Concert promoter Tom Moffatt, 85, dies
  • Wednesday, January 16, 2019
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Concert promoter Tom Moffatt, 85, dies

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / DEC. 1969

    Carlos Santana, left, with Tom Moffatt.

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / APRIL 1962

    Tom Moffatt, then a Honolulu disc jockey, greeted Elvis Presley as he arrived at Honolulu airport, in 1962, for the filming of “Girls! Girls! Girls!”

  • STAR-ADVERTISER

    Tom Moffatt at his Ala Moana office, on April 26, amongst memorabilia from local concerts, which he promoted.

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Tom Moffatt — radio disc jockey, concert promoter and one of the most influential figures in the Hawaii entertainment industry — died Monday. He was 85.

Longtime associate Barb Saito, operations manager and vice president of Tom Moffatt Productions, confirmed that Moffatt died Monday night at home after several months of declining health. She described the 35 years she worked with him as “an amazing ride.”

Born Dec. 30, 1930, in Detroit, Moffatt disliked city life and spent most of his teen years working on farms and going to school in small towns outside the Motor City. He came to Hawaii in 1950, enrolled in the University of Hawaii, gravitating toward a career in radio.

Moffatt was playing jazz on KIKI when he started getting requests for a unknown artist named Elvis Presley. With the station’s permission, Moffatt became the first “rock ‘n’ roll” disk jockey in Hawaii and one of the pioneers of modern Top 40 radio.

Moffatt developed the format with Hawaii-born Ron Jacobs at KHVH, KPOA and finally at KPOI — possibly the first time that a station’s call letters formed a pronounceable word. Moffatt, Jacobs and other deejays became the “Poi Boys,” and captivated Hawaii audiences with a seemingly endless series of contests, special events, staged “feuds” between Moffatt and Jacobs, and the “Marathon of Hits” — an annual countdown of the most popular songs in Hawaii as voted on by KPOI listeners. KPOI dominated the Hawaii radio market throughout the 1960s.

Moffatt got involved in concert promotion in the 1950s as an outgrowth of his work in radio. He presented musical revues of the hit artists of the day with the “Show of Stars” concerts and then helped open the Honolulu International Center (now the Neal S. Blaisdell Center) with the first in a series of “Million Dollar Parties.” In the decades that followed Moffatt presented almost every big name in the music business at least once — among his biggest productions were mega-concerts by Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and the Eagles in Aloha Stadium. He also brokered reunion concerts by Cecilio & Kapono, Kalapana and Hui Ohana when conventional wisdom held that the members of the those acts would never work together again.

Moffatt’s involvement in the Hawaii record industry started in the late 1950s. He became a major figure in the Hawaii record industry in the 1970s and 1980s as the head of two labels — Paradise and Bluewater — that released Hoku Hanohano Award-winning recordings by Keola & Kapono Beamer, Andy Bumatai, Loyal Garner, the Aliis, the Kasuals, Rap Reiplinger, The Krush, Hui Ohana and Ledward Kaapana.

Early in his career — while he was still in his 20s, and for reasons now long forgotten — Moffatt’s teenage fans began calling him “Uncle Tom” and dubbed his radio studio as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Moffatt said in 2016 that only one person had ever seemed to take offense at the nickname — an African-American entertainer who arrived from the mainland and wanted to know “Who this ‘Uncle Tom’ guy is.” Prominent kamaaina members of Hawaii’s African-American community have said that although a disc jockey’s use of the name “Uncle Tom” could be problematic elsewhere in the country they found nothing offensive in Moffatt being known as “Uncle Tom” in Hawaii.

Moffatt continued to be active as a concert promoter and radio personality well into his 80s. He returned to radio in the 2000s hosting a Saturday morning program on Kool Gold 107.9 where he entertained listeners with stories about events from the 1950s to present and played songs from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s — in some cases song that had only been hits in Hawaii.

Moffatt is survived by his wife, Esther “Sweetie” Kealoha Cablay Moffatt, son Troy Moffatt, his brother Norman Moffatt and sister Alice Moffatt.

Funeral plans are pending.

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  • so news to hear of Uncle Tom’s passing – such a nice man with a great voice. Going to miss him on the radio and his concert promoting. Thank you for bringing such memorable concerts (Eagles at Aloha Stadium is still one of the best I’ve been to!) to Hawaii.

  • Rest in peace, Uncle Tom. Enjoyed his radio show from the late ’50s to, most recently, his Saturday shows. It was always a thrill to call him and have him play a song request. He will be dearly missed.

    • Well, except for Alan “Freakout” Allnight on KKUA — in case any of you other old futts remember him.

  • Heartfelt condolences to Sweetie and family. Another great leaving for greener pasture. Rest in peace, Mr. Moffatt, may the angels lined the pathway to heaven singing the celestial hymns of welcome to a great man!

