Tavares / Stratocaster - Mauinews.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor`s


Tavares / Stratocaster - Mauinews.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor`s
Tavares / Stratocaster - Mauinews.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor's Information - The Maui News
10/14/11 5:05 PM
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Tavares / Stratocaster
Behind the greatest guitar in rock 'n' roll history is
the amazing story of two Maui brothers who
changed the world of music
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May 26, 2011
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By JON WOODHOUSE ([email protected]) , For The Maui News
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When Jimi Hendrix stunned hundreds of thousands with his guitar
virtuosity at the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969, he was
probably unaware that his beloved white Fender Stratocaster was
originally developed with the help of a humble musician from Paia,
Article Photos
Frederick Tavares.
Among his many accomplishments, Freddie was the first musician to
play the Fender Precision Bass (the first successfully marketed
electric bass), he backed Elvis on ukulele in "Blue Hawaii," he was
inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, and he even had a
guitar named in his honor - the Freddie Tavares "Aloha"
Freddie and his brother, Ernest Tavares, will be honored with
posthumous Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Hawaii Academy
of Recording Arts in a ceremony on Saturday at the Hawaii
Convention Center.
The brothers share a remarkable history that began on Maui and
would eventually influence the course of a variety of musical styles.
Born in Paia on Feb. 18, 1913, Freddie's blended heritage of
Portuguese, Hawaiian, Chinese, English and Tahitian-Samoan led
him to once announce: "The Portuguese makes me stubborn,
Chinese makes me smart, English makes me high-class, Hawaiian
Bill Tavares, younger brother of posthumous Hawaii A…
Photo courtesy of John Blumer-Buell
gives me the music and Tahitian gives me the beat. I couldn't ask
for more."
Educated at Kamehameha Boys School, by 15 he was playing
rhythm guitar with the Mary Kunewa Orchestra on Maui. After
moving to Oahu, he was hired by legendary band leader Harry
Owens in 1934, playing electric steel guitar at the Royal Hawaiian
Performing with the Harry Owens Royal Hawaiians, it was Freddie
who played the steel guitar heard on the first broadcast of "Hawaii
Calls" in 1935. The show initially reached the West Coast by
shortwave radio, and at its height, it was heard on more than 750
stations around the globe.
To further his music career, Freddie moved to Anaheim, Calif., and
on one of his first studio sessions, he played the distinctive steel
guitar glissando heard at the opening of the famous Looney Tunes
cartoon logo.
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Tavares / Stratocaster - Mauinews.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor's Information - The Maui News
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cartoon logo.
From 1949 through 1953, Freddie played almost nightly with the
country band Wade Ray and his Ozark Mountain Boys at the L.A.
club Cowtown. To improve his dexterity, he was known for playing
Bach's piano inventions on steel guitar.
Then in early 1953, he was introduced to legendary guitar/amplifier
maker Leo Fender, who hired Freddie as an assistant engineer,
based on his consummate musical skills - he also played acoustic
guitar, bass, and ukulele - and his knowledge of electronics and
technical drawing.
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"I met Leo Fender about March of 1953," Freddie recalled in the
book "The Fender Stratocaster." "Leo said we need a new guitar.
The first real project I had was to put the Stratocaster on the
drawing board."
Until his retirement from Fender in 1985, Freddie participated in the
design and development of every guitar and amplifier made by the
company, and field tested the prototypes before they hit the
production line.
He was also renowned as the world's leading technical authority of
the Fender Jazz Bass and collaborated with Fender to invent the
split-finger mechanism for the Fender 1000 pedal steel guitar.
It was his work helping develop the Fender Stratocaster that led to
his acclaim in the world of electric guitars.
"I would challenge anybody to come up with a better design for a
guitar. It's about as close to being perfect as any electric guitar can
be." - Eric Clapton on the Fender Stratocaster.
First launched in 1954, the Strat was later adopted by guitar gods
from Jimi Hendrix to Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. It was a Strat that
Buddy Holly played on "Ed Sullivan" in 1957; it was a Strat that
Dylan employed at his historic "electric" debut at the Newport Folk
Festival; and a Strat was favored by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour on
"Dark Side of the Moon."
"There was nothing special or theoretical about that design," Freddie
reported in "The Fender Stratocaster." "It was just hit or miss, trial
and error."
Discussing the Maui musician, Western star Bill Carson noted in "The
Soul of Tone: "In my opinion he was the greatest man in both
musical talent and personal integrity that I worked with at Fender."
The legendary Fender design proved to be the most popular and
most imitated electric guitar of all time.
To honor his contributions, in 1994 the guitar company released the
Freddie Tavares Aloha Stratocaster, emblazoned with Hawaiian
scenery graphics. Today one of these limited edition guitars may sell
for around $15,000.
While working at the Fender company, Freddie became a founding
member of the Polynesian Society in California and recorded with
many fellow Hawaiian musicians including Sam Koki, Joe Keawe,
Sammy Kaapuni, Bernie Kaai Lewis, Vince Akina and his brother.
