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ISLAND HISTORY: Coco Palms’ first entertainers were Ah Sau Ahana and his musicians

Born and raised on Kaua‘i, Ah Sau Ahana (1907-2008) learned to play the banjo, ukulele and steel guitar while attending Kaua‘i High School.

Later, during World War II, he entertained soldiers stationed on Kaua‘i with the Reliance 7 Band and the Annie Holt Trio.

Following the war, and before Grace Buscher hired him at Coco Palms in 1953, he performed Hawaiian music with KTOH radio announcer Mike Ashman and Mickey Waiau.

Ah Sau Ahana was also a Kaua‘i County auditor and finance director, and owned the Ahana Motel in Lihu‘e.

He and his musicians, Willie Carrillo Sr., Mickey Waiau and Sam Peahu were the first entertainers to perform at the Coco Palms Hotel.

They performed in the hotel’s bar and Millie Kim became the group’s first singer, then Annie Holt sang, and finally, Ahana’s wife, Mary Ewaliko Ahana, became the group’s main singer.

Ahana’s daughter, Elizabeth “Eli” Ahana Kikuchi (1941-2013) also performed with them.

In 2007, “Eli” told David Penhallow, the author of “The Story of the Coco Palms Hotel”: “I was one of the hula dancers for my Dad along with Laola Peahu Rapozo and Melani Toyofuku.”

Penhallow wrote: “What set Ah Sau apart from other musicians on Kaua‘i was that he was an ace steel guitar player and he was known for playing his steel guitar on his lap. He was the first man on Kaua‘i to own such an instrument and became, by listening to Solomon Hoopii’s records, a very fine player.”

As an old man in his 90s, while recalling the days of the 1950s when he entertained at Coco Palms, Ahana said of Hoopii, “Hoopii was one of the great steel guitar players in Hawai‘i. I learned by inspiration, listening to his talent on the records.”

After Ahana left Coco Palms, he continued to play his steel guitar at the Luau Gardens in Nawiliwili, the Kaua‘i Inn on Rice Street, Lovell’s Tavern in Niumalu, and later, in the 1960s and 1970s, at the Kaua‘i Surf Hotel at Kalapaki.

He and his wife, Mary, had four children: Joyce, Carol, Janice and Elizabeth Ahana.
Source: The Garden Island

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