David John “DJ” Pratt, founding member of Kalapana and one of the great Hawaii guitarists of his generation, died Tuesday evening after being found unresponsive at his home. He was 67.
Pratt grew up in Honolulu and graduated from Kalani High School. He founded Kalapana with Malani Bilyeu, Mackey Feary and Kirk Thompson in 1974.
Kalapana made its debut as a lounge act at Chuck’s in Hawaii Kai and grew to become resident headliners at Toppe Ada Shoppe, a prestigious local showroom. From there, as a concert act and as recording artists, Kalapana was second only to Cecilio & Kapono as the biggest contemporary local group of the 1970s.
Almost every song on their first two albums — “Kalapana” and “Kalapana II” — was played on local radio stations, they sold out a multinight engagement at the Waikiki Shell and then partnered with C&K in 1976 to co-headline the biggest Aloha Stadium concert of the decade with local entertainers as the headliners.
The early members of Kalapana — Bilyeu, Feary, Pratt, Thompson, Alvin Fejarang, Michael Paulo and Randy Aloya — had drifted apart by 1979. Pratt kept the name alive in Japan for a few years longer as the leader of a completely different group of musicians.
Pratt skipped the successful Kalapana reunion concert in 1982, but in 1986 joined Bilyeu, Feary, Gaylord Holomalia and Kenji Sano in officially restarting the group. He was Kalapana’s quietly charismatic lead guitarist for the rest of his life.
Pratt received two Na Hoku Hanohano Awards for his work as a member of Kalapana. He earn three more for his work as a recording studio engineer.
Kalapana — Bilyeu, Feary, Pratt, Thompson, Holomalia, Fejarang, Paulo and Aloya — received the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
Feary died in 1999, Fejarang in 2017 and Bilyeu in 2018.
Plans for a celebration of life are pending.