Love Vibrations: Loyal Garner (Interview)

“It’s like my own little mission, trying to spread the love vibration in my music. I always try to bring people to a higher consciousness in my shows.” – Loyal Garner

A friend of mine hipped me to this interview with New Age artist Iasos, where he talks about the higher octaves of life: joy, ecstasy, rapture, and beyond.

Lately I’ve been trying to manifest what can only described as such—I’ll admittedly never reach Iasos’ height—but it’s something spiritual, something positive, something to do with love and life.

So when I picked up one of my favorite books on Hawaiian music, Da Kine Sound, from the Hawaii State Library, I was once again pleasantly reminded of Loyal Garner’s mission to share “love vibrations” through her music with others.

Loyal Garner - Loyal LP

Reading excerpts from her interview with Burl Burlingame and Robert Kamohalu Kasher in Da Kine Sound, I swear some form of enlightenment ran through my soul, telling me: Everything is related. Everything happens for a reason…

I certaintly hope so.

Enjoy this lengthy excerpt from Loyal’s interview in Da Kine Sound. And look forward to experiencing Loyal’s love vibrations on the Hawaiian Salt mix by Fitted x Aloha Got Soul, releasing April 20, 2013.

Where were you born in Honolulu?

Kuakini Hospital. I was born September 28, 1946. At 5:59 pm. How’s that?

What neighborhood did you grow up in? 

Kalihi. I was born in Kalihi, raised in Waialua. I’m a Waialua girl, my family is from Waialua. I spent my high school years up at Alewa Heights. So I’m quite familiar with the whole island, I think.

What was Waialua like then?

Strange! But I think it’s still the same. I went back to perform at the Sea Spree, and it was so nice to see the familiar faces. I was very grateful for the experience of being raised in Waialua. It taught me the roots of Hawaii. When you’re born in the city, all you feel, hear and see is the city. You take for granted what are really the true things in Hawaii. Until you live in the country, only then do you know.

Loyal Garner

Were you farmers?

No, we communted every day into town. My parents worked in town.

I went to St. Michael’s school out in Waialua. My first day at school was spent trying to understand the language. I said, “Wow, that’s this, man?”

First thing, this little girl came to me. She said, “Ey! You brang you books?”

I said, “What?” I thought it was a hybolic word! I thought, “Wow, what does that word mean? I better go look it up.” I was so nervous, I thought I was talking in the wrong language!

But then I got to make friends. They were such beautiful people. Down to earth and beautiful. You got to really appreciate the true things in life. You don’t have the extravagant things or schools living in the country, but you learn to like what there is, and get by.

How long did you go to St. Michael’s?

From third to fifth grades, then I transferred back to Sacred Hearts.

What was it like, going back to the city again?

I had to learn another language again! But I always kept in touch with my schoolmates out there, so I wanted to go back.

In fact, the whole time all my friends would run up, because I thought I was going to Kam[ehameha Schools], and they’d go, “Oooh, you’re going to Kam.” And I’d say, “No.”

Sacred Hearts was one of the last schools to contact me. I wanted to go there because all my friends were there after I left second grade. When the acceptance finally came, I was so elated because I’d get to see my old friends again.

Now, looking back, I regret not going to Kam. I really do. Because of the musical background that Kam had to offer. At Sacred Hearts I really didn’t get involved in the music. If I did, it was on my own. I never got involved with the school activities.

What were you interested in studying?

Music. It was always a primary interest ever since I was a little girl.

I come from a musical family, like I’m third generation in my family. My grandfather was noted for his musical tableaus that he would give throughout the islands. If the old-timers hear his name, Joseph Kuni, they remember him for his tableaus. My mom was a singer in the Royal Hawaiian Band. She had her own musical group, and she went to New York with Arthur Godfrey and her hula group.

My sister took after her and taught hula. See, I was the one who didn’t want to dance, so I thought, well, I should sing. Here I am the baby of the family, my brother plays piano and my sister dances, so I thought, “Heck, I’m going to sing!”

