Arthur Lyman

Arthur Lyman

Arthur Lyman (February 2, 1932 – February 24, 2002) was a prolific American jazz vibraphone and marimba player. His group popularized a style of faux-Polynesian music during the 1950s and 1960s which later became known as Exotica. His albums became favorite stereo-effect demonstration discs during the early days of the stereophonic LP album for their elaborate and colorful percussion, deep bass and 3-dimensional recording soundstage. Lyman was known as "the King of Lounge music."


Arthur Lyman was born on the island of Oahu in the U.S. territory of Hawaii, the youngest of eight children of a Hawaiian mother and a father of Hawaiian, French, Belgian and Chinese extraction. When Arthur's father, a land surveyor, lost his eyesight in an accident on Kauai,the family moved to the island of Oahu and settled in Makiki, a section of Honolulu. [ Liner notes to "Pearly Shells" ] Arthur's father was very strict with him, each day after school locking him in a room with orders to play along to a stack of Benny Goodman records "to learn what good music is." "I had a little toy marimba," Lyman later recalled, "a sort of bass xylophone, and from those old 78 rpm disks I learned every note Lionel Hampton recorded with the Goodman group." [ Liner notes to "Puka Shells"] He became adept at the 4-mallet style of playing which produces a fuller sound. He became good enough to turn professional at age 14 when he joined a group called the Gadabouts, playing vibes in the cool-jazz style then in vogue. "I was working at Leroy's, a little nightclub down by Kakaako. I was making about $60 a week, working Monday to Saturday, from 9 to 2 in the morning, and then I'd go to school. So it was kind of tough."

Exotica music

After graduating from McKinley High School in 1951, he put music on hold to work as a desk clerk at the Halekulani hotel. It was there in 1954 that he met pianist Martin Denny, who, after hearing him play, offered the 21-year old a spot in his band. Initially wary, Lyman was persuaded by the numbers: he was making $280 a month as a clerk, and Denny promised more than $100 a week. Denny had been brought to Hawaii in January on contract by Don the Beachcomber, and stayed in Hawaii to play nightly in the Shell Bar at the Hawaiian Village. Other members of his band were Augie Colon on percussion and John Kramer on string bass. Denny, who had traveled widely, had collected numerous exotic instruments from all over the world and liked to use them to spice up his jazz arrangements of popular songs. The stage of the Shell Bar was very exotic, with a little pool of water right outside the bandstand, and rocks and palm trees growing around. One night Lyman had had "a little to drink," and when they began playing the theme from "Vera Cruz", Lyman tried a few bird calls. "The next thing you know, the audience started to answer me back with all kinds of weird cries. It was great." These bird calls became a trademark of Lyman's sound. [Citation
title = Mood Merchant
magazine = Time
year = 1962
date = August 17, 1962
url =,9171,870058-2,00.html

When Denny's "Quiet Village" was released on record in 1957 it became an instant smash hit, igniting a national mania for all things Hawaiian, including tiki idols, exotic drinks, aloha shirts, luaus, straw hats and Polynesian-themed restaurants like Trader Vic's.

That same year, Lyman split off from Denny to form his own group, continuing in much the same style but even more flamboyant. For the rest of their careers they remained friendly rivals, even appearing together (with many of their former bandmates) on Denny's 1990 CD "Exotica '90". Although the Polynesian craze faded as music trends changed, Lyman's combo continued to play to tourists nearly every Friday and Saturday night at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel in Honolulu throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He also performed for years at Don the Beachcomber's Polynesian Village, The Shell Bar, the Waialae Country Club and the Canoe House at the Ilikai Hotel at Waikiki, the Bali Hai in Southern California and at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. During the peak of his popularity Lyman recorded more than 30 albums and almost 400 singles, earning three gold albums. "Taboo" peaked at number 6 on Billboard magazine's album chart and stayed on the chart for over a year, eventually selling more than 2 million copies. The title song peaked at number 55 on Billboard's Hot 100 in July 1959. Lyman's biggest pop single was "Yellow Bird," originally a Haitian song, which peaked at #4 in July of 1961. His last charting album was "I Wish You Love" (reaching number 43 in March 1963), [ Liner notes to "Music for a Bachelor's Den, Vol.5] but his music enjoyed a new burst of popularity in the 1990s with the lounge music revival and CD reissues.

