Mary Kaye of the Mary Kaye Trio, sometimes called the “First Lady of Rock and Roll,” was a singer, guitarist and performer who was active from the 1940s through 1960s.
Mary Kaye, born Malia Ka’aihue on January 9, 1924, is a descendant of Hawaiian royalty, in the line of Queen Liliu’okalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch. She is the daughter of Johnny “Ukulele” Ka’aihue, an accomplished Hawaiian musician and member of the Duke Kahanamoku band which accompanied the Duke’s surfing demonstrations on the mainland.
Coming from an entertainment and show business family, Mary Kaye was born in Detroit, MI, raised in St Louis, MO. She starting performing at 3 years of age (at which age she lost her mother) dancing hula to the ukulele strummings of her brother, Norman. At age 12, Mary and Norman were performing with their father’s band, Johnny Ka’aihue’s Royal Hawaiians.
Mary Kaye formed a jazz trio with her brother, Norman and husband, Frank Ross; The Mary Ka’aihue Trio which changed to the Mary Kaye Trio. They first performed in Las Vegas in 1947. Sometime in the early 1950s the trio moved to Las Vegas playing regularly at the Frontier, Sahara and Tropicana hotel casinos.
When the trio ended their main stage gig at the Last Frontier the owner wanted to keep them at his hotel casino. Since the main stage was booked, Mary Kaye suggested that a stage be built in the casino bar area, and it could be called a “lounge.” The trio changed the face and history of Las Vegas, credited with starting the Las Vegas lounge scene at the Last Frontier; pioneers of all-night performances on the Las Vegas Strip, and the first lounge group advertised as such.
The Mary Kaye Trio had a successful career with many hit singles, and recorded about 10 record albums, two of which were of Hawaiian music.
All three trio members have now left us, Frank Ross 1995 – Torrance, CA, Mary Kaye (Ka’aihue) 2007 – Las Vegas, NV, Norman Kaye (Ka’aihue) 2012, Las Vegas, NV.