‘Mr. Coco Palms’ who played with Elvis dies at 92
Kaua‘i singer and songwriter Larry Rivera, who performed with Elvis Presley at the famous Coco Palms resort, has died.
Rivera – born and raised in the Wailuā Homesteads on the island’s East Side – was a local legend whose signature love song, “Kamalani,” was covered by the likes of Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole.
The tune was commissioned by Coco Palms manager Grace Buscher Guslander.
“She called me and said, ‘Larry, write a song about a frog,'” Rivera, who performed regularly at Coco Palms, recalled in an interview posted to YouTube following his death on Monday, Jan. 30, at age 92.
As soon as Rivera hung up the phone, he heard a bird, and its whistle inspired what was to come.
“That must have come from God. The minute I hung up … here was the song, and that’s how I got the melody,” he said.
Rivera’s fans included Elvis Presley, who filmed his 1961 musical “Blue Hawai‘i” at the resort.
“He was a kind, very nice, honest and beautiful person,” Rivera said of the King of Rock n’ Roll in another interview. “He had a lot of heart and that’s why he sang so nice.”
Rivera performed regularly throughout his life. He also contributed a regular column, “Lyrics of Aloha,” to Kaua‘i’s local newspaper and was awarded a Na Hoku Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. The music awards are often referred to as the Hawaiian equivalent of a Grammy.
“Uncle Larry is, and will always be, a legend to the people of Kaua‘i,” said Kaua‘i Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami in a statement. “Whether it was his Christmas music at midnight, or reciting every single one of his grandchildren’s names, he was always entertaining and will never be forgotten. We will miss Uncle Larry, a true living treasure of music for Kaua‘i. We offer our sincerest sympathy to Aunty Gloria, his children, and all his loved ones.”
Rivera’s music is available on Spotify.com.