Lyman died from throat cancer in February 2002. He is survived by his beloved wife JoAnn Z. Lyman, two sons (Arthur "Ditto" Lyman, Jr. and Aaron Lyman), daughter (Kappy Lyman) as well as his stepdaughter Jan Manago and stepson Michael Manago, sister Emily (Tweedie) Rabe, brother William Lyman and seven grandchildren. [Obituary in Honolulu Advertiser, February 26, 2002]

Arthur Lyman Group Personnel

;1957 to 1965
* Arthur Lyman - vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, bird calls, congas, bongos, guitar, percussion (including wind chimes, ankle spurs, timbali, cocktail drums, boobams, ass's jaw, guido, conch shell, tambourine, snare drums, wood block, finger cymbals, cowbells, castanets, samba, Chinese gong and sleigh bells)
* Alan Soares - piano, celeste, glockenspiel, guitar, clavietta, marimba, percussion
* John Kramer - string bass, bass guitar, percussion, ukulele, guitar, bird calls, flute, clarinet
* Harold Chang - percussion, marimba, xylophone, bass

;1965 to 1966
* Arthur Lyman - vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, bird calls, congas, percussion
* Alan Soares - piano, celeste, glockenspiel, guitar, percussion
* Archie Grant - bass, flute, guitar, ukulele
* Harold Chang - percussion, marimba, xylophone

;1966 to 1975
* Arthur Lyman - vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, percussion
* Clem Low - piano
* Archie Grant - bass

;1975 to 1978
* Arthur Lyman - vibraphone, marimba, ukulele, percussion
* Paul Reid - piano
* Randy Aton - bass
* Pat Sombrio - drums
* Neil Norman - guest guitarist

Recording details

Most of Lyman's albums were recorded in the aluminum Kaiser geodesic dome auditorium on the grounds of the Kaiser Hawaiian Village Hotel on Waikiki in Honolulu. This space provided unparalleled acoustics and a natural 3-second reverberation. His recordings also benefited from being recorded on a one-of-kind Ampex 3-track 1/2" tape recorder designed and built by engineer Richard Vaughn. All of Lyman's albums were recorded live, without overdubbing. [ Liner notes to "Hawaiian Sunset" CD ] He recorded after midnight, to avoid the sounds of traffic and tourists, and occasionally you can hear the aluminum dome creaking as it settles in the cool night air. [ Liner notes to "Taboo 2"] The quality of these recordings became even more evident with the advent of CD reissues, when the digital mastering engineer found he didn't have to do anything to them but transfer the original 3-track stereo masters to digital. [ Liner notes to "Taboo" compilation CD ] The recordings remain state-of-the-art nearly 50 years later.


;Original LPs
* "Leis of Jazz", Hi-Fi Records SR607, 1957
* "Taboo", Hi-Fi Records SR806, 1958
* "Hawaiian Sunset", Hi-Fi Records SR817, 1958
* "Bwana A", Hi-Fi Records SR808, 1958
* "Legend of Pele", Hi-Fi Records SR813, 1958
* "Bahia", Hi-Fi Records SR815, 1959
* "Arthur Lyman On Broadway", Hi-Fi Records SR818, 1959
* "Taboo 2", Hi-Fi Records SR822, 1959
* "Percussion Spectacular!" (reissued as "Yellow Bird"), Life Records L-1004, 1960
* "The Colorful Percussions of Arthur Lyman", Life Records L-1005, 1962
* "Many Moods Of Arthur Lyman", Life Records L-1007, 1962
* "I Wish You Love" (reissued as "Love for Sale"), Life Records L-1009, 1963
* "Cotton Fields", Life Records L-1010, 1963
* "Blowin' in the Wind", Life Records L-1014, 1963
* "At the Crescendo", Crescendo GNP 605, 1963
* "Paradise" (reissued as "Pearly Shells"), Crescendo GNP 606, 1964
* "Cast Your Fate to the Wind", Crescendo GNP 607 (reissue of "At the Crescendo"), 1965
* "Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas)", Life Records L-1018, 1964
* "Isle Of Enchantment", Life Records L-1023, 1964
* "Call Of The Midnight Sun", Life Records L-1024, 1965
* "Hawaiian Sunset Vol. II", Life Records L-1025, 1965
* "Polynesia", Life Records L-1027, 1965
* "Arthur Lyman's Greatest Hits", Life Records SL-1030, 1965 (compilation)
* "Lyman '66", Life Records SL-1031, 1966
* "The Shadow of Your Smile", Life Records SL-1033, 1966
* "Aloha, Amigo", Life Records SL-1034, 1966
* "Ilikai", Life Records SL-1035, 1967
* "At The Port of Los Angeles", Life Records SL-1036, 1967
* "Latitude 20", Life Records SL-1037, 1968
* "Aphrodisia", Life Records SL-1038, 1968
* "The Winners Circle", Life Records SL-1039, 1968
* "Today's Greatest Hits", Life Records SL-1040, 1968
* "Puka Shells", Crescendo GNPS-2091, 1975
* "Authentic Hawaiian Favorites", Olympic Records 6161, 1979 (compilation)
* "Song of the Islands", Piccadilly ASI 5436, 1980 (compilation)

