Despite a widespread reputation for his raucous delivery of comic hapa haole songs and as a entertainer
second to none, Charley Davis was an intellectual, serious musician and a true professional. Born in Honolulu
in 1925, he grew up in Waialua and music was a part of daily life in his family. At an early age, he was accomplished as a singer and
played piano, cello and pipe organ. His schooling was stellar, interrupted by the war, then completed at the
famed Julliard School of Music in New York.
After school, he and actor/singer James Shigeta formed a duo, and opened at the Sunset Strip's Mocambo
nightclub to raves. They toured the big cities until Shigeta was drafted. Undeterred, Charles went to New
York and was the first Hawaiian to win the Metropolitan Opera auditions. He toured Russia with opera star
Rise Stevens under the auspices of Ed Sullivan, did a command performance at the White House, and
co-starred with Patrice Munsel in My Fair Lady on Broadway. He
toured with a number of famous opera companies.
January 19, 1968 was proclaimed 'Charles K. L. Davis Day' in Honolulu and he performed to a packed house at
the HIC concert hall. Eventually, he left it all behind and performed for many years at Kemoo Farms near
Schofield Barracks, delighting crowds with his prodigious memory for the most obscure lyrics, always ready
with a joke or a bawdy tune. Despite his operatic beginnings, he probably knew every hapa haole and
Hawaiian song ever written. His speciality at Kemoo Farms were the pidgen/oriental songs of the 20s and 30s.
Sadly, only one CD of his work is currently available,
Aloha (Lehua SLCD 7058), but it covers his wide range from Sir Noel Coward to Queen Lili'uokalani to
a pidgen English gem.
Biographical material from Tony Todaro, The Golden Years of Hawaiian Entertainment (Tony Todaro
Pub., 1974), Davis's CD and personal knowledge.