In today’s Soundie, Mary Ka’aihue, a direct descendant of the last monarch of Hawaii, sings of soft tropical breezes, white sands, gentle surf, and the traditional dance of the hula maidens.
Or maybe not!
Although she was a direct descendent of Queen Liliuokalani, Mary Ka’aihue was born in Detroit, and was drawn to the popular sounds of jazz and swing, rather than traditional Hawaiian music. As with a number of combos that we have featured here, Ka’aihue was influenced by the sound of the Nat “King” Cole Trio, although the piano is replaced by an accordion. The energy level of Louis Prima, among others, is not missing from her music, either. By the end of 1945, six months after this series of Soundies was produced, Mary had been convinced to Anglicize her name, and as Mary Kaye she became one of the most important figures in Las Vegas entertainment.
In an interview some years ago, Mary told me that when the trio was hired in 1947 at the Frontier Hotel, her manager persuaded the Frontier to construct a separate space from the main showroom for late-night entertainment. This was, in fact, the first Las Vegas lounge. Her act was an immediate success, and Kaye was reportedly the highest-paid lounge act of the 1950s.
“Stuff Like That There” was composed by hit makers Ray Evans and Jay Livingston for the Universal musicals On Stage Everyone. It is a bouncy novelty piece, the type of music that the trio would play along with ballads, love songs, and the hits of the day. While accordion player Frankie Ross was an accomplished musician – he gets the solo space in this Soundie – it was his skill as an improvisational comedian, someone who could respond comically to what was happening in the lounge, that also helped put the Mary Kaye Trio across in Las Vegas. While Mary’s brother Norman would become the regular string bassist in the group, here the bass player here is Jimmy Dale. This is perhaps not hot jazz, but one can easily see how the group would be positively received by those who wanted “just one more taste” before retiring for the night.