Forty years on, Marvin Franklin’s “Kona Winds” is still making waves

Like many, Marvin LeRoy Franklin was originally called to Hawaii through his military service duty. Upon his arrival in Honolulu in the 1970s, the Indiana native, who grew up next to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, found the warm sun, surf, sand of the islands—and, of course, tons of great local music to explore. 

During that time, it was a very fertile moment in Hawaii’s emerging music culture—known as the Hawaiian Renaissance. During the ‘70s and ‘80s, the vibrant Honolulu music scene included local luminaires in both traditional and modern styles, like Gabby Pahinui, The Brothers Cazimero, The Mākaha Sons of Niʻihau featuring Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole, Cecilio & Kapono, Kalapana, The Peter Moon Band, among many others.

When he landed, Franklin dove headfirst into Hawaii’s cultural melting pot, mixing his love of ZZ Top, Stevie Wonder, and Steely Dan with the natural wonder and beauty of the Hawaiian Islands as well as local musical influences.

The culmination of all these inspirations was 1978’s “Kona Winds”, a laidback cut of classic rock, R&B, and soul that speaks about local surf conditions influenced by his time as a lifeguard at North Beach, located on Oahu’s Windward side. Franklin’s seminal track first appeared on Homegrown Three, a 1970s compilation series of popular local artists like Nohelani Cypriano and Kapono Beamer.

Recently, we spoke with Franklin, 64, from his home in Mountain View, Hawaii about the enduring magic of “Kona Winds”, its new vinyl remix release on Aloha Got Soul, his salad days in Hawaii, his close personal friendship with Kalapana singer Mackey Feary, and so much more.

How did you originally get to Honolulu? What was it like being a corporal stationed in Kaneohe at Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH)?

I could not believe my duty station was to be Hawaii. When they announced that I was going to Honolulu, someone replied “Who do you know?” After boot camp, I came to Hawaii and was stationed at Kaneohe Bay and I was the fastest swimmer so they made me a lifeguard.

What was the original inspiration behind the 1978 track, “Kona Winds”? What was it like working as a lifeguard on the North Shore?

The inspiration for “Kona Winds” came when a local Hawaiian guy told me...Kona winds are when the wind blows toward the ocean and form the perfect tube, the juice in the wave so I wrote a song about it. I worked at Pyramid Rock Beach on base, the North Shore was a typo on the album. I did save 19 lives and received two noteworthy achievement awards from the Marines.

Who were “Kimo and the guys?” Any classic band stories?

Kimo and the guys were studio musicians, including Kimo Kamaunu, Bobby Kamaunu, Carlton Lucas, and David Pierce who happened to be at the right place at the right time.

What was it like to perform with War at the Diamond Head Festival “Leahi ‘78”?

I got to play with them by accident. They invited people to jump on-stage with them. I did and the rest is history! They mentioned it on the radio the next day and said...this is going out to the guy who sang with War and dedicated Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles”. “If only you believe in miracles would I!” I still get goosebumps….

How was the record first received in 1978? Then and now?

I’m so honored and humbled by the attention garnered by “Kona Winds.” My ultimate goal is to record 1,000 songs.

What happened after “Kona Winds”? Did your music career blossom from there? 

After the release of “Kona Winds”, I was always able to get a gig but I discovered that managing artists and entertainers was my true passion. I was Mel Cabang’s and Cecilio Rodriguez from Cecilio & Kapono’s manager. I also co-discovered Ka'au Crater Boys. Now I’m working with the strongest man in the world Bill Kazmaier and the most beautiful new singing artist Ragan Hoffman! I think it's because of “Kona Winds” that they trust me more.

In the 1980s, you worked together with Mackey Feary—Can you tell us a little about that project?

Wow, Mackey Feary was my best friend and he was super popular with his band Kalapana. I remember when he came into Rendezvous Recording with Pierre Grill I only let him sing one line on a song I wrote called “Super Stars.” He had the same condition a lot of musicians had back then and I miss him. I love his music….

How did you originally connect with Roger Bong and Aloha Got Soul?

I met Roger Bong through Facebook. He found me and brought me back to life! I think because I mentioned God controls his great seas is the reason the song endures. It's like divine intervention.

What does the phrase “Aloha got soul” mean to you?

Before she died, my mom said that the song would be a hit again one day! I’m still in awe of the remixes and I’m so happy that I will spend life worthy of the excitement generated by Aloha Got Soul! Someday, I would also like to see the entire Homegrown Three album return. I tried three times to make it on that album series and the third time was the charm!


Buy “Kona Windz” now featuring exclusive reworks and remixes from Seprock and Ear Dr.Umz.

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