Uma’s Ultimate Kona Konnection is a weekly column covering the music scene of Kailua Kona. This week she spotlights Johnny Valentine, who happens to be Bruno Mars’ uncle! He plays tonight, June 25, at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar featuring LIVE karaoke, where you can pick a song and sing with him!
While Uber driving awhile back, before Kona allowed us to pick up airport passengers, I drove by hoping to find someone needing a ride and who should I run into? Yep, Johnny Valentine. If you haven’t seen him perform at Don’s Mai Tai Bar in Kona, or with Kalapana, or Henry Kapono, you’ve missed a truly talented musician in action. He has some funny and strange tales about his nephew, Bruno Mars. Here are the questions I asked him this week…
What gave you the idea to do live karaoke?
The Hard Rock Cafe in Honolulu asked me to host it two months ago since the manager noticed that I never do the same songs and asked, “How many songs do you know?” I have 2,500 tunes on my iPad and probably 300 memorized that aren’t on my iPad. So, they took a gamble on trying it out and it was successful. They want me to do it every month. Gertrude’s [Jazz Bar] heard about it, and now they want me to do it once a month.
About how often do you play music at Royal Kona Inn in Kona?
Only when there are five Thursdays, or someone has to sub the gig out.
I see you’re playing there on October 31 next, is that because you are traveling a lot of the summer?
Yes, I’m in Japan right now touring with Kalapana.
What got you started playing music?
According to my dad, I walked around the house singing Beatles songs at the age of six. Picked up the ukulele at 11 years old. Picked up the drums at 12-years-old. Picked up the guitar at 13-years-old. Became a professional musician at 20-years-old. First year of college they asked me to tutor classical guitar.
About how many days in a month do you usually play?
I perform every single day, and you can go to my calendar.
Whose idea was it to have your nephew, now Bruno Mars, perform as a mini Elvis?
When Bruno was born, he idolized me because I spent a lot of time with him. He used to come to the show and watch me sing, dance, and play guitar entertaining people. But my sister really started him on how to sing, then convinced me to teach him Elvis moves, and Michael Jackson moves.
How did you set yourself up to travel all over the world playing music?
I really don’t set myself up, people just hire me to perform with them.
How did you go about getting sponsors like Jams World?
They approached me. They believe I’m the hardest working musician on the island. If you go to my calendar and see my schedule you will think I’m crazy to take so much on, but this is what I live for.
What’s inspired you to put out a CD every year for the past few years?
If I’m not performing on stage, I’m in the studio writing, producing or recording.
Do you recommend ReverbNation for other artists? If so, why?
I can’t really answer that question; all I know is I’ve put everything I’ve ever done everywhere that I can promote myself.
What inspires your music most?
I don’t really need inspiration it’s all I do: live, eat, breathe music.
What are the challenges and joys of playing music?
Music is what I love, the business part sometimes sucks.
Do you have any recommendations for musicians to play professionally?
Work on your craft before you even think of becoming professional.I didn’t know I was going to become a professional musician until someone saw me and said, “Can I hire you?” The worst way to think is that you’re going to make money playing music. If you’re a good musician, you will be hired
If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Already do have a superpower, I heal people with my music.
What TV show did you last binge watch?
I don’t have cable TV.
Any closing thoughts, shout-outs, mahalos, etc.?
My wife became my manager, and thanks to her my career has flourished.
If you can make Live Karaoke tonight (June 25), expect to be wowed! If you play an instrument, you can even bring it and have the opportunity to play music with Johnny yourself. Gertrude’s Jazz Bar is a fun, open air venue upstairs by the ocean on Alii Drive. Drinks and food are both yummy and appetizing. They offer live music six nights a week from jazz & blues to reggae & rock in a high-energy bar with a patio & ocean views.
Gertrude’s Jazz Bar is located at 75-5699 Ali’i Drive, in Kailua. Info: (808) 327-5299. Doors open at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
To see Johnny’s crazy performance schedule, check out: http://johnvalentinehawaii.com/
And to see pics of him out traveling and playing music visit: https://www.facebook.com/JohnnyValentineHawaii
Love Guru Uma performs in the 4-piece Uma Zuma Band, in a duo with her husband and plays solo ukulele. She’s a substitute teacher, Uber driver, Tour guide and self-published author. She just completed Book 2 in a series of adventure love story and self-help reads entitled Love is Crazy – Lessons in Love: Creating your own Happy Ever After and Love is Crazy Satisfying. More at umaojeda.weebly.com
Photos: Facebook and Love Guru Uma.