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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 13, 2006

'Tiny Bubbles' lifted Ho to stardom

 •  Spirit of 76

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

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Don Ho wasn't particularly eager to record his signature tune, "Tiny Bubbles," in 1966. In fact, he cut the song reluctantly.

His record producer, Sonny Burke, wanted him to record "Born Free" at Donn Tyler's Commercial Recording in Kaka'ako. It was a tune Ho had embraced and performed in his show at Duke Kahanamoku's.

However, Ho had difficulty cutting a version that suited him, even with arranger H.B. Barnum, then one of the top musical arrangers in the biz, involved.

But Burke and Barnum also had another little tune for him to try Leon Pober's "Tiny Bubbles." It had been arranged for recording without Ho's knowledge. They played tracks for Ho at the session.

As he recalled the date, Ho hummed the introductory few notes: "Bom, bom-bom-bom."

"So I finally said, 'OK, I sing it.' One time, one take," said Ho.

Within two weeks of the release of "Tiny Bubbles," Ho started getting calls from disc jockeys all over the country, eager to interview him and playing the song in high rotation. The song became a smash hit.

"I was on the phone answering questions about the song ... I began to realize that that's the way it works. You get a hit song, they call you."

After "Tiny Bubbles," Ho's bookings in Mainland clubs and on TV multiplied. By 1976, he had his own ABC-TV show, "The Don Ho Show." All the while, he continued performing in Waikiki.

The song remains a constant in his shows, 40 years later.

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.