  • Thank you Uncle Tom for sharing the true “Aloha Spirit” to the world!! May you rest in peace surrounded with lots of ALOHA !!

  • Farewell Uncle Tom. You will always be remembered for all the music and musicians that you brought over to the Islands. I have a lot of good memories.

  • Another icon of my youth passes away. Uncle Tom and the rest of the Poi Boys made radio come alive. Their antics entertained the entire community. Rest in peace.

  • Like Berger proclaimed he was a giant in local radio and entertainment promotion. Almost everyone in Hawaii has benefited by attending a performance brought to us by Tom Moffat Productions. I can never say that I didn’t see Elvis or the Rolling Stones and countless others in venues like the Civic Auditorium, HIC and the Waikiki Shell. K-POI, Uncle Tom and the rest of the merry band of disc jockeys are forever a large part of my teen years. His warm and radiant voice was instantly recognizable throughout.
    We, I will miss his presence. Thank you so much.

  • Use to always listen to KPOI. I still have an album KPOI Oldies But Goodies.
    In the back there were pictures of the Poi Boys. Tom Moffatt,Fred Kiemel,Bob Lowrie,Tom Rounds,Jack Kellner and Dave Donnelley. Those were the days 50’s and 60’s.
    Rest in peace.

  • The Poi Boys were the very best in the 60’s. Those were good times for radio and Tom Moffat had no peers as a promoter. May good music follow you for eternity. Warm comfort to his family.

  • Thank you Uncle Tom for all that you did……you enriched our lives with music and entertainment….. may you rest in peace….aloha and mahalo…….

  • Thank you Uncle Tom for bringing so many great acts to Hawaii! So many memories, thanks to you!

    Deepest condolences to the Moffatt family and his friends. We are so grateful for all that he did!

  • Aw, geezus, what an icon…..i remember visiting him at the old KPOI radio station on the grounds of Iolani School where now they have a condominium and he always let us rambunctious teenagers into the studio and gave us inside scoops on his Show of Stars who he was bringing in at the old Civic Auditorium…we even got tickets to Elvis Presley when he performed at the old Hon. Stadium as only the makai section of the stadium was open for Presley’s concert and we were about 5 rows from the bottom…..he was a gentlemen in every sort of the way…very polite….very engaging but generous in his personality…but the bottom like is he was always polite……….what a tremendous loss…..my regards to his family……..he was an icon in Hawaiian entertainment……..geez, he will be missed.

  • Another icon has passed. Thank you for all the wonderful memories. We were so blessed to have you in our beloved Hawaii

  • A relative once shared a few stories of his days in college with Tom. By all accounts, he was a genuinely good man who brought so many awesome musical acts to Hawaii … dating to the days of the Show of Stars at the Civic Auditorium. KPOI rocked back in the day.

    Rest in peace, “Uncle,” and condolences to his family and friends.

  • Mahalo, Tom, for all the unforgettable concerts of my misspent yoot’. Still rockin’ after all these years, thanks to you brah! Looking forward to the heavenly reunion of Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin and Garcia. Gonna be t’ousand times mo betta den even da Crater Festivals!

  • Uncle Tom brought joy to so many across the generations and was so kind and polite. A true gentleman and icon. Oh the heartbreak. Condolences to his family.

  • Rest in Peace, Uncle Tom. Condolences to his family. He was a great contributor to the people of our State. I had the pleasure of meeting him once. Beautiful man.

  • Mahaaaaaalo Uncle Tom. Thanks for all the memories & the concerts you bought to the Hawaiian Islands! God Speed Brah! Aloha Oe!

  • Thanks for the memories Uncle Tom. Going to miss hearing your voice on 107 Cool Gold on Saturday mornings. I know I took for granted that you would always be there playing the oldies forever.

  • From an old Star Bulletin article: “THE ORIGINAL Poi Boys were “Uncle” Tom Moffatt, Bob “The Beard” Lowrie, “Jumpin'” George West, Sam Sanford and Ron Jacobs.”

    Fond memories of the good old days.

  • Sorry to hear about Mr. Moffatt. He was THE go-to man from the ’60s whenever it came to rock ‘n roll in the state. He had a very distinctive radio persona. One could not think about music of that era in Hawai’i without Tom Moffatt having something to do with the genre. I can still remember the “K-POI, Exclusive” track that always prefaced hit singles of that exciting time. RIP, Tom. You will always be one of the biggest names in island radio. Condolences to the family.

  • What a fabulous life he led in a most wonderfully creative time. Not many get to do what they love, with interesting people, in the most beautiful place on earth! Thanks Uncle Tom for all the happy memories!

  • When I didn’t hear you on the radio on the past Saturday, I knew something was not right. You were the best there was and no one will ever be able to replace you. Aloha Uncle Tom!

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