|Birth name||Benjamin Kapena Kalama|
|Also known as||Benny Kalama
June 29, 1916|
Kohala, Big island of Hawaii
|Died||September 21, 1999
|Associated acts||Leonard Red Hawk and the Waikikians
Malcolm Beelby Orchestra
Benny Kalama (June 29, 1916 – September 21, 1999), was born Benjamin Kapena Kalama in Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii. Honey-voiced falsetto legend Benny Kalama was a talent staple of Hawaii's music industry, but his contributions were often overshadowed either by those of the singer he is credited with discovering and nurturing, Alfred Apaka, or by the larger whole of the groups he became a part of. Until the day Apaka died, Kalama was coaching and arranging music for him.
At Kalakaua Intermediate School in 1931, Benny began playing trombone in the band. Upon graduation from McKinley High School where he played in the band, Kalama hooked up with Leonard "Red" Hawk and the Waikikians. Kalama's ability to read music, rather than play by ear, got him hired by the more successful bands. It was Hawk who wrote the lyrics and music to the ubiquitous song May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. In 1938, Kalama played steel guitar substituting for Sam Kaʻapuni with the Malcolm Beelby Orchestra.
Kalama worked with the Don McDiarmid Sr band at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Kewalo Inn and La Hula Rhumba on Lulalilo Street. McDiarmid, along with Johnny Noble, had penned Hilo Hattie's signature tune When Hilo Hattie Does the Hilo Hop. During this period of his career, Kalama worked with Alfred Apaka, George Kainapau, Alvin Isaacs Sr and Tommy Castro.
In between his participation with the McDiarmid band, Benny played with the Wally Lavque's band, also at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. He toured the mainland with the Royal Hawaiian Serenaders, appearing in movies and on recordings.
In his final years, Kalama played up until the end – at the Halekulani's House Without a Key nightclub with Alan Akaka and Walter Moʻokini's "Islanders", and also as part of the stage band for the annual Steel Guitar Hoʻolauleʻa.
- Hawaii's Golden Treasures (1996) CD 100 (Surfside)
- Twilight in Hawaii w/Nina Kealiiwahamana (1996) CD 1008 (MIM)
- Legends of Falsetto (2000) CD 35000 (Cord International)
- He Is Hawaiian Music (2000) CD SLCD-7054 (Lehua)
- Steel Guitar Magic (2000) CD 31000 (Mountain Apple)
- My Isle of Golden Dreams (2003) CD 1233 (Cord International)
- Around the World in 80 Shakes (2006) CD 93133 (Universal Geffen)
Ben Kalama's Islanders
- How'd Ya Do / My Island (1954) promo single F2908 (Capitol)
- Webley Edwards Presents Hawaii Calls at Twilight (1956) LP album T 582 (Capitol)
- Hawaii Calls: Greatest Hits (1960) LP album ST 1339 (Capitol)
- I Wish They Didn't Mean Goodbye / Forevermore (Lei Aloha, Lei Makame) w/Alfred Apaka (1960) promo single 9-31057 (Decca)
- Hawaii Aloha w/Dona Klein (1979) LP album S 5361 (Chapel)
- Lei of Stars (1998) comp single HOCD 31000 (Hana Ola)
- Tsai, Michael (2 July 2006). "Benny Kalama". Honolulu Advertiser.
- Kuebeler, Glenn C (2007). Castalia, Cold Creek, And The Blue Hole, OH. Arcadia Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-7385-5053-4.
- Tsai, Michael (2 July 2006). "Leonard Red Hawk". Honolulu Advertiser.
- "May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii". Square One. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- Ruymar, Lorene (1986). The Hawaiian Steel Guitar and Its Great Hawaiian Musicians. Centerstream Publications. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-57424-021-4.
- "Luncheon Menu from La Hula Rhumba – Honolulu, Hawaii". Arkiva Tropika. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- "When Hilo Hattie Does the Hilo Hop". Huapala. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- "Reviews of New Pop Records". Billboard (Billboard) (14 August 1954): 38.
- "Henry J in Hawaiian Playground". Life (Life) (02 December 1957): 87–92.
- "Benny Kalama: 1916–1999". Hawaiian Music History. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- "Na Hoku Hanohano Award". Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts. Retrieved 19 May 2010. Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts