Butch Niauhoe Kekaulike O’Sullivan
“Hoʻokani au i ke mele no ka hoʻomaikaʻi ana i ka honua.”
I play music to make the world a better place.
Butch was eight years old when he first picked up a guitar. On many weekends, his parents had parties at their home in ʻAiea Heights with relatives and friends. He realized early that his playing brightened up everyone’s spirit. He also figured out that if he didn’t play music and sing, he’d have to dance, serve food or clean up. He did not have any formal guitar lessons, just a little from a neighbor who was a music teacher, and eventually, he learned on his own.
After age 18, he joined friends in several R&R bands over the years. His first band included neighborhood friends, The Vaqueros (guitar instrumentals and Surf music). Then came The Diablos which expanded to R&B, learning to sing and play the bass at the same time. After that, he joined The Uniques and played variety music for Service and Waikīkī clubs. In 1968, he formed The Orient Express, a six piece show band, and in 1972, played bass with a Country-Folk Rock band called Illusion.
1975 brought change. He decided to switch gears and do a solo act. For three weeks, seven days a week, eleven hours a day, Butch practiced the guitar and singing. At the end of three weeks, he played well enough to perform at the Princess Kaʻiulani Hotel as a soloist. Later that same year, he went to Canada to solo in Vancouver, B.C. When he returned to Hawai‘i after six months, he began performing in hotels throughout Waikīkī.
Butch moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1979, and played music there for two years. Through a music agent in New York City, from 1981 to 1983, he began to travel and share his music in other states: Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Virginia. He drove throughout the Continental United States alone, doing solos in Best Western Hotels, Holiday Inns, Camara Inns, then back to Albuquerque.
In 1983, he returned to Hawaiʻi for a visit with his mom and dad. After going to see a friend who played at a popular restaurant in Waikīkī, his friend asked him to “sit-in” and play a couple of songs…so he obliged. When he got off the stage, the manager of the restaurant offered him a job that included steady work with health benefits. So, he stayed in Hawaiʻi, continuing to pay the rent in Albuquerque for a year, before moving back to Hawaiʻi in 1985 where he entertained at a restaurant in the early evening and a major hotel in the later evening. He continued to play Waikīkī hotel venues for the next four years.
In 1989, he was initially hired by the Eldorado Casino Hotel in Reno, Nevada. This led to playing casinos in Carson City, Incline Village in Lake Tahoe; then south to Las Vegas and Laughlin. A year later, he was employed at several places in Palm Springs, Cathedral City and La Quinta, California.
He was called home, in 1993, to assist with his parents who were simultaneously ailing. He cared for and nursed them during the day. At night, he played music in Waikīkī and eventually, the Ihilani Resort & Spa, now, The Four Seasons. His mother passed first and his dad soon after.
Butch then accepted an offer to play in 1997 with American-Hawaiʻi Cruise Lines on the SS Independence as part of a Hawaiian duo and as a soloist for four years. In 2001, he began playing for Norwegian Cruise Lines on the Norwegian Star which began cruising the Hawaiian Islands. He was the first local hire for this ship when he started as a soloist in their lounge. The cruise line took him all over the world for years until the end of 2010: Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, the Eastern and Western Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Seattle to Alaska and the middle of the Pacific to Fanning Island (Kiribati).
Butch O’Sullivan returned to Hawaiʻi for good and has been here ever since. He gained many skills over the years, learned to develop a rapport with an audience, and now, spends his time picking and choosing where he wants to play. On occasion, he will be seen blessing a couple with the sound of the “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” forever sharing his voice and the gift of Aloha with everyone he meets. Ultimately, he is happy to be at home in ʻAiea Heights, making his garden “a better place.”