Friday, November 05, 2010

Mahalo Lucky Luck

Radio History is biased toward the mainland.  The residents of the contiguous 48-states do think of Alaska, Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii and the other territories and states as the back 40. We don't take a lot of notice of what's going on back there. But Honolulu is market #64, Puerto Rico is market #14! With their rapidly expanding population centers it is no longer acceptable to disregard these markets. A failure as a programmer to understand the radio history of these markets does them a disservice. An attempt by a radio group to serve San Juan like they serve Boston would result in utter failure.

This is no more obvious than in the story of Robert Melvin "Lucky" Luck. In 1967 Lucky Luck became the PD of brand new KCCN-AM.  It was one of the very first "ethnic" Hawaiian radio stations. Previous to this time, there was not enough commercial Hawaiian music with which to forge a playlist. Lucky used data from juke box operators Mid-Pacific Island and Aloha State to program his station. He was interested in building a library to support an entirely new and local format. Billboard wrote a blurb on it in 1968:
"KCCN works with a 60 tune playlist. principally LPs and the material encompasses songs of a Hawaiian nature by Percy Faith, Elvis Presley, Henry Mancini, George Greeley, Sammy Kaye, Frankie Carle.  these songs are called haole (Caucasian) hits. Luck admits there isn't enough strong authentic Hawaiian material to fill the stations program day."
He didn't start his career at KCCK-AM. Actually he didn't even start it in Hawaii.  He was born a few thousand miles away in Waco, Texas. His interest in what was then called Polynesia started while he was a Marine stationed in Samoa. While he was there he became fluent enough to serve as an interpreter during World War II. He went native as they say. He relocated permanently to Honolulu and went into radio. More here.

Before KCCK-AM he was on KPOA-AM, he started there in 1954. Paradise of the Pacific Magazine called him "the Jackie Gleason of Hawaii." He was well known for his "buffoonery", he did impersonations: Louis Armstrong, Clark Gable, Andy Devine and various regional Hawaiian accents. He was already Hawaii's highest paid entertainer. He later worked at  KGU-AM. He had a program from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM called "Lucky's Luau."  The trade rag Media-scope described him as an "easy going conversationalist."

He also had a program on KHVH-TV, a Kaiser television station. By the 1970s his fame was great enough to warrant his own TV program “The Lucky Luck Show” on KONA-TV an NBC affiliate. By the late 1960s he was getting cameos in movies like Kona Coast. He developed a fixation on all things Hawaiian.He owned a tiki bar The Okole Maluna Lounge. He became a recording artist and recorded Hawaiian music.  He even published a Hawaiian cook book. I wish I knew more, but I can't even find an obituary.