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Thursday, 2 February 2017

Arthur Lyman born 2 February 1932

Arthur Lyman (February 2, 1932 – February 24, 2002) was an American jazz vibraphone and marimba player. His group popularized a style of faux-Polynesian music during the 1950s and 1960s which later became known as exotica. His albums became favourite stereo-effect demonstration discs during the early days of the stereophonic LP album for their elaborate and colourful percussion, deep bass and 3-dimensional recording soundstage. Lyman was known as "the King of Lounge music. 

Arthur Lyman was born on the island of Oahu in the U.S. territory of Hawaii, on February 2, 1932. He was the youngest of eight children of a Hawaiian mother and a father of Hawaiian, French, Belgian and Chinese descent. When Arthur's father, a land surveyor, lost his eyesight in an accident on Kauai, the family settled in Makiki, a subdistrict of Honolulu. Arthur's father was very strict with him, each day after school locking him in a room with orders to play along to a stack of Benny Goodman records "to learn what good music is." 

"I had a little toy marimba," Lyman later recalled, "a sort of bass xylophone, and from those old 78 rpm disks I learned every note Lionel Hampton recorded with the Goodman group." At age eight he made his public debut playing his toy marimba on the Listerine Amateur Hour on radio station KGMB, Honolulu, playing "Twelfth Street Rag.” Lyman joined his father and brother playing USO shows on the bases at Kaneohe and Pearl Harbour. 

Over the next few years he became adept at the four-mallet style of playing which offers a greater range of chord-forming options. In fact he became good enough to turn professional at age 14 when he joined a group called the Gadabouts, playing vibes in the cool-jazz style then in vogue. 

After graduating from McKinley High School in 1951, he put music on hold to work as a desk clerk at the Halekulani hotel. It was there in 1954 that he met pianist Martin Denny, who, after hearing him play, offered the 21-year-old a spot in his band. Initially wary, Lyman was persuaded by the numbers: he was making $280 a month as a clerk, and Denny promised more than $100 a week.  

Denny had been brought to Hawaii in January on contract by Don the Beachcomber, and stayed in Hawaii to play nightly in the Shell Bar at the Hawaiian Village. Denny, who had travelled widely, had collected numerous exotic instruments from all over the world and liked to use them to spice up his jazz arrangements of popular songs. The stage of the Shell Bar was very exotic, with a little pool of water right outside the bandstand, and rocks and palm trees growing around. One night Lyman had "had a little to drink," and when they began playing the theme from Vera Cruz, Lyman let out a few bird calls. "The next thing you know, the audience started to answer me back with all kinds of weird cries. It was great." These bird calls became a trademark of Lyman's sound. 

When Denny's "Quiet Village" was released on record in 1957 it became a smash hit, igniting a national mania for all things Hawaiian during the lead-up to Hawaii becoming a state, including tiki idols, exotic drinks, aloha shirts, luaus, straw hats and Polynesian-themed restaurants like Trader Vic's.


That same year, Lyman split off from Denny to form his own group, continuing in much the same style but even more flamboyant. For the rest of their careers they remained friendly rivals, even appearing together (with many of their former band mates) on Denny's 1990 CD Exotica '90.

Although the Polynesian craze faded as music trends changed, Lyman's combo continued to play to tourists nearly every Friday and Saturday night at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel in Honolulu throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He also performed for years at Don the Beachcomber's Polynesian Village, the Shell Bar, the Waialae Country Club and the Canoe House at the Ilikai Hotel at Waikiki, the Bali Hai in Southern California and at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago.  

During the peak of his popularity Lyman recorded more than 30 albums and almost 400 singles, earning three gold albums. Taboo peaked at number 6 on Billboard's album chart and stayed on the chart for over a year, eventually selling more than two million copies. The title song peaked at number 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1959. Lyman's biggest pop single was "Yellow Bird," originally a Haitian song, which peaked at #4 in July 1961. His last charting single was "Love For Sale" (reaching number 43 in March 1963),but his music enjoyed a new burst of popularity in the 1990s with the lounge music revival and CD reissues.

Lyman died from oesophageal cancer in February 2002. (Info edited from Wikipedia)


boppinbob said...

For “The Exotic Sound Of Arthur Lyman Group (1991)” go here:

01. Taboo
02. China Clipper
03. Fire Down Below
04. Cubana Chant
05. Kinkajou
06. Fascination
07. Ye Lai Sian
08. Yellow Bird
09. Jungle Drums
10. Love For Sale
11. Otome San (Japanese Drink Song)
12. Quiet Village
13. Tropical
14. Busy Port
15. Bwana A
16. Moon Over A Ruined Castle
17. Arrive Derce Roma
18. March Of The Siamese Children
19. Blue Hawaii
20. Brazilleros
21. Dahil Sayo
22. Leis Of Jazz
23. Anna
24. Hava Nagila
25. Hawaiian Wedding Song (Ke Kali Ne Au)

Pudge said...

Thanks for this Bob. Great informative notes too.