;CD Reissues
* "Music of Hawaii", Legacy/DNA CD 323, 1990 (compilation)
* "Taboo: The Exotic Sounds of the Arthur Lyman Group", DCC Compact Classics CD DJZ-613, 1991 (compilation)
* "Pearly Shells", GNP-Crescendo CD GNPD 606, 1993 (reissue with bonus tracks)
* "The Exotic Sounds Of Arthur Lyman", Legacy/DNA CD 417 (reissue of "Taboo" and "Yellow Bird"), 1996
* "Music for a Bachelor's Den, Vol. 5: The Best of the Arthur Lyman Group", DCC Compact Classics CD DZS 095, 1996 (compilation)
* "Music for a Bachelor's Den, Vol. 6: More of the Best of the Arthur Lyman Group", DCC Compact Classics CD DZS 096, 1996 (compilation)
* "Sonic Sixties", Ryko TCD 1031 CD, 1996 (compilation)
* "With a Christmas Vibe", Ryko CD 50363 (reissue of "Mele Kalikimaka"), 1996
* "Taboo", Ryko CD 50364, 1996 (reissue with bonus tracks)
* "Hawaiian Sunset", Ryko CD 50365, 1996 (reissue with bonus tracks)
* "Taboo, Vol.2", Ryko CD 50430, 1998 (reissue with bonus tracks)
* "Leis of Jazz", Ryko CD 50431, 1998 (reissue with bonus tracks)
* "The Legend of Pele", Ryko CD 50432, 1998 (reissue with bonus tracks)
* "Yellow Bird", Ryko CD 50433, 1998 (reissue with bonus tracks)
* "The Very Best of Arthur Lyman", Varese Sarabande, 2002 (compilation)
* "Music of Hawaii", Arc Music, 2002 (compilation)
* "Taboo: The Greatest Hits of Arthur Lyman", Empire Musicwerks, 2004 (compilation)
* "Puka Shells", BCI Eclipse, 2005 (reissue)
* "The Singles Collection", Acrobat, 2007 (compilation)
* "Bwana A" / "Bahia", Collector's Choice Music CCM8912, 2008
* "Arthur Lyman On Broadway" / "The Colorful Percussions of Arthur Lyman", Collector's Choice Music CCM8922, 2008
* "The Many Moods of Arthur Lyman" / "Love For Sale", Collector's Choice Music CCM8932, 2008
* "Cottonfields" / "Blowin' In The Wind", Collector's Choice Music CCM8942, 2008
* "Isle of Enchantment" / "Polynesia", Collector's Choice Music CCM8952, 2008
* "Lyman '66" / "The Shadow of Your Smile", Collector's Choice Music CCM8962, 2008
* "Ilikai" / "At The Port of Los Angeles", Collector's Choice Music CCM8972, 2008
* "Latitude 20" / "Aphrodesia", Collector's Choice Music CCM8982, 2008
* "Winner's Circle" / "Today's Greatest Hits", Collector's Choice Music CCM8992, 2008


External links

* [ Biography] at

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