I always sang from the time I was a little girl in school. The teachers were always fascinated with me because I could naturally hear the second part. You know, the harmony. I don’t know how, I just did it. It came naturally, and my school teachers at Sacred Hearts were all trying to convince my parents to school me in music. But you know, we were poor… so I never could afford classes for piano or other things, for formal training. Finally, I had two summers of formal training, going ‘ta ta ta ta ta ta ta.’ Thinking, “This is just. I don’t want to learn it.”

It literally turned me off so much, that I stopped until my last year of school. I got so turned off with formal training I thought, “There must be something more to this than just notes!”

What got you back into it? 

My singing group. We’d sing off and on for small little parties of our friends. My senior year, we decided we were going to enter the St. Louis talent show. After that, that’s when I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a musician.

I wanted to go to the University, but at that time I thought of going into musical entertainment. But I didn’t dream of being an entertainer! I said, “You know they don’t want to see a little chubby girl on the stage singing.” So, I decided I was going to be a schoolteacher.

I went into training and it was very difficult, because I had no formal training, and I was going up against the kids who did. I was very lucky the Lord gifted me with a good ear. I was amazed at what I was learning. Then I finally realized all I was learning was what I had already been doing. I didn’t know what the name was, but I was doing it. I just learned the labels.

I’ve always believed my whole life has been channelled. I really feel as if God has been guiding me all the way. Even in places where I’ve told myself, “What am I doing here?”

Could you read music before?

I could sight-read vocally, but I had absolutely no piano knowledge. I would hit a note and pray it would be the right one! And luckily it was there. also, thanks to good teachers like Dr. Rian who was an inspiration to me. He was chairman at the University. He saw the talent in  me and gave me training he’d never give anyone else.

What happened to your University studies?

I never finished. I’m lacking 30 credits. It wasn’t a disappointment to me because I had learned all I had to learn at the University. My time with them was over and it was time to move on.

Do you arrange your music by sight or by ear?

I always play by ear. Very rarely do I play by sight. That’s one thing I don’t demand out of my musicians. In fact, I’d rather have a musician who plays by ear because with the ear training you get the feeling. I find with people who play by sight only, they get mechanical after a while.

A lot of my music deals with feeling, sending that love vibration I always speak of, so I always look for a musician who has that to give. All of my musicians now, none of them can read or perhaps just a little, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.

Is music more spontaneous that way?

Yes. Somehow when you do it that way, you give them a chance to use their own creativity. If you limit them to what’s been written, then that’s all they can do after a while. If you let them utilize their own creative geniuses, the that’s what comes out. I can tell how immensely they’ve improved. It all had to do with pressing the right button and saying, “Go!” and they went.

This is what we need to see in a lot of our musicians. They think because they’re side men they have no right to think on their own.

Loyal Garner

A lot of my music deals with feeling, sending that love vibration I always speak of, so I always look for a musician who has that to give.

When you were going to the University, were you doing music on the side? 

That’s how I supported myself. In fact, when I was accepted at UH I also auditioned for a job at the Hawaiian Village. Jo Flanders, God bless her, was my first boss. She hired me.

I went to the audition on a dare. I though, “Oh, okay, I goin’ try out for that!” My pianist was saying, “Com on, we’ll go.” That’s all you have to do to Loyal Garner, dare me and I’ll be there.

I went up with my two songs and five other girls were there, many of them already in Waikiki show business. I thought, “I’ll never get this job. What am I doing here?”

It was an all day thing. They made me and all the other girls wait. Jo came to me and said, “You got the job.” I went, “Oh no, I was only kidding! You can’t hire me, cause I only know two numbers, and I don’t know how to talk.”

And she said, “You got the job.” And I went, “Oh, no. Oh, wow!”

It was really funny, she came up to me and said, “You’re going to make $125 a week.” It was like, “Huh?” I mean, I’d never seen a hundred dollar bill in my life. She misinterpreted it as not being enough. So she said to me, “Well, I’ll try and get you $150.”

I went ever louder, “Huh?” I didn’t breathe after that, so I let her go away thinking it wasn’t enough. But I was so elated!

How did it work out?

Well, it got me here [at the Ilikai Hotel]. I worked there for about three and a half years. I was at the Golden Dragon for two and a half years, then they moved me to the Pot of Golf. I started August 29, 1966.

