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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Local composer Randy Oness dead at 92

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Legendary Hawaiian music composer Randy Oness, who wrote many popular songs including "Lovely Hula Girl," "Haunani" and "Hawaiian Hula Eyes," died Dec. 5. He was 92.

Randy Oness wrote many hapa-haole classics.

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Oness was one of the last true hapa-haole-style composers from the golden years of Hawaiian music. In 1999, he was honored by the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts with a lifetime achievement award at the Na Hoku Hanohano awards program.

"It's a sad loss because he was not only a pillar of Hawaiian music, but one of our last few Hawaiian speakers," said Hailama Farden, a Hawaiian language instructor at Kamehameha Schools and grand-nephew of the late Irmgard Aluli.

Oness was born in Palama and raised in Kalihi. He attended Kamehameha Schools and graduated in 1930.

When he was 6 years old, his father took him to Washington Place to shake the hand of Queen Lili'uokalani.

Oness began playing the 'ukulele at age 4 for the ladies at Kawaiaha'o Church. He became a serious student of music in the fourth grade under the tutelage of Henri Berger, known as the father of Hawaiian music.

When he graduated from high school he went to work for Johnny Noble at the Moana Hotel. Noble was a pioneer in hapa-haole music.

Four years later, Oness joined another legendary Hawaiian dance band leader Harry Owens at the Royal Hawaiian.

Oness went on to form his own band, which included Alfred Apaka, Alvin Isaacs, Buddy Peterson, Steppy DeRego and Pua Almeida.

Farden said hapa-haole music composers "accommodated Hawaiian music by writing in English," and at times the songs were "tacky."

"But some of those songs were beautiful, such as those composed by Uncle Randy," Farden said.

Farden added that the old-timers such as Oness "can live for ever if our young musicians would care to learn what the legacies that our kupuna have left. Our kupuna have left big notches in the belt of Hawaiian music and in our culture."

In addition to being a lifetime member of the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts, Oness also was a member of 'Ahahui 'Olelo Hawai'i, a Hawaiian language association.

Oness is survived by a son, Roy; daughter, Haunani; two grandsons; and two great-grandsons.

Visitation from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Friday at St. Anthony's Church in Kailua; Mass at 11 a.m. Burial to follow at Diamond Head Memorial Park.