Jerome Kaleolani Koko
On September 21, 1955, I came into this world wailing a tune similar to that of an angel playing on a harp. Hence, my middle name, "Kaleolani", or the heavenly voice. It was on that warm summer day, I would begin the talents that would establish my musical pursuit.
My family members would say that I have always been an entertainer. At a very young age, I was always dancing, singing, and performing something or other. Therefore, branding me with the nickname, "Boogie". Even in elementary school, I had notes pinned to my clothes to let my mom know that I was being a disturbance in class. Time and time again, I would shake a little here, and jiggle a little there, all the while, imitating the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley!
I remember when I was in Kindergarten, my teacher told me, "Jerome, you need to WORK HARD to get ahead in life." I'm one Hawaiian who can tell you that you don't have to work harder, but you have to work smarter than the average man.
Nonetheless, during my years at Nanakuli Junior High, teachers were emphasizing the importance of a career goal. My mother, who was actively involved in all of my endeavors, attended several PTA meetings. Before one of the PTA meetings started, one of my teachers told my mom, "Your son will be an astronaut someday." Excited by the thought, my mom replied, "Oh, really? How can you tell?" The teacher looked over at me and said, "Well, just look at him taking up all of that SPACE."
At age 13, I started odd and end jobs to help pay for some of the family bills. So, my first job was at a neighbor's house. I had to rake the leaves and mow the lawn, but the pay was DIRT cheap. I did that for a few years, then got a job at the Dole Pineapple Co., but after a week, I got CANNED.
At 16, I tried my hand at selling vacuums, but boy, did that job SUCK!
At 17, my uncle worked for a plumbing company and asked if I would help, but after two days, that job went straight down the DRAIN! Finally a week later, I thought I found my dream job as an electrician and, "Wow, I was really in for a SHOCK." Just look at the curls in my hair!
In all seriousness (as a young adult)...
It has never been published in any of our musical interviews what a "fierce athlete" I was in high school, according to those who knew me well. As a junior and senior, I was an All-Star running back, and on the first string team for football. I think I would have been a great baseball player too, but the coaches told us that we had to run track to build endurance and speed for football. I'm glad I did because in my sophomore year running, I was the OIA West Novice Champion in track. I broke two track records for the high hurdles and low hurdles. I hold the record of 21.3 seconds in the 180 yards low hurdles and 14.7 seconds in the 120 yard high hurdles. I don't think that those records will ever be broken...it will remain with me forever, that's because everything in track and field now is in meters! At that same track meet, I placed second in the long jump with a leap of 21 ft 5 in, and second in the triple jump with a leap of 41 ft. 9 1/2 in. The week after the track meet, the headlines in the Nanakuli Press paper read, "Iron Horse Koko Wins Championship for Nanakuli". My fastest time for the 220 yard dash was 22 seconds flat. Some of my friends that remember me from those days, look at me now and say sarcastically, "Can you still run?" Well, I can assure you that I can run, but just not at the speed of light!
Indeed those were magical days. Days I will never forget. Despite all of the awards, trophies, ribbons and letters I've received for sports, there remained a feeling of equal passion and gratification that came through music. The piano, the ukulele, the bass, and the banjo, are just some of the instruments I would spend endless hours practicing and trying to perfect. I learned to play these instruments like many of the other children in my neighborhood. We would simply LISTEN and WATCH, as the Kupuna would sit to Kanikapila. None of us had enough money to pay a teacher to help us, so we did our best to learn on our own. I even played the French Horn and Trumpet in the high school band! (Believe it or not!) Seated on the 1st chair would be Uncle Moonie, and I was on the last. It isn’t my favorite musical moment, but on the other hand, when I started to play the guitar, I knew I found my match. Many ask, "Why 12-strings?" I always respond with the truth, "'cause Uncle Moonie already get Da 6-strings".
In any case, like I stated earlier, there was a passion and gratification that I experienced through music. And, whether by chance or by destiny, in 1975 on a beach in Makaha, I met up with Israel Kamakawiwo'ole...
The rest is MAKAHA SONS OF NI'IHAU history.
The Makaha Sons...
Well, what can I say? We've been together for 30 years now. AND, we've only just begun!
In 2001 , the Makaha Sons have just added another chapter to our history. We are now managing our own corporation, "Makaha Sons, Inc." To be a successful group, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. With this new segment of our lives, we are grateful for the opportunity to make great music … music that comes from the heart.
On stage, we call ourselves: the Emperor (me), the King (John), and the General (Moon), or EKG Productions (ask a doctor what EKG stands for)...
"THE HEARTBEAT OF HAWAII’S MUSIC."
On each of our sites you will find our favorite color and lei adorned on our page, mine being lavender. My brothers laughed at my favorite color. But should anyone, from time to time, step away from their busy life to watch just as the sun rises, or just as the sun sets, one would witness the hues of lavender blended by the blues, the reds, the yellows and the whites in our vast, Hawaiian skies.
Although it is obvious, the greatest supporters of the Makaha Sons, would be our fans. The backbone of this company would be our devoted families. Through their sacrifices, patience, strength, and unconditional love, they've helped influence us to become who we are today.
My beautiful wife, Yolanda. I have three remarkable kids. My oldest (my son), Jerome Kaleolani Koko, Jr., is a talented musician, and almost as handsome as me! My middle child, Jeri-Lynn Kealolahilahi Koko is my hula dancer. And my journalist, is my youngest daughter, Jessica Pohakalani Koko. They're dedicated a good portion of their lives to be a part of a profession that their father loves so much.
Inspiration and Thanks...
To our Heavenly Father, my Mom and Dad for their many blessing upon me. To my brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties, and cousins; thank you for all your love and support throughout the years. I hope you are proud of us. To all of our fans that we've met throughout our 30 years of performing, thank you for being there when we needed you most. Uncle Sam Choy, thank you for your guidance, inspiration, and of course, the FOOD!! "UNBELIEVABLE!" Brad Walker of Kamehameha Garments, you make us look fabulous! Lyle Hosoda and 'ohana for your legal advice. To all the airlines (and their employees) who accommodate us in so many ways to make us feel special: Hawaiian, Aloha, United, Delta, Northwest, ANA, and Japan. To all the musicians of Hawai'i and na halau that have performed with us, on and off stage, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Golfing is my passion,