Guitarist, singer worked with many local luminaries
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
By Derek Paiva
Auntie Pahukoa Morse, a veteran musician and vocalist who recorded with Hawaiian music greats such as Auntie Genoa Keawe, Johnny Almeida and Auntie Ida Keli'i Chun over a recording career that spanned more than 60 years, died of complications from cancer at her Kalihi home on Tuesday.
She was 80.
Among Morse's more notable recording projects in recent years was singing and playing rhythm guitar as a member of Lei Hulu on 2004's "Hula Lives!" with Kimo Alama Keaulana. The disc won two Na Hoku Hanohano music awards last year, for best Hawaiian language performance and haku mele.
"She was very charitable (and) loved her music," said her only son, Charvis W.P. Morse Sr. "She'd do anything she could for anybody. People would always call to ask her things about Hawaiian music or if she could recall a certain song."
Morse began recording in the late 1940s as a studio musician for local music legends Almeida's and George Na'ope's Tropical Records. But she had begun mastering slack-key and rhythm guitar playing while still a child.
With twin sister Pua Rogers, Morse began singing in church as a teenager, eventually forming a duo singing the popular music of the day.
Morse, Rogers and Jackie Flores would eventually found Hawaiian-language vocal trio Menehune Maidens.
Morse was also a member of the Tropical Serenaders.
Morse went on to work with musicians such as Keawe, Chun, Kai Davis, Myra English, Herbert Hanawahine, John Lino, Lena Machado and Violet Pahu Lilikoi.
Morse also contributed rhythm guitar to Auntie Ida Keli'i Chun's 2005 "Memories of Old Hawai'i" disc, nominated for three Hoku awards this year.
"Ida Keli'i Chun was one of her best friends, so having the chance to work with her in that capacity was wonderful," said "Memories" co-producer Hailama V.K.K. Farden. "Auntie had a unique talent where you could dream of what you wanted and she could play it. She had a unique strum with her guitar — a very straight strum — and her rhythms were perfect."
Farden called Morse "one of our strongest pillars of Hawaiian music because of her experience and the many great people she played with. She's a big-time lady."
Morse's final moments in the studio will be heard on Farden's upcoming recording project, "Aloha 'Ia 'O Wai'anae." Her signature rhythm guitar colors many of the disc's tracks.
Morse was an active member of Halau 'O Wahiika'ahu'ula — the Honolulu chapter of Hawaiian benevolent royal society Hale O Na Ali'i O Hawai'i — and sang with its Lei Mamo Serenaders. She was also a longtime member of the Lahaina Hawaiian Civic Club and former member of the King Kamehameha Hawaiian Civic Club.
A retired Honolulu Police Department employee, Morse also once served as music librarian for KPOI radio during its "Poi Boys" heyday.
In addition to her son Charvis Morse of Dayton, Ohio, Morse is survived by sisters Maizelette Kupau and Georgette Kala; brother George Kala; and her companion James I. Feary.
She has four grandsons, six great-grandchildren and numerous grandnieces and grandnephews.
Funeral services are pending.
Reach Derek Paiva at firstname.lastname@example.org.