Hawaiian singer and steel guitarist Annie Kerr

Trina Elizabeth Sonoda of Wailua, my son Brett’s fiancée, recently told me that she is the great-great-grandniece of Hawaiian singer and steel guitarist Annie Kerr (1906-1967).

Born in Honolulu, Annie Kerr was the first professional woman steel guitarist and the first Hawaiian woman to make a career for herself in the recording industry.

She performed professionally from the mid 1920s through the early 1950s, most notably with the Annie Kerr Trio, which specialized in Hawaiian music and was comprised of herself and Hawaiian sisters Irmgard and Diane Farden.

The Annie Kerr Trio achieved great fame and popularity in its heyday during Hawaii’s Territorial days and was in constant demand on radio programs and at parties.

They also often performed on Honolulu’s KGU radio with Johnny Noble, who led in the development of the hapa-haole style of Hawaiian music, and introduced Hawaiian music into the mainland United States.

On Friday nights during the 1930s, the Annie Kerr Trio, featuring Annie and the Farden sisters along with Cecile Lake and Madeline Lam, could also be heard on Webley Edwards’ KGMB radio program, “Hawaii Calls,” which showcased authentic Hawaiian music and ran for 40 years, from 1935 until 1975.

One of the Annie Kerr Trio’s songs, “I’ve Gone Native,” can be heard on the compact disc collection “History of Hawaiian Steel Guitar.”

Annie Kerr was also a outstanding athlete, winning several tennis titles.

Among them was the 1933 Hawaii Women’s Singles Tennis Championship, in which she defeated Thelma Nicholas Anahu, 7-5 and 6-1, at Kapiolani Courts on Oahu.

A fine oarswoman and stellar softball player, she was active in the Honolulu Girls Rowing Club and the Palama Girls baseball and basketball teams of the Women’s Athletic League.

Her day job from 1931 to 1967 was dental assistant and X-ray technician for the Strong-Carter Dental Clinic of Honolulu, and in 1949 she became the first president of the Honolulu County Dental Assistants Association.

By the way, Anne Kerr Trio member Irmgard Farden Aluli (1911-2001) remains the most prolific woman composer of Hawaiian songs since Queen Liliuokalani, having written over 200.

Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com.

  1. Rich Teske February 13, 2019 8:59 pm Reply

    Great information here. I have a small collection of stuff that I purchased from the estate of Annie Kerr. Trying to figure out the best way to get it to the public so others can enjoy her work.

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