Courtesy of John Berger
Noone bar none has the memory of the local entertainment scene like John Berger . Just the mention of practically any name who has performed in Hawaii and John probably has a story to tell. Here's something written by John Berger as only he can about one of Hawaii's legendary musical groups of days gone by.
Glass Candle reunites for a popular Waikiki dance party
By John Berger
Robert Shinoda has been the leader of Nueva Vida for so many years that he doesn't often talk about the years back in the '60s and '70s when he was the leader of Glass Candle.
''70s Nightclub Reunion IV'
Place: Hibiscus Ballroom I and II, Ala Moana Hotel
Time: 8 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $40 reserved seating, $35 open seating; includes nachos bar.
From humble origins as a group of 12-year-old intermediate school students with one song in their repertoire, Glass Candle grew to became a major presence in the local nightclub scene in the early 1970s. Shinoda recalls it as "a great time for us."
"It was a real fun time, and a creative time. We made a lot of friends, and it was just a great joy to come (to work) and do that every night."
Talk about a "blast from the past," Shinoda and six other members of the group will play a club gig together for first time in 33 years this weekend when Glass Candle headlines Robin Kimura's "'70s Nightclub Reunion IV" dance party at the Ala Moana Hotel.
Kimura's band, Greenwood, will be joined this weekend by returnees White Light and Power Point, plus New Experience and Glass Candle.
Although several local musician/promoters have presented oldies shows and reunion parties in recent years, Kimura exclusively presents bands that actually played in Waikiki in the '70s or early '80s.
COURTESY GLASS CANDLE
A group photo taken during the Glass Candle's heyday.
GLASS CANDLE made the Waikiki requirement with ease. The roster this weekend includes founding member Bruce Imai, plus Bobby Gonzales, Kurt Kaminaka, John Morioka and Doug Rivera. Garin Poliahu will be sitting in on drums for the late Frank Marcella, and young guns DeShannon Higa and Larry Cook are reinforcing the brass section.
Shinoda was pleasantly surprised by the response he got when he contacted his former bandmates.
"They were totally into doing it. Pretty much across the board, everyone was quite into it, " he said.
Back in the day, Glass Candle was not only one of the best Top 40 bands on the club scene, they were the first to produce a full-length oldies show of music from the '50s and early '60s. The group took their cues from Sha Na Na, which had been a hit at Woodstock, and the film "American Graffiti," which stoked the "oldies but goodies" craze nationwide.
Shinoda and the guys got permission from the club to perform as Robbie & The Rockets at midnight on Wednesdays -- one of the slowest slots of the week. During that gig, Shinoda became a beatnik named Robbie. The Rockets were Bobby Chico La Bomba Gonzales, Doug "Rip Off" Rivera, Scooter Marcella, Kent Naka (Kurt Kaminaka), Moondoggie (Dirk Van Nordheim) and Little Lawrence "The Enforcer" Trela. The show became so popular that they added a second one with entirely different material.
One of Rivera's favorite memories is the response that the Rockets got before the show opened.
"We were at Frank's high-rise apartment doing a cappella practices of those '50s songs, with all the open patios on the other buildings, and people were coming out on their patios applauding," he said. "It's memories that you're happy to have."
When Glass Candle broke up in 1975, Shinoda went on to a mainland university to study music, Rivera joined Liz Damon's Orient Express and Gonzales became a founding member of the Fabulous Krush.
Looking back, Shinoda says it was the fans who made that time so special.
"We were just doing what we loved to do -- making music -- and to have all those people come and enjoy that with us, that was really rewarding. To me, that was the best."