Benny C. Uyetake, guitarist and composer. Benny performs on the beautiful island of Maui, Lanai, and Hawaii.
Music has always been a passion of the life of guitarist, composer, and entertainer, Benny C. Uyetake. Still, there has always been the nucleus of his passion which includes his family, friends, education, and occupation. These components of Benny’s life carved the pathway of his journey through music. Benny C. Uyetake was born Benedict Collins Uyetake, January 17, 1956. His parents are Benedict and Carridad Uyetake. Born in Hilo Hawaii, Benny is one of eleven children. His parents raised six boys and five girls. They are Dominic, Beverley, Raphaela, Denise, Benedict, Patrice, Duane, Bennett, Therese, Alton, and Lenny. Benny’s family has always been his first priority. He has carried on the Uyetake legacy of family when married his wife Debbie, along with three stepchildren, Lokelani, Malia, and, Makoto.
Growing up with a large family had great advantages. Benny had wonderful role models. Benny’s dad had a great love for music. As a young man in Honolulu, Benny’s dad had talented friends to play with. One in particular was the legendary ukulele master, Jesse Kalima. Uncle Jesse always was present in Benny’s young life. “Uncle Jesse came to visit Hilo for family parties, or we would go visit him, auntie Dorothy, and the rest of the Kalima family.”, said Benny. Benny’s dad’s friendship was a very important catalyst for Benny’s love for music. The Uyetake’s loved to dance and sing. Benny’s mom would turn on the stereo and everyone started to dance and sing. The Uyetake name was very respected in the communittee. Benny's dad was a saleman and one who knew many people of the business world in town. Mom was active with social groups and church activities that kept all of the family busy. Benny’s mom was, without a doubt, the one who kept the Uyetake’s in order. But the passion of music always was there in Benny’s life.
Listening to his father sing and play the ukulele was so influential. Benny’s dad got Benny enrolled in ukulele lessons by Hilo ukulele master and composer, Al Naleiha, at the age of nine,1966. In a couple of months Benny and his childhood friends, Irvin Higashi, Terrence Nago, Dane Chiba, Duane Izumo, Gordon Taira and Gordon Ung formed a ukulele group to perform for fifth grade functions, From there Benny met Jon Estabilio and Ernest Espejo, who played the guitar. Immediately after that meeting Benny asked his brother Dominic to teach him how to play the guitar. His brother had a love for soul music and rock’n’roll. That was the first styles of music Benny played. Benny (10- 11 yrs. old) constantly asked for his brother time to play the guitar. He went to rehearsals, performances, and concerts with his brother. He was also introduced to many of his brother’s most talented high school musicians and guitarists in the area. His brother was a well known high school musician and person in Hilo. One of his brother’s high school friend was Tad Kajiwara, who encouraged Benny to play music. Benny also met Lloyd Longakit, who was the most talented on the island of Hawaii, and the most respected. Benny’s admiration with his brother’s love for the guitar was most significant in Benny’s pursuing a life time affair of music.
During these years, Benny had wonderful teachers. Wendy Rundel, Jo Lawrence, and Mrs. Adap. Mrs. Adap was the schools music teacher. She promoted music and gave each student a great foundation in music education.
Miss Rundel was Benny's 5th Grade teacher. She was from Baltimore Maryland. Her style of teaching was encouraging and inspiring. One of the things Benny remembers is that she always had the time to let the students perform their talents in class.
Miss Lawrence was the 6th grade teacher, strict, fun, and encouraging. She was from Columbus, Ohio. The experience was so great that this led Benny to contemplate a life long dream of being a middle school teacher.
During his childhood years, 1966-68 in Hilo, Benny met many friends in grade school and High School. His childhood musician friends included the Estabilio brothers, Jon,Felix Jr.,and Delis. At the Estabilio house hold, Benny’s first band originated. The Estabilio’s cousin, Benji Legaspi played the drums. The first band was the Sound Track Vibrations, name from uncle Junior Legaspi. The band included Ernest Espejo, Benji, Jon, and Benny. From there was the Everlasting Sounds, 1969. This included Jon, Delis, Benny,Wade Carver. Many variations of the group evolved. Some other members included Carl Ray Villiverde Keechi Kekaulua, Leslie Aguiar, Glennon Ermitano and Carey Ooka. Carey became an incredible mentor of the band. Other major influences were the Hilo Mata brothers, Ace Thompson, and many others. Also a major influence was Felix Estabilio Sr. “ Mr. Estabilio was Benny's biggest fan. He reminded his sons to always take care of Benedict. He treated Benny as a family member.” I owe a lot to him”, Benny recalls.
Still, other friends were part of Benny’s musical youth. These friends included, Jeffrey Enriques, Gilbert Farias, Russel Enriques, Vernon Enriques, Dale Yamada, Allen Fujimoto, Kevin Kurohara, Barry De Silva, Bruce Hamakawa, Al and Preston Kushi. Preston became a great inspiration through the college years. Benny visited Honolulu frequently to have jam sessions with the Palolo Gizmos. A group of Hilo friends living in Honolulu. Preston and best friend, Irvin Higashi lived there.
Benny also learned formal music training by his band teacher, Mr. Kenneth Stevenson, of Hilo Intermediate School,1971. Between 1971-75, Benny performed with many Hilo musician friends. These included Randy Sugata, Kili (Herman) Moke, Garreth Aragaki, Gerald Kita, Ken Lara, Kalani Moke, Gilbert Farias, Wayne De Silva, Roy Okutani, Glenn Goto, Rama Camarillo, George Camarillo, Chris Estrada, Brian Nakashima, Doug Espejo,, Terry Bright, Dennis Bright, Dennis Branco, Ron Kaipo, Michael Hara, Brenda Texiera, Darrell Castillio, and many others.
