Barney Isaacs

In over nine years or blogging and broadcasting about Hawaiian music, I have never done a feature on steel guitarist Barney Isaacs. Nobody is more incredulous at this realization than I am since Barney has been my favorite steel guitarist for over 40 years – a propensity (or a habit) which was promoted early in my indoctrination in Hawaiian music by my father who is also a steel guitarist and self-professed “biggest fan” of Barney Isaacs. The most heard steel guitarist on Ho`olohe Hou Radio ­– having recorded with a veritable “who’s who” of Hawaiian music legends (including Charles “Kaipo” Miller, Haunani Kahalewai, Marlene Sai, Danny Kaleikini, Ohta-San, Lani Kai, Benny Kalama, Chick Floyd, Sterling Mossman, and Charles K.L. Davis, to name but a few) – Barney is likely the second most heard steel guitarist from Hawai`i in the history of the instrument as he had the longest tenure in the steel guitar chair on the once wildly popular weekly Hawaii Calls radio broadcasts – appearing for more than 15 of the show’s 40 years on air.  (I conjecture “second most heard” because the likely most heard steel guitarist would probably be Freddie Tavares whose glissando graces the opening moments of every Looney Tunes cartoon from the early 1940s to present.)

The steel guitar was once the signature sound of Hawaiian music, and Barney Isaacs was one of its most capable practitioners. I have done him, myself, and my father a terrible disservice by not honoring him sooner. Because Barney left us much too soon on February 12, 1996, Ho`olohe Hou Radio will honor him throughout the week from February 12th through 19th – with a focus on Barney’s rarest recordings, particularly those on which he was not identified as a participant and which you have likely heard but never knew you were listening to Barney. You will hear him both in the studio and live in rare performances with his musical family – father Alvin “Papa” Isaacs and brothers Atta and Norman Isaacs. And you will even hear Barney tell his own life story in his own words.

Tune in to Ho`olohe Hou Radio beginning February 12th for this week-long tribute to Barney Isaacs.