A deep silky baritone singing beautiful Hawaiian, Hapa Hawaiian and popular classic music just melts your emotions in the memories of time gone by. They say that he sounds just like Alfred Apaka. Gary says if he is compared to anyone it’s good to know that he is being compared with the best. Yes, he has no problem when being compared with Alfred Apaka Sr. who was his favorite.
Gary Puniwai Keawe-Aiko is the son of Edward and Genoa Keawe. His stage name Gary Aiko. He is the 1st child of 12 children. Coming from a large family as he got older he took responsibility to help the family to survive during rough economic times by selling newspaper or shining shoes in downtown Honolulu. He’d give all of his earnings to his mother without complaint or asking for any of it back.
Gary attended Kaimuki High School then transferred to McKinley High School where he graduated in 1953. While at McKinley he was a member of the school choir and was quite a singer, often singing many solo spots. Gary did his first recording when he was 15 years old. His mother Genoa Keawe recorded her first album on 49th State Records, "Hawaiian Souvenir." He sang a duet with her called "Ke Kali Nei Au" or popularly known as "The Hawaiian Wedding Song," recorded by 49th State Records. His voice yesterday never seemed to have changed if you listen to him today.
Gary began his professional career as a singer in 1957 at the Waikiki Sands Restaurant doing 4 shows a night for a year. Following, he was invited by his cousin Tony Bee to come over to a small bar in Kaneohe town for a jam session with a guy named Don Ho. Sonny Chillingworth was there also with an occasional Gabby Pahinui. Except for Don everyone was already an established musician in their own right. Gary played upright bass, the group stayed together for a long while in Kaneohe. Later Honey’s made the move to Waikiki where McDonald’s currently is across Waikiki Kuhio Beach where Duke Kahanamoku's statue stands today. Eventually, Honey's in Waikiki closed and Don Ho and the crew moved to "Duke Kahanamoku's" at the Waikiki International Market Place. After 2 years at Duke Kahanamoku's Gary was the first to leave the group to venture on his own.
In 1966 Gary had the pleasure of singing with the late "Haunani Kahalewai" at the Kahala Hilton in the Hala Terrace. That same year he went on tour for two months in Japan and one month in Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Hilton Hotel. Gary has made many trips to Japan to perform. He traveled to perform in Brazil for the first-ever worldwide environmental meeting.
Gary’s recent memorable engagements were at New York City’s Carnegie Hall during the years of 1998 and 2004. A special group put together in 1998 included his mother Auntie Genoa Keawe. In 2004 another opportunity arose with Nina Kealiiwahamana, Iwalani Kahalewai and some members from the most recent Hawaii Call’s cast.
Gary is honored to have toured Japan with Nina Kealiiwahamana, Iwalani Kahalewai, Benny Kalama, Sonny Kamahele, Barney Isaacs, Alan Akaka, Mahi Beamer and the Hiram Olsen trio often produced by Uilani Productions Japan, Inc. owned by Mr. Yasuhiro Ariga who continues to love Hawaiian music to this day.
Gary has been a solo singer with the Honolulu City and County Royal Hawaiian Band since 2004. In 2005 the band did a special tour in Japan for which Gary accompanied them as a vocal singer. Gary is very honored to be singing with this historical organization.