Nohelani Cypriano debuted as a solo artist in 1977 when she and Dennis Graue recorded "Lihue." The song won a spot on Ron Jacobs’ "Homegrown II" album, and that first hit was followed by a Hoku Award-winning album. She’s been a high-profile solo artist ever since.
But tomorrow night Cypriano and Graue will recreate an earlier chapter in their lives at Robin Kimura’s ’70s Nightclub Reunion VIII at the Ala Moana Hotel.
Back in the ’70s, before "Lihue," they played the club circuit with a band named Golden Throat.
It will be the first time in more than 30 years that they’ve performed as Golden Throat. Making it happen wasn’t easy.
"For this show the original members of Golden Throat will be Dennis, Phil Bennett and I," Cypriano said during a quick telephone call last week, running late after a recording session went two hours overtime.
NOHELANI CYPRIANO/’70S NIGHTCLUB REUNION VIII
Where: Ala Moana Hotel Hibiscus Ballroom I and II
When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Cost: $35, $50 reserved seating
Info: 944-4330 (ask for Candy Au) or www.70snightclubreunion.com
The three old-time members will represent the much larger number of musicians who passed through the group. Cypriano says at least one other member was unable to commit due to scheduling conflicts. Therefore, by necessity, a couple of sidemen will sit in as she leads the group in a set that will include rarely heard songs from her hit album.
Glass Candle, Greenwood, Power Point and Asian Blend are also performing in what will be five hours of solid gold nostalgia for veterans of the Waikiki club scene of the ’70s.
Kimura has set a high standard of authenticity throughout the "Nightclub Reunion" series by presenting only groups that actually played in Waikiki in the ’70s or early ’80s — in other words, no "oldies acts" or pick up groups. And, if the surviving members aren’t willing to reunite for the evening, Kimura won’t accept substitutes.
With Golden Throat, Kimura knew that Cypriano and Graue were always the core of the group. With Bennett as a third old-time member, they made the cut.
Ironically, perhaps, Cypriano says Golden Throat wasn’t formed to be a pop "cover band" playing local nightclubs.
"When Dennis and I first formed the group, we knew that we were going to do eventually a record with Michael Cord," she recalls, " (and) Michael’s vision was piecing together a group that had rock-style original music, so we were writing a lot of original music."
The result was a self-titled album of original music on Irv Pinensky’s Trim label. At that time the roster was Cypriano (vocals/keyboards), Graue (vocals/keyboards/acoustic guitar), Cord (vocals/bass/dobro/ slide guitar), John Dileo (guitar/slide guitar) and "new drummer" Travis Fullerton. Several other musicians contributed to the final recordings.
"That was the first Golden Throat," she said. "When that band kind of disbanded, we had a lot of other musicians who came into the group, and then because we were doing the nightclub scene, we had to change from the rock style we had and transition into doing more of the cover tunes."
Golden Throat disbanded for good around the time that Cypriano and Graue began planning her first album.
"Lihue" was a calculated gamble, Cypriano recalls — and it paid off.
"Everybody was doing their normal thing and playing it safe. We tried to combine nostalgic Polynesian songs with R&B and make a new island sound. … it was different, and I’m happy that we did that, because we didn’t want to play it safe. We just wanted to do what we were about."
LOOKING back still f urther, Cypriano met Graue when she was a member of Rock Candy, he was playing with Johnny’s Rock Society, and both groups were in a battle of the bands.
Rock Candy — a quartet of female singer/musicians — was the last of 22 bands to perform. They won.
At the time, Graue said the band had an edge because the members were wearing hot pants.
"Orange hot pants with white boots," she says with a chuckle. "But it was the sound too (that won for us). They put us on last because the group before had to help reset the stage for the next group — I felt confident, but sitting there all night watching 21 bands before us go on, I was a wreck by the time we got on."
Cypriano and Graue got to know each other better when the two groups performed on Kauai.
"We became friends in music, later married (and then divorced), and we still continue till today to play music.
"The friendship is wonderful. … his talents are so good on the music side, and the combination really works."