Eddie Alkire (1907-1981)

Eddie Alkire with the Rhythm Kings on Tenor Banjo
Eddie Alkire (seated in center) with the Rhythm Kings.

In 1929, Eddie Alkire had ambitions to become an electrical engineer. Although he only possessed an eighth-grade education, he was a quick learner and was eager to find a better job. He left his position at the Standard Supply Coal Company in Clarksburg, West Virginia and travelled to Turtle Creek, a small town east of Pittsburgh. Eventually hired at Westinghouse Electrical, he built switchgear apparatuses. During this time, Alkire enrolled at a technical night school for electrical engineering and writing, and began performing guitar and tenor banjo for a dance band called the Rhythm Kings.  For one of his writing assignments, he wrote:

I am trying to sum up what I have gained in the past year…My greatest forward step was in music. During the first half of 1929 I so increased my knowledge of the tenor banjo that I became a member of an orchestra which broadcast many programs over W.M.M.N. I also played the Hawaiian guitar over this station.

Eddie Alkire

Across the street from the Pittsburgh Westinghouse plant where Eddie Alkire worked was a guitar shop. After introducing himself and playing a guitar for the store’s managers one day in 1929, Alkire was hired to perform on the store’s weekend radio show.  His performances eventually caught the attention of George A. Bronson, the founder of Cleveland’s Oahu Publishing Company.  Bronson persuaded Alkire to abandon his career as an electrical engineer to perform as a full-time member of Bronson’s Oahu Serenaders.  In 1930, the Serenaders consisted of Eddie Alkire, Alex Hoapili, and a third unidentified guitarist. Alkire and Hoapili complained regularly about the technical skills of this third player, which Alkire captured in his March 12, 1931 diary entry. 

Alkire's March 12, 1931 diary entry, which reads "Bronson likes for me to play tenor. We played from WGAR (the three of us) and they say it was a knockout. Today we played again from WJAY but Bronson was in bad humor. Alex complains about Fred playing flat all the time. I don't know whether he means it or not."
Alkire’s March 12, 1931 diary entry.

By the summer of 1931, Bronson expanded the group to include nationally recognized ukulele player Morton Searles, the guitarist Willis Connolly, and the vocalist Karl Osborne. The Serenaders Quintet quickly gained a large fan-base through their weekly radio performances on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) radio networks, where they played for over 1000 radio broadcasts in three years.

Listen to Alkire perform, from his album “Eddie Alkire’s Modern Hawaiians:”