerich. Growing up in West Berlin, his first album was Pink Floyd, but he was later influenced by German rock (Krautrock) acts Kraftwerk, Neu! and Can. When he left home in the late 70s to pursue music, he decided to create a stage name to go with his new persona.

After some thought, he decided upon Blixa, a German brand of blue felt pen, and Bargeld, which is German for cash.

Let me get this straight. The name he chose was: pen + cash.

That’s like if I changed my name to Sharpie Benjamins. Of course, they don’t have Benjamins in Germany, where he was born–because Ben Franklin isn’t on their $100 bill. But did you know the word “dollar” comes from German word “Taler”? Per, taler is short for Joachimstaler, the German name for a town where coins called “Taler” were first minted at around year 1500. 

Taler, taler, bill, y’all. Listen to me, gettin’ all hip-hop up in here.

But Blixa Bargeld was anything but hip-hop. In 1980, he founded his own group Einstürzende Neubauten, which as we all know means “collapsing new buildings.” Isn’t that fun? Sounds like a structural issue.

Notable Australian musician Nick Cave of  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was touring in Amsterdam when he had the (mis)fortune of seeing Bargeld’s band on TV. Per wikipedia, Cave described the music as “mournful,” Bargeld as looking “destroyed,” and his screams as “a sound you would expect to hear from strangled cats or dying children.” They later met in a bar (where Bargeld pretended not to know English despite that he full-well did), and eventually Cave invited him to join his band as a guitarist (at which Bargeld was skilled) and as a backing vocalist (perhaps he liked strangled cats?).

In an online interview, Cave said, “He’s a creation of some sort where you can’t even imagine that he could have parents. You can’t even imagine what coupling of normal people could create that thing.” Mercy!

Despite his eccentricities, he has continued his career in music–with wonderfully-named folks such as sound engineer Boris Wilsdorf, collaborator Alva Noto, and Italian composer Teho Teardo.

Age has not diminished his ability to focus on the mournful and depressing; in November 2014, the album, Lament, was released. It was described as a “concept album based on a live performance and installation commissioned by the Flemish city of Diksmuide, Belgium to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War in 1914.” Festive! And on that note, this is Sharpie Benjamins, signing off.

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Welcome to the Funny Names Blog!

Greetings funny names fans! Since Dave is under the weather, I couldn’t let this moment go by without sharing with you that the BoFN has turned five. Here is the first ever post on the BoFN, by none other than our esteemed colleague, Arto.

So let’s celebrate like a Muppet! Happy anniversary to you our fans!

The Blog of Funny Names

Welcome! We’re so glad you’ve stumbled onto the blog.

What is the Funny Names Blog?

Well, to a point it is fairly self-explanatory. We are not a physics blog after the Nobel Prize here. We are here to introduce you to the vast expanses of people with funny names.

There is a bit more to it than that. We won’t be featuring your uncle Reginald here (fine man that he is). The purpose of our blog is to highlight people with unusual, entertaining, peculiar, occasionally unpronounceable, and certainly out of the ordinary names, who have nonetheless, or perhaps because of it, accomplished great things in life. We are not here to make fun of anyone, but to bring some fun into this world with words and names.

Let’s face it, if you one day met a person named Dick Assman, you would probably smile too.

This is a humble undertaking…

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Íslensku Jólasveinarnir, The Icelandic Yule Lads

Halló funny names fans. Happy New Year!

Today’s post, Icelandic lore. Every evening during the two weeks before Christmas one of the Yule Lads, also know as Iceland’s 13 Santas, come down from the mountains surrounding Dimmuborgir and cause trouble around the homes and farms in Iceland so their mother, Grýla—a troll, can eat the naughty children. The lads hang out for two weeks, then head for home one at a time during the two weeks after Christmas.

Starting 13 days before Christmas, the children of Iceland leave a shoe in the window each night. If the children are good, the Lads will leave them a treat, if they’ve been bad, they will leave a raw potato in their shoe. Beats a lump of coal.

Pronunciation guide video:

The lads in order of appearance:

Stekkjastaur also known as Sheep-Cote Clod. He harangues sheep, trying to drink their milk directly from the source. He lost his legs in an accident. Now he clods around using peg-legs. His new legs are stiff, so the sheep seem to be safe. Unless he takes up Yoga.

Giljagaur a.k.a. Gully Gawk. Like his brother, he has a milk fixation. He hides in gullies, watching for the moment he can steal milk from the cow shed.

Stúfur a.k.a. Stubby is the shortest of his family. Did I mention he has 71 or more siblings? His mom, must be very busy on Mother’s Day. Back to Stubby, he swipes pans to eat any left over crusties. Move over garbage disposal and dishwasher, Stubby’s in town.

Þvörusleikir a.k.a. Spoon Licker, gets his kicks when he licks a Þvörur. It’s a long-handled wooden spoon used to stir food. He’s pretty much suffering from malnutrition these days.

Askasleikir a.k.a. Bowl Licker. He’s doing better than his brother, Spoon Licker. He hides under beds waiting for bowls of food to be put on the floor. It used to be left overs in an askur, a lidded bowl. I’ll bet nowadays he checks to see which house has the most pets. It chow time.

Hurðaskellir a.k.a. Door Slammer. A Sagittarius, his hobbies include losing his temper and slamming doors while people sleep. Okay, I made that up about being a Sagittarius.

Skyrgámur a.k.a. Skyr Gobbler. Skyr is the Icelandic equivalent to yogurt. This lad is especially enchanted by the current Skyr novelty products showing up on the market these days, including drinkable Skyr. Also a member of the clean plate club and firm believer in stretchy pants.

Bjúgnakrækir a.k.a. Sausage Swiper. This nimble lad hides in rafters waiting for opportunities to steal sausage. In days of yore, homemade sausages were hung from the rafters to smoke. That doesn’t happen anymore. However, with the introduction of the pepperoni pizza, this lad’s waistline expanded into new territory.

Gluggagægir a.k.a. Window Peeper, a voyeur of epic proportions, peeps through windows looking for intriguing toys to steal. Wonder what he thinks of Exploding Kittens?

Gáttaþefur a.k.a. Doorway Sniffer. Uses his unusually large nose better than the Big Bad Wolf. Bakeries beware, this lad will eat you out of business. Casually standing by the door sniffing out the best treats—cake, lacebread, anything he can steal.  Doorway Sniffer runs on Dunkin.

Ketkrókur a.k.a. Meat Hook. In the old days he’d lower his hook down a chimney and pull up a smoking leg of lamb. Now he tries to steal any meat he can find. Where’s the beef?

Kertasníkir a.k.a. Candle Stealer. Before the modern era, candles were made from animal fat, not tallow like today. He would stalk unsuspecting children walking outside in the dark, steal their candles, and gobble them down—the candles not the children. I wonder if he now checks the candle labels for Transfats?

Takk fyrir (thank you) copy and paste for making the Icelandic names in this post possible. Takk fyrir Iceland for having such wonderfully named Lads.

Skál! (Cheers!)

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

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