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Webley Edwards

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Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Both as the longtime host of the weekly radio series Hawaii Calls and through his many albums, broadcasting pioneer Webley Edwards played a pivotal role in exporting the music of the islands to the continental U.S. Born November 11, 1902, in Corvallis, OR, he later attended Oregon State University, becoming the first student manager of campus radio station KOAC; relocating to Hawaii in 1928 to work as an auto salesman, Edwards was so fascinated by the native musical traditions that in 1935 he sealed a deal to produce a radio show spotlighting authentic island performances. Broadcast from Waikiki's Moana Hotel, Hawaii Calls made its debut that July 3; though carried on over 400 stateside stations, the show struggled financially during its early years, often relying on state funding from the Hawaii Tourist Bureau to stay afloat. The first radio announcer to broadcast news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Edwards also worked as a reporter for CBS Radio during the war years, where he landed exclusives including an interview with Colonel Paul Tibbetts, the pilot who dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima; he was also the lone broadcaster allowed on board the USS Missouri to report on the surrender ceremony that brought the conflict to its close. Throughout the 1950s, Edwards compiled and produced a series of Hawaiian music collections for Capitol Records; though issued under his name, the albums (among them Fire Goddess, Hula Island Favorites, and Exotic Instrumentals) actually featured performances by the likes of Alfred Apaka, George Kainapau, Haleloke, and Simeon and Andy Bright. In all, Hawaii Calls ran for 37 years, along the way popularizing tunes including "Sweet Leilani," "Lovely Hula Hands," "Beyond the Reef," "Little Brown Gal," and "The Hawaiian Wedding Song." The series ended in 1972 after Edwards (who also served as a member of the state legislature) suffered a heart attack; he died in Honolulu on October 5, 1977.