Hawaii’s Suntanned Irishman

Most people outside of Tucson probably don’t know about a little gem we have here named Ernie Menehune. He is a WWII veteran and bills himself as “Hawaii’s Suntanned Irishman.” Ernie lives on the outskirts of Tucson in Menehune Village, a compound that he built and planted with his own two hands decades ago.

Ernie is the consumate perfomer and has been performing with his Polynesian Review here in Tucson at Ye Ole Lantern for years (Ye Ole Lantern was one of Dean Shorts’ restaurants, his other restaurants included the Kon Tiki, Pago Pago and Ports o’ Call.) Unfortunately Ye Ole Lantern closed it’s doors in 2006, but fortunately we now have the opportunity to see Ernie perform again at the Kon Tiki here in Tucson.

Ernie’s records could be found in the thrift stores around town pretty easily. It was usually rather less easy to find a record that Ernie had not previously autographed to a fan. He loved seeing his old records being brought to him at shows for a new autograph.

Ernie Menehune was inducted into the Tucson Music Hall of Fame in 2007

The man everyone knew as “Uncle Ernie” was born on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai in 1923 and passed away in Tucson AZ in 2015

Ernie’s first show at Kon Tiki, August 13th 2006

The Phoenix New Times published a lengthy article about Ernie Menehune in 1996 that you can read here 

The photos and quotation below were provided by Siouxzan Perry, whose Father, Bob Perry, played guitar with Ernie Menehune. Many of these were taken at the long-gone restaurant Latitude 20° which was located in Torrance, CA.

“Ernie Menehune was always known to me as “Uncle Ernie”. My Dad played lead guitar with him for years. My Dad was also a member of the Polynesian Society and played at and attended every Luau at the Latitude 20.. with my Mom. As a kid growing up I never could figure out why there was always strange food items in our fridge- Lomi Lomi Salmon, Poi.. Kalua Pig.. Jeepers.. Rattan furniture, grass mats, tiki gods everywhere.. and those haunting memories of my Dad singing to me as he played his guitar.. Princess Pupule, and the Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai.…..My Dad also played with Sam Kaapuni and the Polynesians. as well as Joe Keawe.” …… Siouxzan Perry