The phrase was familiar to millions of radio listeners around the world, and Webley Edwards capitalized on it for 37 years.
"The people of Hawai'i bid you welcome," he would say against a background of crashing surf. "Hawai'i calls!"
It was a play on words for "Hawaii Calls," the popular half-hour radio show Edwards started in 1935. The show brought Hawaiian music to middle America and popularized "Sweet Leilani," "Lovely Hula Hands" and "Beyond the Reef."
It was an audio post card that seduced listeners with visions of a tropical paradise. One of the show's regular features involved Edwards giving the air and water temperatures at Waikiki Beach. But when he feared this was irritating snow-bound listeners and stopped including it, Edwards was barraged with complaints.
Edwards was born in Corvallis, Ore., in 1902. He played quarterback for Oregon State University, where he studied radio broadcasting but never graduated. In 1928, he was invited to come to Hawai'i to play semiprofessional football on the Town Team and to sell Cadillacs at Schuman Carriage. Like so many before him, he fell in love with the Islands.
On a 1934 business trip to the Mainland, Edwards listened to San Francisco musicians playing Hawaiian music. He told them no one in Hawai'i would recognize it and convinced friends at CBS that he could produce a radio show with authentic Hawaiian music. He was given a two-week trial run.
On July 3, 1935, "Hawai'i Calls" was born. The first show was broadcast to two California radio stations via shortwave radio from under the Moana Hotel banyan tree. At one point during its lengthy broadcast history, the show reached 450 stations in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, South America and the Far East.
Edwards kept his voice cool and soothing by having a bowl of ice cream before each show.
Edwards was the show's cheerful master of ceremonies until 1972 when a near-fatal stroke forced him to quit. The show would continue until 1975 a 40-year run.
Two years later, Edwards was dead. He was 74. His ashes were scattered in the waters off Waikiki.