Erika Engle

‘Albino Blahlah’
to commemorate
25th year of radio show

HARRY B. Soria Jr., nicknamed, "The Albino Blahlah," celebrates the 25th anniversary of his long-running radio show "Territorial Airwaves" this Sunday on KINE-FM 105.1. Soria is on the air from 2 to 6 p.m. but the "Territorial Airwaves" portion is during the last hour of the shift.

The show started June 13, 1979, as a one-hour program highlighting the music of pre-statehood Hawaii. It aired from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesdays.

"You mean he's only been doing it for 25 years?" laughed Alan Yamamoto, president of the Hawaii Academy of Recording Artists, obviously a friend.

Soria has won numerous Na Hoku Hanohano awards, issued by HARA, for producing Hawaiian music albums and for detailed, historical liner notes he has written for such recordings.

His main sponsor is Cord International, parent company of Hana Ola records, for which Soria has worked as a producer and liner-note-writer.

The show has survived management changes, ownership changes and the still-underway sea change known as media consolidation.

Soria got his own show after winning too many trivia contests staged by Jacqueline "Skylark" Rossetti and Hawaiian music historian DeSoto Brown on the "Melodies of Paradise" show on the old KCCN-AM 1420 (now KKEA).

"He kept winning and we said, 'this is not fair,'" Rossetti laughed. "Who listened to all those old 78 (RPM records)?"

Brown was later recruited to take his show to the old KKUA-AM 690 and Soria was given the opportunity to do the show with Rossetti.

"He wanted to change the name, so 'Territorial Airwaves' was born," Rossetti said. Rossetti and Soria would bring their old records to the studio, interview Soria's father about the artists and that led to interviews with the artists themselves.

"So once a week for one hour we turned back the hands of time, and tried to educate the people, just sort of, share a little bit of Hawaiian recorded history," said Rossetti.

The show has run so long that mainstream music of some decades following statehood has now entered the oldies genre. It gets played too.

The Soria radio roots go back three generations.

Grandfather Harry G. Soria got a job in advertising sales at KGMB-AM 590 in 1934 and the next year began a 27-year career at KGU-AM 760.

Also in 1935, son Harry B. Soria broadcast a description of Amelia Earhart's first solo flight between Hawaii and California, via telephone over KGMB radio from Wheeler Field.

That was the first of many pioneering broadcasts by the Soria ohana, including the 1936 "Going to Town With Harry Soria," created and sold by the father, featuring the son as the talent, announcing and playing records on the air.

Harry B.'s eldest son, Harry B. Soria Jr., grew up around radio stations and soaked up his father's stories about Hawaii's music and its artists of the 1920s through the 1950s. There was also a huge collection of old recordings from wax cylinders to 78s, that the youngest Harry B. has maintained and added to over the years. Hence the trivia-contest-winning knowledge.

He has now surpassed, in length, the radio careers of his father and grandfather.

Soria credits mentors including Rossetti, Krash Kealoha, Kimo Kahoano, Keaumiki Akui and Mike Kelly, vice president and general manager of KCCN-FM 100.3 and KINE.

When KCCN-AM was sold and the call letters and programming were to change, Kelly put the show on KINE.

"Bringing it to KINE was a natural to me," Kelly said.

It made economic sense for the station as well. "It's wonderful. It gets great ratings. People love it. I can't foresee it ever changing. Harry's got a great, unique situation. Nobody else does what he does.

"Actually we've considered having more of it," Kelly said.

It was Soria's mission "to reintroduce new generations to the legends and their music before it was lost," Soria told TheBuzz.

The old-music focus of the show contributed to modern-day recordings, Rossetti said.

"I think what it did, was stimulate a lot of research and gave people the opportunity to record different types of songs.

"If you look at the Brothers Cazimero's first album, there were songs nobody even heard of, except on the old 78s." Some old Pua Almeida songs were later recorded by Theresa Bright, who added her own jazz influences, Rossetti noted.

"Territorial Airwaves" created "an awareness that 'hey, we have a recorded history that goes back years,' and a lot of the young kids never heard it before," said Rossetti.

"His father always told him don't go into radio unless you go into sales," Rossetti said. "It's our passion to do what we do in radio, but it doesn't pay the bills.

"I think his father would be proud that he's still in radio, but kept his day job," said Rossetti.

Soria and friends will celebrate further on June 24 with an event called Moonlight Mele on the Lawn at Bishop Museum. A tribute to the music of Hawaii's territorial days starts at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $5 for children to $15 for general admission. Call Bishop Museum at 847-3511.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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