What was it like your first night on stage?

I don’t know how I did it. I look back and think, “How did I do it? Where did I get the brains to perform in that situation?”

I’ve always believed my whole life has been channelled. I really feel as if God has been guiding me all the way. Even in places where I’ve told myself, “What am I doing here?”

Do you do your own arranging?

Yes, I do my own. I always like to pick songs with messages. It’s like my own little mission, trying to spread the love vibration in my music. I always try to bring people to a higher consciousness in my shows.

I try to draw on a diverse range of material because we’re such a diverse blend of races and cultures here in the islands. We attract so many throughout the world. I try to move in all directions and not just confine myself to doing Hawaiian, haole or rock, or this or that but try to some of them all.

Loyal Garner

It’s like my own little mission, trying to spread the love vibration in my music. I always try to bring people to a higher consciousness in my shows.

Why did you move beyond Hawaiian music?

Well, my mother and her relatives only did Hawaiian music, and it was a bit of a shock when my brother and I started doing American music. We were the first generation of the family to really do American music. I think I got into it mainly through the influence of my brother. In high school he was in the bands, and as a little girl I’d hear him rehearse and hear his albums of jazz. Like Ella Fitzgerald and all the big names. When I used to hear her sing I wanted to sing like her. You know, at a young age.

I didn’t know there was anything spectacular, I was kind of getting indoctrinated into that kind of music. When my generation was listening to rock ‘n’ roll, I was listening to the big sound of jazz. I was never really heavy into rock and roll. it was more jazz, soul, rhythm and blues.

Have other kinds of music influenced your Hawaiian?

Yes! Because I look at a contemporary approach to Hawaiian music. I have structured my whole singing style towards a contemporary sound for all music, which includes the way I do Hawaiian.

Where did you get the gospel style in your music? 

From Hawaiian. The spirituality of life to me is universal, you latch on to that vibration and let it come through, whatever your feeling or business is. In being Hawaiian, the spiritual foundation is very important in the family.

In the Hawaiian churches, if you go there and listen to them sing, you hear them singing from the soul. That’s where the gospel style comes from. Singing from the soul is gospel no matter which race it is.

Do you do anything to psych up for a performance? 

Not really. What I try to do, since I got spirituality involved, is meditate about the day. It gives me good perspective on the day so when the night comes I can relate to the events of the day much better with the audience.

But the main thing is to try to do your job. If I can bring just one person to a higher vibration, if I can just make one person smile, I’ve done my job and I can go home satisfied. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes you hear the physical reaction, the applause, but you don’t really know what their spiritual reaction is. Sometimes I walk outside and I’m so down and someone comes up to me and says, “Oh, you just brought tears to my eyes.” And I think I did!

You feel like saying, “Thank you for telling me. I did my job.” I’ve been very fortunate people have gone through the trouble to tell me this.

The spirituality of life to me is universal, you latch on to that vibration and let it come through, whatever your feeling or business is.

How about recording, do you enjoy it?

At first I was really worried about the experience, and I had a difficult time letting myself go. But then I just settled down and realized that this was just another outlet for my energy, to reach the masses with my love vibration. It carries through on tape, on records. I said okay and settled into it.

We laid it down track by track and I had to sing over it. It’s a different story than trying to do it spontaneously on stage. It’s hard to create the emotions when no one’s there, and you see, I’m the kind of person where I feel for the audience. Trying to create the love vibration without an audience was a real problem for me.

It’s not an atmosphere that lends itself to music. It’s like singing in a hospital.

Why do you entertain?

To reach people. To reach people with what I  have to say. As many people as I can, that’s what I’m ready for.

What directions do you see yourself going now?

I don’t really know. Where there’s a need for love, I’ll be there.

Loyal Garner was one of the most popular contemporary Hawaiian singers of her time and was active in the local music scene since the late 1960s. She passed away in 2001.  

Loyal Garner

The Hawaiian Salt mix: available April 20

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Mix CD & limited tee available at fittedhawaii.com and alohagotsoul.com on April 20, 2013.

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