The year is 1986 and AURA bids farewell to The Point After in the Hawaiian Regent Hotel. It is a bittersweet occasion – the group is looking forward to covering new grounds and travels but The Point After was the group’s home for the past 10 years…
In December 1975, Stan Richards walks into The Sting at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel to take a “peek” at the “off night” band; they call themselves The Nomads and he was told that they were a very good R ‘n B band. He walks around the disco just once and leaves. The band, although disappointed, hopes for the best because, after all, Stan Richards is the owner of The Point After – the hottest disco in Honolulu with sister clubs in Seattle, Dallas, Boston and Anchorage. They try to optimistic but realize that there has never been a “local” act hired to perform in that club – only bands from the continental U.S. circulate between the sister clubs – and even if they are hired only to do the “off night” gig it would be a stepping stone for bigger things!
Much to their, Mr. Richards decides to have them perform at The Point After in Dallas, Texas for two months, beginning January 1976. Although hoping to land a spot in the Honolulu club, this is still a big break…and there’s the excitement of traveling to unknown territory! The band does so well there, Stan decides to but the gig short and bring them “home” to perform in the Honolulu club. Wayne Harada, entertainment columnist of The Honolulu Advertiser, writes “this is history in the making…the first local act to play that room”. The group went on to receive numerous awards from Honolulu’s entertainment industry, year after year, for their superb talent and ability to “pack the room”.
In 1978, Broad Studios, after hearing the group’s “disco” rendition of Kui Lee’s “I’ll Remember You”, offer The Nomads the opportunity to record an album. In the process, the group changes its name to AURA per the advice of the producers; they record all original tunes except for their version of Don Ho’s most popular tune. After the album’s release in 1979, the group takes a break and goes on a tour of Asia for three months; upon completion of the tour, they return to The Point After where they remain until 1986.
Throughout the group’s entire history, the one thing that always stood out above all else is the fact that eight members of the group are siblings – the Mendoza Family of Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii. All siblings started performing while in intermediate school and continued to become professionals.
Over the years, everyone decided to “settle down” and move on. They all have various careers and have “reared” their children. Now, since most of them are now “empty nesters”, they’ve decided to get together, once again, to perform for “fun”.
They’ve been rehearsing for the last few months…and boy are they ready! The continue to have to unique blend of vocal stylings and the hottest R’n B sound that you’ll ever hear in the islands. The entire music community in Hawaii is abuzz with the news that AURA is making a comeback – AURA – the group to see and boogie to! AURA is back…
The Family Band:
Beverly Ann – Started performing for audiences at age 12. At age 14, while performing on a local television program, a professional jazz group (who also performed that day), asked her Dad, Julian B. Mendoza, if he would consider allowing her to perform with them at the Officer’s Club located on various military bases on Oahu. Dad and Mom, Agnes Cuaresma Mendoza, approved and accompanied her to all of the engagements. Over the course of the years , she was asked to perform/record with a concert act (wanted her to return to the mainland with them to record when she was only 15) as well as a number of local artists; needless to say, she always refused preferring to perform with her family. Today, Beverly is involved in the real estate business.
Dennis Lee – Started performing for audiences by accompanying Bev on ukulele at age 11. When the Beatles hit the music scene, everyone wanted to play in a band and Dad realized his boys were no different. Dad went out, purchased a guitar for Dennis and showed him the basics. Of course, Dennis went on to expand on what he learned from Dad & formed himself a “band”. He entered the Air Force after graduating from high school and was discharged with the rank of Staff Sergeant; upon his return, Dad told him the band needed a “keyboardist”…and so, he learned to play the keyboards and does so to this day. Now you talk about being multi-talented, not only did he sing lead and parts but would play 2 sets of keyboards simultaneously! Today, Dennis is a certified elevator mechanic.
Brian Leo – Started performing for audiences on base at the age of 11. When Dad purchased a guitar for Dennis, he also purchased a bass guitar for Brian; Brian, however, really wanted to play the drums. Dad insisted he play bass guitar because that’s what the “band” needed…and so he did…and does to this day. He has been hailed as the hottest bassist in the islands and is well respected as such by his peers. Today, Brian is with Sears Distribution Center.
Del Patrick – Started performing for audiences at the age of 10 on guitar. He is the family’s “musical genius”. As the group evolved, Del arranged all of the instrumental and vocal parts for every song he band performed…and still does to this day. He has long been admired and respected by local musicians for his musical “stylings” on guitar and as if that is not enough, he also has a beautiful voice to boot! Today, Del is in the auto mechanic business.
Christine Ellen – Started performing for audiences at the age of 12. Not only does she have a fantastic voice but is awesome on the congas! She is admired and respected by many of her male counterparts for her ability and rhythmic “stylings” on congas. It’s hard to believe that this “pint sized” person (she’s only 4’11”) can put out so much! Today, Christine is with Mitsubishi Elevator Co. and has been with the elevator trade for the last 14 years.
Clifton Scott – Started performing for audiences at the age of 16. After studying with an instructor, he mastered the trumpet by age 15 and by the time he entered the group, they were in dire need of a mean brass section because the popular music of the day called for it. He not only plays a “hot” trumpet but has a fantastic voice as well! Today, Clifton is with the City and County of California’s Courier Dept.
Michael Keith – Started performing for audiences at the age of 15. He also studied with the same instructor Clifton did and mastered the trombone by age 14. While he played a “mean” trombone little did anyone know that he was also gifted with an amazing voice! He soon became the lead vocalist of the group. Also being multi-talented, Michael plays guitar, bass & keyboards when called upon. Today, he is in the trucking business and has been a “trucker” for several years now in Las Vegas. He and Vincent also put together a band called “Phixation” and have started working the Casino Stations.
Vincent Dominic – Started performing for audiences at the age of 12. He is the youngest sibling and the family’s second “musical genius”. He mastered the saxophone by age 12 but by the time he was ready to enter the group, Dad told him the band needed a drummer…so he learned to play the drums and continues to be the “hottest” drummer and saxophonist in any town! Did I mention “genius”? He also arranges music, plays keyboards and has a great voice! Up until recently, he performed with the Society of Seven. He is currently with the Culinary Union in Las Vegas and performs with Michael and their band “Phixation”.
Gerard Keevan (Bev’s Son)– Started singing at the age of 2. He performed dinner music, for the Society Seven, at the Outrigger Main Showroom until it was discontinued in October 2002. He learned to play classical piano at the age of 10 and also has a beautiful, rich and soulful voice so he just fit right in with his mom, aunty and uncles! He’s a graduate of Iolani School (1996) and has his B.A. and Masters in Business Admin/Marketing. He is currently the Asst. Area Director, in charge of Dept. Operations, for the Landry Corporation (owner of the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas).
Our Hanai Brothers:
Adney Atabay – Adney is more like our 7th brother. He lived just down the street from us and hung out with Michael and Clifton since they were “keikis”. He also studied with the same instructor Clifton, Michael ands Vincent did and mastered the trumpet by age 14. He started performing for audiences by age 15 and together he, Clifton and Michael, became part of AURA’s formidable brass section. Adney is still involved with Hawaii’s music scene and performs for various venues in the islands.
Bill Popaka – Just when AURA needed a “hot” saxophonist, in walks Bill Popaka. Bill is an absolute professional who played with several well known local acts prior to performing with AURA (Carol Kai, etc.). Today, he is with the U.S. Postal Service but still performs with various local acts when he is called upon.