Big Island musician Boyson Brown remembered




Tribune-Herald staff writer

Boyson Kaimilani Brown Sr., a member of the legendary band Hilo Hawaiians and the son of founder William “Bunny” Brown, died peacefully in his sleep on Dec. 1. He was 69.

Brown, a guitarist and vocalist, and his brother, ukuleleist and vocalist Elson “Bobo” Brown, joined the band — which was already well-known statewide and beyond due to recordings on Decca Records — in a 1963 re-tooling for a long-running engagement at the Naniloa Hotel. The Hilo Hawaiians, one of several prominent musical acts to emerge from the legendary Haili Congregational Church Choir, also played venues including the Orchid Isle Hotel and Kona’s King Kamehameha Hotel.

Jacqueline Leilani “Skylark” Rossetti of KAPA-FM said Sunday she “just loved the man” and “loved his voice.”

“His was a voice, I think, that could have worked in Waikiki but he didn’t want to leave Hilo,” she said. “He loved his father, loved his family. They played together and there are enough gigs over here, you know. He was happy with what he had.”

She said that Brown had an easy rapport with people both on- and off-stage, and described him as “a funny guy.”

And while the Brown family is synonymous with Hawaiian music, Rossetti said that for Boyson, it was “just another genre.”

“He could play anything, do anything, was multitalented and loved all kinds of music,” she said. “Anything that would please the audience, he’d sing.”

Of the vocal harmonies between Boyson and older brother Bobo, Rossetti said: “They sang together from young. When one would go high, the other would go low, instinctively, without having to look at the other. It was just magical.”

Said local audio engineer Pepe Romero: “Boyson had a unique quality in his voice. He could hold a note effortlessly. It was a velvety smooth voice. You knew it was him when you heard him.”

Bobo Brown said that music was something he and his brother “loved doing.”

“We both played music for more than 50 years,” he said. “We knew exactly where each other was going to go.”

He described Boyson as “a great brother.”

“We had our ups and downs like everybody else but our ups and downs were nothing compared to what some other people have,” he said. “Our love for each other was very strong.

“I still can’t believe that he’s gone.”

Boyson Brown was also part of later ensembles with his brother and others, such as Bunny Brown and Sons, Shades of Brown and BBD. As of late, he had been playing solo gigs and was in a trio with Charlie Mahi and Kala‘i Ontai.

Another musician in the ‘ohana was eldest brother Bill, who died in 2000. Bunny Brown died in 2009 at age 90.

“Hilo is known for is legacy of music that’s passed on between families and much of it came from the Haili Church Choir,” Rossetti said. “There’s the Browns, there’s the Kalimas, the Nahale-as, the Nathaniels. … There was Helen Desha Beamer.”

Services are Sunday at Dodo Mortuary Chapel in Hilo. Visitation is 10 a.m.-noon. Memorial service is at noon and a celebration of life with music will follow at 1 p.m. at Puhi Bay, according to Bobo Brown. The public is welcome. The family requests casual attire and that loose flowers be omitted. Lei are welcome.


Brown, who was also a U.S. Army veteran, is survived by his wife, Kalei Brown of Hilo; sons, William (Darla) Brown of Hilo and Boyson Kaimilani Brown Jr. of Honolulu; daughter, Ashley (Thomas) Bermudes of Washington state; several stepchildren; brother, Elson “Bobo” (Lyn) Brown of Hilo; hanai brother, Larry (Charlie) Nakama of Mililani; sister, Bunette “Haunani” (Stanley) Yorong of Hilo; plus grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

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