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.