When Benny graduated from High School, he was soon to be employed the Hilo Parks and Recreation, under the direction of Dorothy "Aunty Dot" Thompson. Aunty Dot gave a job as an assistant to work with young children during the summer. By the third summer, Aunty Dot gave Benny the prestigious position of music specialist of which he worked closely with Aunty Edith Kanakaole and Uncle George Naope. Dorothy Thompson, George Naope , and Edith Kanakaole, are now in the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame.
Benny came home during his college years from Seattle. During that time, Benny played at the Rosies Boathouse with Glenn Kakugawa (and also working with the Parks and Recreation). At Rosies, Benny and Glenn had a chance to perform with Ernie Cruz Jr., Jerry Medeiros, Kalani Kini, Moses Kahumoku, Bill Noble, Wayne DeSilva,Gilbert Farias,Bruz Freeman Bonnie, and many others. Rosies Boat House was a venue for local island musicians. Wayne DeSilva introduced Benny to many of the Jazz greats that were living in Hilo at the time.
Benny’s college years were very integral. Benny studied in Spokane Community College in 1974-75 with best friend, Irvin Higashi. A year later, Benny went to Seattle. There, he studied at Seattle University. Benny was privileged to be instructed by Jesuit priests of whom were excellent teachers. Benny studied the humanities, philosophy, literature, history, religion, art, and, music. At Seattle, Benny met musician and friend, Miles Matsuda. Miles was from Lahaina, Maui. Benny also met inspirational friends in music. Among them were Michael Hu, Robin Hori, Mark Charlie, Tim Curran, Grier Smith, Tom Muller, Fred Cooley, Steven Yates, Weston Souza, John Juneau, John DeRocco, Alida Koreski, Tom Parker, Paul Pasquier, , Mary Myers and Ellen Cockrill. Other friends included Dayton Balinbin, Brian Coluccio, Gordon McHenry, Mike Anctil, and the 5th Floor Boys of Bellarmine, Nelson Javanelo, Allen Vega, Will Castro, Barry Chu.
During Benny’s years at Seattle University, he was also studying music at the Cornish College of music. Benny studies under Bob Rice, Jim Knapp,Dave Peterson, Denny Goodhew, Joannie Metcalf and and the legendary jazz bassist, Gary Peacock. There, Benny met Saxophonist, Doug Hamilton. From there, Benny relationships grew. Among them were friendships with Michael James, Robert Damper, Markus Spiro, Barbara Bodie, Tess Mariasene, Michael Powers, Claude Buckholts, Mark Bullock, Bill and Bob Burns, and Larry Fowlkes. The Cornish experience was very influential in Benny’s life. Through his many friends at Cornish, Benny was introduced to such music notables as Kenny G. Jeff Loreber, Jack Dejonette, Keith Jarret, Herb Ellis, Howard Roberts, and Dave Petersen. Benny had been exposed to the best jazz musicians Seattle at the time, during 1975-1978. These muscicians were among the best in their craft. Many of them still pave the way in jazz and contemporary music in Seattle and the world.
Benny played with two fine Seattle ensembles while during his stay in Seattle. One of them was with Rob Silver and Doug Hamilton. Rob, a friend from Seattle University, was a great writer and jazz guitarist, Rob was studies classic jazz standards. He also listened to the music of Michael Franks. Doug was a rock and fusion saxophone player. Benny met Doug while studying at Cornish College of Music. Their music was a blend of jazz, rock, and folk. They worked for Don "Monk" Richards and performed at the Pioneer Square Tavern where they had a great following of listeners. Benny also played with Ken McCann, Norman Lombardo, and Doug Royce. Norman and Doug were bass players. The group with Lombardo was smooth with sweet and creative vocals. Norman was also a rock bass guitarist. His former group, Striker, was a pioneer rock band they help pave the way for present day rock in Seattle. Doug Royce played blues bass and was also a soulful blues singer. Ken McCann was the groups leader. His vocals and songwriting was a great asset to the band. The group with Ken McCann was called "Sailor". Sailor played in Washington and Oregon. Benny had also the opportunity to meet and record with David Lanz, an exceptional pianist.
Benny eventually left Seattle to study in music Boston. He studied at the Berklee College of Music where he lived with friends of his hometown, Hilo. Roy Okutani(trumpet), Wayne DeSilva (sax), and Gerald Kita (trumpet). Benny lived in the Sommerset Apt.the East Boston area, and One Symphony Rd. During that time in 1980, Benny had classes with Bassist Ron Vaneria, Makoto Ozone, a fantastic Pianist. Other musicians at Berklee included Phil Palsinelli (roomate), Jan Thomas, Ann Campbell, Jack Stone, Juan Ocampo, Marie Mattei, and Paul Mifsud. The 3 semesters at Berklee proved to be a very inspirational and musical time for Benny.
Philip Polsinelli had many friends at Beklee. Among them were Luis Gurerro Brandford Marsellis, Walter Beasley, Donald Harrison, Smitty Smith, Jeff Watts, Fitz Williams, Kevin Bell, Will Reinhart, Kevin Eubanks, and the visiting Wynton Marsellis(Juliard). These musicians would gather in the Boylston Buiding at Berklee. Benny had a chance to meet each of them as a student.
While at Berklee, Benny studied under trumpeter Mike Metheny and guitar instructor, Larry Senibaldi. Other private instruction included Mick Goodrick (workshops) and watching and listening every Monday and Tuesday Mike Stern. These teachers were very much linked to the music of the day. Styles like John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, and Mike Stern became very influential.
After his studies in Boston, Benny moved back to Hawaii, to the island of Maui, and the town of Lahaina.
To be continued………. Music in Hawaii Music in Maui Hawaii and current More on Benny later. Building website.