Do You Know Him?
It is amazing sometimes how we go through life believing that we know all there is to know about the people we see or hang out with or play sports or music with. Sometimes these people we think we know just don’t talk about themselves much so we are amazed to hear things like “did you know he was awarded medals for heroism and bravery?” or like “he’s a great Hawaiian musician now but his first love was Country Western music?” I would call my guest for this month a “high profile” guy because many of us in the Seattle Metropolitan area have watched him on stage and heard him play his uke and sing lots of times. We’ve shaken his hand or hugged him with Aloha and we’ve introduced him to others as “this is my friend.” Let me tell you the fascinating story about “our friend”….
Here are a few hints about who our “Profile” guest is! His first name is Myron (Mailona). As a youth on the streets of Kaka`ako, he was a great athlete and probably a little kolohe (mischievous) kid. He remembers well his Elementary School days at Pohokaina then at Dole then to that really tough school in Kalihi (Kalakaua); he says when you’re a kolohe kid, you go to many different schools. He is a Farrington High School graduate. He comes from a family renowned in the musical heritage of Hawaii; his Mom was a dancer with one of Hawaii's legendary “songbirds”; his Dad was a steel guitar player who played with a number of the more popular Hawaiian groups of the 1930-1950s; his Dad is also credited with writing several songs that have become Hawaiian “standards.” Our Profile guest loves racquet ball and volleyball and golf and he excelled at these sports even after he was wounded in the Vietnam War! Call him a reluctant war hero because he won’t talk about it but our Profile guest put his life on the line fighting for our country, being wounded in action not once, but twice! Last hint: he is a magnificent ukulele player and singer who has at one time or other played music for virtually every big Hula Halau in this area. Do you know him?
His name is Myron Mailona Tiko Kaeo! His mother (Victoria Liu Kaeo) was a featured dancer with Lena Machado. Tiko’s (he says please don’t call me Myron) Dad was Sam Kalani Kaeo, a steel guitar player credited with writing the Hawaiian standard “Naka Pueo” which will be sung forever by Hawaiians! Tiko was one of eight siblings, most of whom still reside in Hawaii. Tiko left Hawaii to seek fame (he was one of the first Hawaiian Rock & Roll/Country Western artists) but mostly fortune (money) because living was less expensive/good paying jobs more available in the Pacific Northwest than in Hawaii. Tiko began to work at Providence Hospital (in the Central District of Seattle) in 1973 and except for taking off a couple of years to chase his dream of becoming a Rock & Roll/Country Western star, Tiko has been an outstanding employee with Providence Hospital (recently acquired by the Swedish Hospital chain) for over thirty years.
Let’s talk a little bit about the part of his life that you never hear Tiko Kaeo talk about! Tiko was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967 and served in Vietnam with Hawaii’s own 25th “Tropical Lightning” Division in 1968-69. The jungle warfare tactics in Vietnam were very different than the open battlefield fighting of World Wars I and II and the Korean Conflict. In Vietnam, you often didn’t know where your enemy was because he’d travel underground through tunnels and pop up to shoot at you and then disappear back down into his tunnel. One of the most dangerous combat jobs was that of the “tunnel rat”. These were the guys all volunteers who went down into the sometimes totally dark tunnels seeking the enemy! Tiko Kaeo was one of those volunteer “tunnel rats” (many of whom never came back out of the tunnels alive.) Tiko Kaeo was wounded twice, earning two Purple Heart medals and he was also awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor (one of the highest awards issued for heroism but Tiko says “please don’t call me a hero; I was just doing my job!)
Even though he grew up surrounded by Hawaiian music, Tiko’s first love was Rock & Roll and Country Western music. It was not until the late 1970s that Tiko began to embrace his Hawaiian musical heritage. He has since played with some of the best known Hula Halaus in this area including Kathy Deguair, Manu Lono, Kuulei Gumapac, Claire Cortez and Iwalani Christian plus some of the best musicians in the Pacific NW. Most recently, he formed the “Braddah Dem” trio (Tiko, his nephew Keo Kaeo and Bernie Simeona), a sweet harmony group that does traditional Hawaiian songs with their own very distinctive and sometimes very upbeat style. They play all around town and when not locked into a gig, they’ll entertain about once a month at the Kona Kitchen Restaurant in Seattle just for the fun of it. Tiko loves his Hawaiian music and is acknowledged as one of the best Hawaiian musicians in the Pacific Northwest.
Tiko and his lovely, beloved wife Robin have been married for fourteen years and reside in the Mountlake Terrace area. Tiko’s oldest son is named Myron and if you guessed that his other son is named Tiko, you are absolutely right!
Tiko appreciates the love many of our young Hawaiian musicians of today have for Jawaiian/Reggae music because he once felt that way with his passion for Rock & Roll and Country Western music but Tiko says that we Hawaiians should never ever forget to recall and embrace the traditional Hawaiian music that we were born with! Hey Tiko Mailona Kaeo….Mahalo Brah……you da man!
Until next time, be kind to each other……...me ke Aloha pumehana……………..Danny