Ed Kenney

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About Ed Kenney

Born on the island of Kauai to a Hawaiian-Chinese mother and an Irish-Swedish father, Ed Kenney was to prove himself equally adept on stage, in nightclubs, and in recording studios. The popular baritone epitomizes the native son in love with his homeland; his ability and dedication to Hawaiian music new and old kept him in business for decades. Kenney attended prep school on a piano scholarship won in junior high; from there he went to the University of Oregon, where he appeared in productions such as Brigadoon. Returning to Hawaii, he took lead roles in productions at the Honolulu Community Theater and began nightclub singing and recording. Back on the mainland in 1955, he won a Rodgers and Hammerstein scholarship and appeared in Broadway's Shangri-La. Kenney then went back to Hawaii for singing engagements with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Kenney signed with Columbia Pictures, but instead of making movies, he chose to take a part in Flower Drum Song. Shortly thereafter, Kenney's friend Eaton Magoon, Jr. wrote 13 Daughters -- Broadway's first Hawaiian musical -- for Kenney, spotlighting his ability to sing in Hawaiian and English as well as true Hawaiian falsetto. Kenney returned to Hawaii in 1961 to headline at Duke Kahanamoku's for many months. His later career is distinguished by comedy material (including some novelty songs firmly in the Hawaiian tradition of poking fun at ethnicity), as well as songs in the modern style developed by Kui Lee and Don Ho. ~ Tony Wilds

August 8, 1933

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