With Akina, the brothers toured as The South Sea Islanders trio,
often playing the "Hawaiian night" at the Coconut Grove at L.A.'s
Ambassador Hotel.
Freddie's varied credits include performing on radio and TV shows
with Red Skelton, Roy Rogers and Spike Jones; and he played steel
guitar with Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage on the
weekly radio show "All Star Western Theatre."
Famous artists he recorded with included Bing Crosby, Dean Martin,
the Andrews Sisters, Henry Mancini, Lawrence Welk, Tennessee Ernie
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Tavares / Stratocaster - Mauinews.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor's Information - The Maui News
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Ford and Martin Denny.
Among the movies he played on were "Tora Tora Tora," "Donovan's
Reef," "In Harm's Way, "Irma La Douce," "Gidget Goes Hawaiian,"
"Tahiti Nights" and "Song Of The Islands." And his TV credits ranged
from "The Lawrence Welk Show" and "Magnum PI" to "Hawaii Five0" and "Fantasy Island."
During his retirement years, Freddie would often take his Fender
pedal steel guitar, Stratocaster and a ukulele to entertain folks in
retirement homes and veterans hospitals.
Freddie died in 1990 at the age of 77. Laid to rest in Nuuana
Cemetery, Jerry Byrd, Barney Isaacs and Alan Akaka all played steel
guitar tributes at his funeral.
"Freddie was a constant inexhaustible source of knowledge, humor
and true human kindness," brother Bill Tavares recalled. "His legacy
will live on, with the guitars he designed, the music he created and
the love that he shared so freely."
In 1995, Freddie was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, as
"one of the great masters."
Brother Ernest Arriga Tavares was equally as talented. A versatile
multi-instrumentalist, he played steel guitar, lead guitar, bass,
ukulele, flute, clarinet, saxophone, piano, organ, and Hawaiian and
Tahitian percussion.
Born on Maui on April 29, 1911, Ernest began his career as a
performer and arranger with the Harry Owens Royal Hawaiian
Orchestra. He played sax, flute and clarinet for seven years with the
legendary orchestra, while Freddie played steel guitar.
Both brothers were heard playing with Owens on the soundtrack to
the movie "Coconut Grove," and on the Oscar-winning Owens'
composition "Sweet Leilani." He later played with the Spike Jones
Orchestra during the time they recorded "The Hawaiian War Chant."
The leading artists he recorded with included Elvis Presley, Bing
Crosby and Alfred Apaka.
A talented singer, songwriter, arranger, conductor and
choreographer, Ernie shared his brother's aptitude for engineering
and invention. He's credited with developing the pedal device that
led to the pedal steel guitar.
An article in the Honolulu Star Advertiser in 1947 announced:
"Ernest Tavares introduced his newly developed steel guitar. The
new guitar invention makes intricate chord progressions more simple
due to the use of a harp tuning principle."
Some years later, a Maui News story about his revue show that
played in Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe proclaimed: "A show of
your own is every performer's dream, especially so with Ernie, for
his Hawaiian heritage finally rebelled against listening to any more
stereotyped pseudo-Hawaiian entertainment such as one often
encounters on the West Coast. The answer for Ernie was to leave
the studio with his fabulous steel guitar, which he made himself by
the way, in pursuit of his dream."
And a review of his "Hawaiian Hullabaloo" show in Variety praised:
"Tavares has taken Hawaiian music, which had become jaded
through exploitation and injected new life into it to produce an
entirely new sound that is delighting audiences."
Ernie also loved jazz, and played sax and clarinet in a jazz band that
regularly appeared at the Hollywood Palladium. And a passion for
classical music led him to study the works of Wagner, Grieg, Ravel,
Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky. After his death in 1986, his
ashes were laid to rest in the Tavares family graveyard at the
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Tavares / Stratocaster - Mauinews.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor's Information - The Maui News
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Po'okela Church.
"Ernest was a phenomenal musician," brother Freddie recalled in the
book "The Hawaiian Steel Guitar." "He also sang beautifully and was
a fine arranger and song writer."
Sen. Daniel Akaka recently paid tribute to the brothers in
Washington, D.C., with an announcement entered into the
Congressional Record (Volume 157, Number 49) on April 6.
"Mr. President, I congratulate Hawaiian music legends Frederick
'Freddie' and Ernest Tavares for receiving the Lifetime Achievement
Award from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts in recognition of
their contributions to the music industry.
"Both men enjoyed long careers in music and played important roles
in popularizing Hawaiian music across the United States. Their many
talents and innovations had a great impact on the music industry
and made Hawaii proud.
"I am honored to recognize Freddie and Ernest for their numerous
and invaluable accomplishments in the music business. Although
both brothers are no longer with us, I extend my aloha and sincere
thanks to the Tavares family for keeping the legacy of Freddie and
Ernest Tavares alive."
-Some information in this article derives from a profile by Lorraine
Lewin in 1999.
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