Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Randy Oness spent lifetime
composing happiness

The great musician began entertaining
when he was only 3

See also: Obituaries

By Pat Gee

Randy Oness, a big-band musician and composer of hapa-haole songs that popularized Hawaiian music in the 1930s and '40s, died Thursday at Castle Medical Center. He was 92.

Gaye Beamer called his death "a loss of another Hawaiian treasure. Those who played his vintage of music, there are so few left."

"Dear, sweet Uncle Randy" was close to the Beamer entertainment family most of his life, and he "conveyed his happiness to see you. His face would light up and his eyes would twinkle. He absolutely delighted in playing the ukulele and singing songs for you," Beamer said.

Oness composed the popular "Lovely Hula Girl" and "Hawaiian Hula Eyes," partnering with lyricist Jack Pitman, who wrote "Beyond the Reef," according to Star-Bulletin entertainment columnist John Berger.

Oness also wrote "Haunani" for his daughter, including the lyrics in Hawaiian, and other traditional Hawaiians songs, Berger said.

Haunani Oness said her father was raised in Kalihi, where he played ukulele and sang to neighbors at the age of 3.

Oness, a 1930 graduate of the Kamehameha Schools, wrote "more than 200 songs," including songs with titles like "The Kumu in the Muu Muu," she said. He played music "until he was in his 80s. After all his musicians died, he stopped. ... He was the last of the old-timers to go," she said. "He died from a fall, but he was absolutely healthy before the fall," she added.

Oness won a Na Hoku Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. He is listed among the significant artists in Tony Tadaro's "The Golden Years of Hawaiian Entertainment," she said.

Berger said Oness was "big in the 1940s and '50s," and studied at Kamehameha Schools under famous bandmaster Henry Berger of the Royal Hawaiian Band.

He was part of the original Harry Owens Band, the Royal Hawaiians, and played at the Queen's Surf and Alexander Young hotels with his own nine-piece band, Haunani Oness said.

Oness took part in the famous "Hawaii Calls" radio show, which popularized Hawaiian music on the mainland, and performed on a KGMB radio program with vocalist Ray Kinney, she said.

Randy Oness and his Select Hawaiian Serenaders included the legendary Alfred Apaka and other well-known artists as Pua Almeida and Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, Berger said.

Oness also produced and led the band in albums featuring Apaka for Bell Records and Aloha Records in the late 1940s, he added.

Haunani Oness said her father "played every musical instrument," but his favorites were the saxophone and clarinet, she said.

He passed on his love of music to his daughter, but because he was a hard act to follow, she became a hula dancer.

"My father was a draftsman during the day (with Hawaiian Telephone and the federal government) and a musician at night," she said.

He was a member of the Honolulu Hawaiian Civic Club, the Hawaiian Professional Songwriters Society, the Musicians Association of Hawaii, the American Guild of Authors and Composers and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

He is also survived by son Roy K., two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Anthony's Church in Kailua. Call after 9:30 a.m. Burial will follow at Diamond Head Memorial Park.

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