#19: Tiny Bubbles by Don Ho

City: Fredericton, NB
Radio Station: CFNB
Peak Month: March 1967
Peak Position in Fredericton: #7 | #95 song of the year on CFNB
Peak position in Vancouver ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #57
YouTube: “Tiny Bubbles
Lyrics: “Tiny Bubbles

Donald Tai Loy Ho was born in 1930 in Honolulu. He is a descendant of ethnic Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and German heritage. He attended Springfield College in Massachusetts on a football scholarship in 1950. But he but returned home to earn a Bachelor’s degree in sociology at University of Hawaii in 1953. In 1954, Ho entered the United States Air Force doing his primary training at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi and spent time flying C-97s with the Military Air Transport Service. Transferred to Travis Air Force Base, California, he went to the local city of Concord and bought an electronic keyboard from a music store, and recalls, “That’s when it all started.” Ho traveled from state to state with his young family until he was called home to help his mother with the family bar business called Honey’s in Kaneohe, O’ahu.

Ho left the USAF in 1959 due to his mother’s illness. Ho began singing at Honey’s and the club became a hotspot for the local entertainment and the growing customers from the Kaneohe Marine Base servicemen. Ho always honored the military remembering his own years of military service. In 1963, he moved the Kāneʻohe Honey’s to Waikiki. After much success, and little room to grow, Don Ho began to play at a night club called Duke’s. It was at Duke’s that Don Ho he caught the attention of record company officials.

In 1960, Burl Ives recorded a Hawaiian folk song titled “Pearly Shells (Pupu A ʻO ʻEwa)”. In 1962 Weebly Edwards Hawaii Calls released a single of the song, as did Haunani Kahalewai. The latter was a minor hit in Honolulu. Burl Ives recording of “Pearly Shells” was released as a single and in 1964 climbed to #11 in Milwaukee (WI), and the Top Ten in Sydney, Australia. Billy Vaughan also released a cover of the song in 1964 which made the Top Ten in a few radio markets in the USA. Don Ho also recorded the song and played it in all his live concerts. In 1965, Pat Boone recorded the song and had a Top Ten hit with it in Johannesburg, South Africa. Arthur Lyman and Ray Conniff also recorded the song.

In 1965, Don Ho released his debut album, The Don Ho Show!, including the track “Pearly Shells”. He began to play high-profile locations in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and New York City. In 1966 Don Ho released his second album, a live compilation called Don Ho – Again!, which charted in the early part of that year. From the album came his most notable hit record, “Tiny Bubbles”.

Tiny Bubbles by Don Ho

“Tiny Bubbles” was written by Leon Prober and first offered to Lawrence Welk who turned it down. The song is about feeling quite relaxed and “warm all over” from drinking wine. Feeling a little inebriated, the fellow in the song looks at his sweetheart “with a feeling that I’m gonna love you ’til the end of time.” He’s in the mood for making a toast. One to the golden moon. One to the silver sea. And a third toast “to you and me.” Finally, he gives his sweetheart a golden lei.

Native Hawaiians, who are Polynesian, brought the tradition of lei making and wearing with them to the Hawaiian islands when they arrived. On the first of every May, an event called Lei Day is celebrated to honor the act of lei making and the custom surrounding it. A lei can be given to someone for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, these reasons include peace, love, honor, or friendship. A lei may be composed of a pattern or series of just about anything, but most commonly consists of fresh natural foliage such as flowers, leaves, vines, fern fronds, and seeds. The most commonly used flowers are those of plumeria, carnation, orchid and tuberose.

“Tiny Bubbles” climbed to #1 in Honolulu, #2 in Des Moines, IA, #3 in Greenville, SC, #4 in Fredericton, NB, and Troy, NY, #5 in La Crosse, WI, #8 in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and #10 in Allentown, PA. “Tiny Bubbles” has been covered by over thirty recording artists including Roger Williams, Tiny Tim, Al Caiola, and Billy Vaughan. The song was featured in the 2001 film Bubble Boy. The song was also featured in several episodes of the TV crime show Hawaii Five-O.

During the 1960s and 70s, Don Ho appeared in I Dream of Jeannie, Batman, The Brady Bunch, Sanford and Son, Charlie’s Angels, McCloud and Fantasy Island. From October 1976 to March 1977 he hosted The Don Ho Show variety program which aired on ABC weekday mornings. During its 90 episodes, Don Ho had many guests including Lucille Ball, Redd Foxx and Tony Bennett.

Tiny Bubbles by Don Ho
Don Ho Show, ABC, October 1976

Ho’s music used typical 1960s pop arrangements, which meant light instrumentation and Hammond organs. He was well-positioned to capitalize on the newly admitted state’s growing popularity as a tourist destination during the decade due to cheap air travel and the popularity of Tiki bars.

Tiny Bubbles by Don Ho

Tiki Bars invented a host of new cocktails including the Mai Tai, Zombie, Blue Hawaii, Planter’s Punch, Scorpion, Fog Cutter and Navy Grog.

Tiny Bubbles by Don Ho
Zombies were popular at Tiki bars

Tiny Bubbles by Don Ho
So were Blue Hawaii’s

Don Ho continued to perform into the 2000s. He died of heart failure in 2007 at the age of 76.

January 10, 2024
Ray McGinnis

Dennis McLellan, “Don Ho, 76; singer was best known for ’66 hit ‘Tiny Bubbles’,” Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2007.
Dan Nakaso, “Tiny bubbles fitting end for Ho farewell,” Honoluluu Advertizer, May 5, 2007.
The Evolution of the Lei,” Flowerleis.com.

Tiny Bubbles by Don Ho
Songs from 81 to 100 on the 1967 Year-End countdown on CFNB 550-AM Fredericton (NB)

2 responses to “Tiny Bubbles by Don Ho”

  1. Tom Locke says:

    I saw Don Ho live in 1979 in Hawaii with the Allis brothers. It was a great variety show with Don positioning himself somewhat like Dean Martin – a relaxed drunk with a smooth, charming voice.

  2. Ray says:

    Thanks Tom. I remember the song, and my parents, aunts and uncles going to Tiki bars.

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