Dickie Hamada’s musical legacy lives on

Among musicians, Kaua’i is a very small island.

Consider, for example, that several members of the Kaua’i Community College Jazz Band, under the direction of Larry McIntosh, also play in the Starlighters, the only private, professional, bigband unit on the island.

Dickie Hamada, long-time bandleader of the Starlighters, formerly Dickie Hamada and the Starlighters, and Dickie Hamada and the Serenaders, passed away recently.

His brother, Danny Hamada, said services will be private.

Members of the Starlighters, ranging from the very old to the very young, will do a tribute to Dickie Hamada at Kukui Grove Center on Jan. 20, during the 7 p.m. Aloha Friday on the Mall event where they play one Friday every month.

Over the past 50-plus years, generations of students have enjoyed the smooth music of Dickie Hamada and the Serenaders, at school proms and many dances, fans recalled.

The word among some of the current members of the Starlighters is that Danny Hamada plans to keep the band together, said McIntosh.

“I have a lot of respect for Dickie and Danny and the Starlighters,” McIntosh said. “Diversity is good,” he said of the bigband style that the Hamadas have kept alive on the island.

If it is true that Danny Hamada plans to keep the band together, that will be a very good thing, to keep this kind of music alive on Kaua’i, McIntosh said.

“He brings in young kids to play in the band, and it allows them to learn and play that kind of music. It’s important for musical knowledge (for young musicians) to be exposed to different types of music,” said McIntosh.

“Kids today don’t know who Glenn Miller is,” and members of bands like the Starlighters are important because they allow that music to live on, and allow young musicians and youngsters in general to be exposed to the classical, big-band music of old, McIntosh continued.

“There’s a lot of history in that band. I’m sure his legacy is going to live on.”

The Starlighters were silent for awhile, and then reformed, McIntosh pointed out.

“I’m really sorry to hear about Dickie,” he said.

Others feel the same way. “Thanks for the music and the memories, Dickie. You will be missed,” said some of those touched by his music.

Gail Farwell, 84, of Wailua Houselots, has played trombone with the Starlighters since 1989, and recalled Dickie Hamada as “very committed to that orchestra.”

Farwell, who was asked by Dickie Hamada to join the band after attending just one rehearsal, said Dickie Hamada used to consult Farwell on tempo and other musical matters, as Farwell has been playing big-band tunes since the 1930s, he said.

“I would say one of the things about Dickie, he was very receptive to me as a stranger,” when Farwell arrived on the island in 1989, he said.

Band members didn’t work that often because not everyone wanted to hire an 11-piece orchestra, but Hamada kept them ready to perform in case anyone called, rehearsing regularly, Farwell said.

“I’ll never forget his attitude toward that sort of thing,” or the fact that he continually solicited input, on tempos and other matters, from Farwell and other “sidemen.”

At one point in time, Hamada asked Farwell to be the band’s rehearsal director, he said.

“He was very helpful, very tolerant,” of new members in the band, Farwell said.


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