KAUAI-New York-Hollywood-Idaho. Musician-singer Larry Ramos' life is the stuff of Hollywood movies. In 1947, the 5-year-old Ramos and his sister won the KGMB Amateur Hour with his ukulele playing and her singing. Two years later, the lad from Waimea appeared in the film "Pagan Love Song" starring Esther Williams. That year Larry also won top honors in a statewide ukulele contest organized by Arthur Godfrey, who took the boy to New York to appear one of his national radio and TV talent shows. (Among Godfrey's discoveries were Pat Boone, Steve Law-rence, Roy Clark and Patsy Cline. Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley flunked his auditions.)
Later in Hollywood, Ramos won the part of the Crown Prince in Rodgers and Hammerstein's touring musical "The King and I," starring Yul Bryner.
The boy from Kauai went on to perform with the New Christy Minstrels during the '60s for four years before joining The Association co-singing the lead on two all-time classics, "Windy" and "Never My Love."
What: 107.9 FM's 3rd Birthday Party with The Association, The Rascals and Herman's Hermits
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Blaisdell Arena
"I did all that?" Ramos says today. "Who would have thought this little Filipino kid from West Kauai could do something like that."
The Association, along with Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits, and the Rascals, performs tonight at the Blaisdell Arena.
"I miss Hawaii every single day," said Ramos who now lives in Grangeville, Idaho, with his wife of 30 years. "I miss the weather and oh how I miss the food."
One of the most popular of the pop-psychedelic harmony units of the mid-'60s, The Association's original lineup featured Gary Alexander (lead vocals), Russ Giguere (vocals/guitar), Brian Coles (vocals/bass), Jim Yester (vocals/guitar), Ted Bluechel (drums) and Terry Kirkham (keyboards).
(At tonight's show, only Giguere is from the original group.)
The group's debut album "And Then Along Comes" in 1967 displayed members' harmonic talent. The evocative "Along Comes Mary" broke into the Top 10 and Terry Kirkham gave the group its first No. 1 single -- "Cherish."
Ramos joined the Association in 1967, a year after he quit the "Christy's" to spend time with his wife and twin baby girls. He was singing background for a friend in a recording session with an Association member who asked Ramos to accompany the band on tour.
"I didn't know anything about the show they were doing," Ramos said. "It was crazy."
The bass player damaged his hand after the first concert and Ramos explains, "They handed me a stack of albums and said 'Go practice.'" He rehearsed alone two hours before the show. "I never got off the stage after that."
He eventually replaced lead singer Alexander, who traveled to India for enlightenment.
"Gary (Alexander) is in Texas someplace, Jim (Yester) was with the Four Preps for a while, and Terry (Kirkham)" is working helping alcoholics," said Ramos who along with Giguere bought the rights to the group in the early '80s.
"There was so much descension and complaining in the group about a lot of things," Ramos said. "So we bought the name. Now they're sorry as hell they left."
The group performs 80 to 100 concerts a year.
Ramos' mother was a singer; his father taught him the uke. The family lived on Oahu during World War II, running a pool hall in downtown Honolulu and Kakaako. After the war they returned to Kalaheo, Kauai, where dad opened another pool hall.
A hoped for film career in Hollywood after his Godfrey appearances didn't pan out.
After the year's run with the "The King and I," Ramos attended Southern California schools, honing his guitar and vocal skills.
While playing in a South Gate coffee house, Ramos was discovered by a member of the New Christy Minstrels. He performed with the group from 1962-66. That included a year as regulars on the "The Andy Williams Show."
When he left the group, Ramos toured solo in Japan and performed at the Playboy Club in L.A. where Pat Morita was his opening act. Then along came the Association.
"We gave people something they didn't get in other acts," Ramos said. "But a lot of people hated us because we were too squeaky clean."
But it wasn't all apple pie. At a Birmingham, Ala., hotel, the manager demanded the band members sign the register not the road manager.
"So Russ asks the woman why and she tells him in this real Southern drawl: 'I jist wanted to know if you boys could write.' Russ looks her straight in the eye and says 'Lady, I don't want to vote here, I just want a place to flop.'"
But by the late '70s the Association's sales were dwindling. Alexander returned from India with a new name, "Jules"; their long-standing producer Jerry Yester, brother of Jim, replaced Zal Yanovsky in the Lovin' Spoonful.
The group lost its major label status. A soundtrack for the movie "Goodbye Columbus (1969)" and their "comeback" album, "Waterbeds in Trinidad" in 1972, brought some renewed hope that was dashed with the death of Brian Coles from drug abuse.
Still, Ramos says, "It's a wonderful ride." He's preparing for a weeklong visit to Kauai to visit his parents, friends and other relatives.
As for the Idaho connection, Ramos' wife has family there. The couple lives on 300 acres, one of "the smaller parcels," he said.
"We're on a rolling prairie surrounded by the foothills of the Bitterroot Mountains and the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake rivers on the other. But it's not Hawaii."
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