Mary Kaaihue was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a family that could trace their lineage to the Hawaiian royal family. Her father, Johnny “Ukulele” Kaaihue had a band, and by the time she was twelve years old Mary began playing the guitar in the group. She and her brother Norm, along with Frank Ross formed the Mary Kaaihue Trio. In 1948, they changed the name to the Mary Kaye Trio.
The group became well known and Mary became one of the first women to play the electric guitar. In the early 1950s, they came to Las Vegas to perform and became one of the earliest lounge acts in the city. They played in a lounge at the Frontier Hotel throughout the 1950s and helped pave the way for future Las Vegas lounge acts like Louis Prima and Keely Smith. The group recorded more than a dozen albums and starred in a film. In 1966, the group broke up citing exhaustion.
Mary Kaye continued to perform as a solo artist. She lived in Las Vegas until her death in 2007. She remains remembered for her skill on the guitar, with Fender even naming a guitar in her honor.
Photo courtesy of UNLV Special Collections.
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