The bare-bones ain't-no-frills yet version of...
: : e x o t e q u e m u s i c : :
|Stereo Action||The Story
|Robert Drasnin||Voodoo Interview|
|Outer Space Exotica||Article|
Jeff Chenault: How did you meet Arthur Lyman?
Harold Chang: Weíve known each other throughout our musical careers in Honolulu. He was playing with Martin Denny at Don the Beachcombers at the time and I was playing right next door and I used to go in and listen to them.
I got to know everybody there Martin Denny, John Kramer and Arthur Lyman. When Arthur left the group after two years in 1957 he formed his own group and he called me and I joined him in 1958.
JC: When did you start recording together?
HC: Around October or November 1957 we recorded our first album. This was before we had even opened up officially. I had another job at night and rehearsed with Arthur during the day to open up at the Shell Bar in the Hawaiian Village. We recorded the tunes on the album before we opened so after we opened on January 2nd about a month later our album came out and hit the United States it became number one. You could say we were born with a silver spoon in our mouth.
JC: What was it like recording in the Kaiser Aluminum Dome?
HC: The Kaiser Aluminum Dome was kind of interesting because we would record late at night and then end up in the morning. And in the morning when the sun comes up you know how metal expands with the heat the aluminum it starts cracking, you know when it warms up. It also starts cracking when it cools down. That was an interesting part of most of our first album. As you can hear if you listen good, you can hear the cracks of the aluminum roof. Then early in the morning we had delivery trucks going by and its possible to hear a truck going varoom, varooomm.
We just made fun of it you know, we had to put up with that, that was alright.
JC: Really, the sound quality on those early albums are phenomenal even today.
HC: Richard Vaughn he specialized in Hi-Fi Recordings. (note: Richard Vaughn was the Producer and Recording Supervisor for HiFi Records.)
HiFi Records was one of thee recording companies that specialized in recording nothing but the best. They use the best equipment and everything else. It wasnít a nationally known thing that he recorded and by magazines people heard of his recordings and when they bought it they became a fan of HiFi Records because of the quality. Previously he had recorded organ music and other stuff. Eventually I think Arthur was one of the first groups that went into a group format. The exotic sounds, all the weird percussion instruments, he wanted to capture that too.
JC: Do you have any memorable experiences during Arthur Lymanís hey-day.
HC: When we performed on national television. We had appearances on the Andy Williams Show, the Red Skeleton Show, and the Steve Allen Show. Those are memorable. Performing on big stars programs yeah.
JC: I heard that you also played on the set of "Hawaiian Eye".
HC: We did 10 episodes for "Hawaiian Eye" and we filmed and recorded it in Burbank, California. We went on the set, Connie Stevens, Poncie Ponce, Robert Conrad, they were all there. They had a mock set-up of the Shell Bar where we played. One memorable thing that I remember doing this show for them was when we taped George Gershwinís "Rhapsody in Blue". There was a segment there that they wanted me to do over again because they said I was playing the timpani like a tom tom.
I normally close my eyes and play with feeling you know so they said Harold you have to do this spot all over again and only you on stage and theyíll play the prerecorded tune. They played it back while I played along with the playback. I closed my eyes playing the whole thing and when the song ended I opened my eyes and looked up and there was nobody on the set. How can they keep 50 people off the set? That cost (laughs) a lot of money just to play a joke on me man. About a few seconds later I heard laughing in the back of the sound stage and they all came forward and said that was a joke man. Can you imagine that, paying people to be there and playing a joke on me.
JC: Thatís great, It sounds like you guys had fun on the set thatís for sure.
HC: We did a video series in Chicago for the network NBC (I think) and it was called "An Evening With" series. They had "An Evening With Sammy Davis" they had "An Evening With Ella Fitzgerald" an evening with so and so and then they had "An Evening With Arthur Lyman". So we were included. There were 8 artists and it was an hour long special. They didnít have VCRís at the time, but it was played nationwide. I saw it here and I saw it in the Mainland. I wished that we had a VCR so we could have videotaped it ourselves. Right now we have no record of that at all but it was a hit. It was called "An Evening With" series. It was neat.
JC: Iím sure somebody has them in a vault somewhere.
HC: Iím sure somebody does.
JC: Did you record for any other artists?
HC: Too numerous to mention. I recorded with a lot of local artists here.
JC: Any Exotic type artists that we may know?
HC: No, not Exotic type. I played Hawaiian Music, Jazz, Latin, all kinds here.
JC: Are you glad to see the early Lyman albums reissued on CD?
HC: Finally!, Now-a-days everything on CD huh.
JC: What do you think of the renewed interest in Exotic type music?
HC: Well, I think itís very exciting because of the multiple use of percussion instruments which is getting reborn again today. A lot of groups are coming out playing bongos and congas and doing all kinds of stuff. I sell lots and lots of percussion hand instruments and everything. Its being reborn again.
JC: Do you keep in contact with Arthur and do you still play out live?
HC: Yes I do, I still freelance. I freelance a lot playing Jazz, Latin, Country/Western etc,etc. I do Big Band twice a week with a seventeen piece jazz band. Iím very busy.
JC: Any future recording plans?
HC: No, unless someone asks me to record something. Thereís a guy that came in from Japan and he asked Augie Colon ( Augie was the bird call guy with Martin Denny) asked he and I to listen to a tape and they recorded us over the tape. They wanted us to do certain things and that was the last thing I did a couple months ago. Never heard the guy before, but he wanted us to be on his album so he told us what he wanted and we did it.
JC: So you know Augie Colon pretty good too then huh?
HC: Augie Colon, yes very well, 40 to 50 years. We have known each other for along time. I played with Martin Denny for five years, with Augie and everyone else. We traveled all over and worked here in Honolulu also.
JC: Did you ever record with Martin Denny?
HC: The original Martin Denny album with Quiet Village came out in 1957 and I recorded that album with him, this is before I joined Arthur.
I recorded that with Martin Denny. They hired me as an extra percussionist. They didnít put my name on it because I wasnít a member of the group, I was just an added personnel. So Iím on the original Quiet Village album (Exotica) the one that was his number one seller.
JC:Wow!! Thank you very much for doing this interview with me today.
HC: Thank you.
Harold Chang currently plays and teaches percussion at Harryís Music Store in Honolulu.