Aloha, Mary Kaye

Hawaii and Las Vegas have always had a special bond, a link unexpectedly illustrated by Mary Kaye. Born Mary Ka‘aihue in Detroit, and raised in St. Louis, Mary soon had a hand in shaping the very character of Vegas. Known to some as the “First Lady of Rock and Roll,” she was an accomplished guitarist and led a popular jazz trio that helped revitalize nightlife on the strip. She and Louis Prima are credited with creating the “lounge” phenomenon.

Fender even named a Stratocaster guitar after her in 1956 (though she apparently preferred D’Angelico).

Mary is said to be a descendant of Prince Kuhio and Queen Lili‘uokalani, and the daughter of “Johny Ukulele” of “Johnny Ka’aihue’s Royal Hawaiians.” There’s certainly a proud musical heritage behind her career as an entertainer, which lasted into the 1970s.

She died on Saturday in Las Vegas. She was 83. As her grand aunt, the queen, penned: Aloha ‘oe.

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