Hawaiian influences dominate Book 'em Danno's music

Fort Collins COLORADOAN Newspaper

Chris Kennison was Hawaii-Five-O'd in the 1970s. "It just came to me," Kennison said of the name of his band, Book 'em Danno. "I used to live in Hawaii and we would go down and watch Hawaii Five-O being filmed at the time. At the end of every show, Steve McGarrett would say 'Book 'em Danno. Murder one,' and the show would be over."

The words stuck.

It was the right phrase for Kennison, who lived in Hawaii for four years in the 1970s. Two years ago, when he started to jam Hawaiian style with other musicians, he turned the phrase into the band's name.

He and his four-piece group will be hula rocking the Beach Party by the pool today at the City Park Center, crashing the regular swing night with some Hawaiian-influenced songs.

Kennison is a longtime player for Rounder, which has been in the Northern Colorado area for some time. He started giving his sound a Hawaiian spinoff when he picked up a steel guitar two years ago.

"I wanted to learn to play Hawaiian steel," said Kennison, a Hewlett-Packard infrastructure manager by day, Hawaiian steel guitarist by night. "My friend Stuart Yoshida purchased a custom-made ukulele when he was visiting his family in Hawaii a few years ago. We always said we'd jam with uke and steel sometime."

Book 'em Danno was born.

The group plays a variety of music in the old Hawaiian swing/country swing style of the 1930s and '40s, with a mix of Hawaiian "Hapa Haole" songs, country swing songs and some blues, folk and "Hula Rock."

"It's more of an acoustic jazz swing sound," said Kennison. "It's a sound people haven't heard for close to 70 years unless you go to Hawaii frequently. The sound is very much like what you might have heard if you were in Hawaii in 1935. The electric steel guitar, the ukulele guitar and bass were a common format for Hawaiian music of that era. It's a blend of acoustic and electric."

Some of their influences include Sol Hoopii, Bob Wills, Jerry Byrd, Junior Brown, Hank Williams and The Hula Monsters.

Kennison is a walking history lesson of the guitar origins in Hawaii.

The ukulele itself was brought from Portugal to Hawaii in the 1800s. The guitar also has been credited to the Portuguese and other European influences, Kennison said.

The origin of the steel guitar is more hotly debated, with at least three stories outlining how it was born.

The Hawaiian theory goes like this: "Steel guitars were originally invented and popularized in Hawaii," according to http://www.well.com/user/ wellvis/steel.html. "Legend has it that Joseph Kekuku, a Hawaiian schoolboy, discovered the sound while walking along a railroad track strumming his guitar. He picked up a bolt lying by the track and slid the metal along the strings of his guitar. Intrigued by the sound, he taught himself to play using the back of a knife blade."

"A lot of that can be debated," Kennison said. "I'm sure there are lots of different influences that fold in on time."

The Hawaiian steel guitar made its official entrance into the mainland via an exposition in 1915. At the same time many other cultures had various instruments they were playing with strings.

"Not too many people hear ukulele and Portuguese music anymore," Kennison said. "The guitar ... it was developed in Europe and probably came from the Mid East many centuries before. By the time it got to Hawaii, it was a well-developed instrument and they made up their own way of playing it."

Originally published Friday, April 11, 2003

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Taste of Weld: 1,000 people turn out to sample restaurant food, aid abused kids

Story by Annie Hundley
Greeley Tribune

University of Northern Colorado student Saree Hoopii, middle, originally from Maui Hawaii, demonstrates hula dancing to twin sisters Kelly Estes, left, and Kathy Estes, 11, while in front of the band named Book ’Em Danno during the 15th annual A Taste of Weld County at the Island Grove Exhibition Hall in Greeley.

Photo by Jim Rydbom

Originally published Thursday, April 11, 2003

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