HONOLULU. In the summer of 1974, KIKI (AM 830) disc jockey Steven B. Williams wanted to shake up the soft rock- Cecilio & Kapono, Kalapana, Loggins & Messina, etc.- popular in the Islands at the time, so he went to the alphabetized album racks in search of a new rock band. In the A’s he found Aerosmith’s second album Get Your Wings. He liked their bad boy look, so he previewed about 30 seconds of “Same Old Song and Dance,” said “wow” to that riff, and played the record on the air.
And that was the start of Aerosmithmania in Hawaii. They’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame now, but in the summer of ’74, Aerosmith was known in only two places: their hometown of Boston and the Hawaiian Islands, 6,000 miles away.
That’s because KIKI was a rare AM station that had no playlist. Steven B. went deeper on Wings, with “Train Kept a Rollin’” the song of the summer, followed by “Lord of the Thighs,” “Seasons of Whither” and “S.O.S. (Too Bad).” Other stations added Aerosmith and the bar bands covered them in clubs, with scarves on the mic-stands. On the Mainland, Get Your Wings was not a hit, peaking at no. 74 on the LP sales charts. But it was the best-selling record in Hawaii.
The band’s self-titled first album had been completely ignored, but such tracks as “Dream On,” “Walkin’ the Dog” and “Mama Kin” were there to keep the band fresh in the ears of Hawaiians. Charting the Aerosmith LP sales
– about 120 a day during the peak at D.J.’s Sound City in the Ala Moana Shopping Center- Columbia realized it had a potential monster band in its stable so they rereleased Aerosmith and gave “Dream On” another shot at being a hit single.
The band’s first show in the Islands was opening for the Guess Who at the 8,500-capacity Honolulu International Center in December 1974. The concert sold out in days, but only about 200 people were left in the stands at the end of Guess Who’s set. Aerosmith was all they wanted. “Dream On,” re-released that month, would rise up the Billboard Hot 100 until it peaked at No. 6 in April.
The band was well on its way to international superstardom when they returned to Honolulu in July 1975. In appreciation of the store that sold more Aerosmith records than any other (with Records Hawaii a close second), the band did an in-store appearance at D.J.’s the day of the concert. The limo pulled up to a delirious crowd of about 2,000 fans in front of the jampacked record store. It was crazy. This was what Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer dreamed of when they were woodshedding in a New Hampshire farmhouse just four years earlier.
They had become rock stars! Aerosmith could’ve sold out the HIC three nights, but did only one on their working vacation, then it was back to the Mainland to grind it out on the road.
You have to wonder if Aerosmith would’ve forged on without the boost from Steven B. Williams and the fanaticism it created. They were on their way to being dropped by Columbia, which was going all-in on Bruce Springsteen at the time.
AM radio was all-powerful in Hawaii, having turned the Young Rascals (pronounced “Rack-sals” by the locals) into arena-packing superstars in the ‘60s. But they had already had hit singles before KPOI made them a pet band. Aerosmith had been unknown and uncharted when they created pandemonium on “The Rock.” It was an amazing scene to be part of, centered around KIKI.
The very funny, deep-voiced DJ Steven B. Williams met a ghastly fate after leaving Hawaii and becoming a top DJ in Denver. After inheriting about $2 million, Williams retired from radio in his late 50s and dabbled in the wine business. He was murdered in 2006 by a con man posing as a financial wizard, who bilked Steven B. of his entire inheritance, then shot Williams in the back of the head and dumped his body in the Pacific Ocean.
5 thoughts on “Aerosmith Became Rock Stars in Hawaii”
How improbable is it that a completely unknown band has a store in Hawaii sitting on enough stock to sell 120 lps a day?!!??? That’s 1,200 every 10 days; multiply that by the 100s of other titles in the store’s racks and forget it, it’s not remotely credible
This sort of casually tossed falsehood was common to the symbiotic hype nature of labels, band management and PR and the old vassal press who merged interests in hype and abandoned journalistic principles so the writer could partake in myth making
It is the truth. I did an article about it for Sunbums and quoted the manager. The band may have been unknown on the Mainland, but they sold 8,000 concert tickets in two days in 1974 and the same amount seven months later. What makes you think 120 LPs a day during their peak is impossible? This was two albums, the the self-titled first one was rereleased in Dec. ’74. Aerosmith was selling about 100 albums a day more than the #3 LP. Believe me, this happened. I was there.
Always interesting, even when you write about sports. This is just another comments version of shaking my fist and shouting “Get offa my lawn!” but now I’m sad for the days when a radio station could play what it wanted and launch a phenomenon.
I was at that Guess Who concert. I think there may have been more than 200 left but that’s not really important because they definitely blew them off the stage. I was one of those Aerosmith fans! I remember Steven B and Brother Bob was another of those DJs from back then.
I never knew Steven B was so instrumental in their career. Great article.
As soon as I started reading this, “Same Old Song And Dance” came up on my shuffle. Great read!