Sunday, January 18, 2009

RIP Alan Hirano

The Rev. Carl Roberts, left, Alan Hirano, on bass, right. Photo: Sherri Miranda

Bass player and friend of Mr. and Mrs. ShellHawk, Alan Hirano, passed away in his sleep on January 14th, 2009, after a long struggle with numerous health issues. On his MySpace page, he claimed to have been 102. If so, he looked fabulous for his age.

You have probably never heard of Alan Hirano, but chances are, you have heard him. Alan played bass since childhood, and had his first paid recording gig at Capitol records when he was 16 years old. Alan has played with many of the greats, such as B.B. King, Isaac Hayes, Billy Preston, John Mayall and Ronnie Mack.

Alan and I met when I was at a pub in Santa Monica and he was playing bass with his soul band, The Samurai Homeboys. Alan found out I had managed an Irish band he knew and asked if I could help with booking his band. I agreed, and we developed a partnership and a friendship that I will treasure always.

When I mentioned to Alan I was getting married to Mr. ShellHawk, and asked for his help in writing a song as a gift for him, Alan agreed. Over the next few months we worked together on the project, The Waterfall and the Man, eventually bringing the Homeboys in to record their various parts. Alan and The Homeboys really internalized the feeling I wanted this song to convey to Mr. ShellHawk, and it showed on the final recording.

Alan treated the song as his baby from the moment I placed the words in his hands, and although I had no experience in songwriting, he always made me feel as though my song was as important as any on the Top 10 at Rolling Stone. Sometimes it didn't seem like the inanimate objects we worked with wanted to cooperate, but Alan's legendary sense of humor kept all of us going. My friend Nancy and Mr. ShellHawk's best man, Brian, recorded their vocals at the Samurai Village Studios in Chatsworth, California. All the while, the project was kept secret from Mr. ShellHawk until its unveiling as his wedding present at our wedding reception. The Samurai Homeboys played it for the first time in front of an audience, Alan's bass keeping time. It was a moment I'll never forget.

Alan and I maintained contact, even after I moved away and was no longer able to give The Samurai Homeboys the attention they deserved. As I ran across different avenues to promote his band, I'd email him or call, and he was always glad to hear from me and find out I still had him and his brainchild on my mind. Alan was also a producer on other bands' albums, and would sometimes send me a song or two to get some outside input. I don't mention this to aggrandize myself; Alan lived and breathed music, and strived to make every song its absolute best.

Alan is survived by the people whose lives he touched so deeply, and I am proud to call myself one of them. He will be deeply missed by us all.
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  1. "We live, we die and death not ends it." - James Douglas Morrison

    First off, let me say how pleased I am that you posted this item on your blog. After getting the news from a former bandmate and friend, I googled his Alan's name and passing and came upon this post. While I have never met you, I see from your initial post on your blog that you had many of the same feelings for this man as I did. Your take on him as a person of good humor, who loved life and people, in spite of the physical and family prolems he had to deal with is spot on. Alan taught me a great deal about loving life and those around you - appreciating every day and living for the music.
    I am devasted to hear of Alan's death. I received the news from Tom Fleming, the former Sax player for the Homeboys. He will be truly missed.
    It seems strange now that we all tend to make plans to have lunch, talk on the phone more, or spend more time catching up in general with our friends who we do not see often enough. The same is true with Alan and I. We talked on the phone, texted, emailed and always made plans to get together to catch up, but life always seemed to get in the way. Sadly, that lunch and conversation never happened in person and now my friend and brother is gone.
    Some background - My name is Curt Von Wooster. I was the founder and dummer of the R n B revue 'Lost Soul' in 1991 and helped put Carl Roberts who later sang with Alan and the Homeboys on the L.A. music scene map. In fact, I introduced Alan and Carl later in '97 or so and worked to get them to join together. Earlier, I formed the Fabulous La-me' Brothers in 1993 with Marty Maguire on vocals, Tom Fleming on Sax, Walt Thompson on keys, Alan on bass and myself on drums. Various guitar and trumpet players rounded out he mix. As such, I worked intimately with Alan and helped give him some much needed direction in life during a period in the early 90s when he was reassessing his career and looking to get invovled in some new musical projects. Alan and I met and each filled a need in each other's lives. I needed a bass player and he needed a regular gig during the beginning of his many years of medical problems. Gratefully, that mutually beneficial relationship blossomed into a friendship that became a brotherhood. Alan and I often joked about how it was a self-fulfilling prophecy to title the band the La-me' Brothers, only to end up viewing ourselves as brothers in our day to day lives.
    After the amicable breakup of the La-me' brothes around 96 or so, I left the drums behind and began a new career as a teacher. I did not see Alan much during these year during which he formed the Homeboys, but we always stayed in contact and I filled in a couple of times for some blues gigs he did with other bands. We could always catch the groove! Whether it was doing two or three shows a week, or one every six months or so, Alan and I played in the pocket and I always knew going into a gig that we had eachothers back. God, what a monster bass player he was.
    About a year and a half ago, I got the idea to get the La-me' Brothers back together for one more gig - a sort of ten year reunion for old time's sake. Due to various scheduling problems, Alan's sometimes lengthy hosptial stays and resistance from some in the band to not make it a nostalgia trip, th gigs never happened. In fact, I was just getting ready to call Alan this week to talk about some new dates we could work toward, but now it will never happen. But just knowing that this great man was in my life at all brings great solace.
    I think I will get out that bass guitar I bought a few years ago and always wanted to learn how to play. Alan would like that, you know - knowing that I was trying in my own little way to keep the music alive using his favorite instrument of all time, the bass. So here goes my friend! Perhaps its best you are not here so I do not injure your ears as I attempt to learn to be the bass player you were. But deep down I know you are listening up there somewhere my Brother! God Bless!

  2. Hi, Curt,
    I can't tell you how touched I am to see another friend of Alan's take the time to share the great memories of this wonderful soul. I, too, am devastated at his passing. I have always thought of Al as "Happy Hotei," (the god of Happiness and Contentment), and will deeply miss him.
    Thank you for keeping his memory alive.

  3. I too am so happy to find this blog with information about Alan. I met Alan through Lauri Roberts, Carl's wife. Lauri and I used to frequent O'Briens on main, enoying dancing to SHB, and laughing at trashed people. Alan was always so happy and full of energy, even after recently coming out of a long hospital stay, his energy was amazing. I moved away from LA and we slowly stopped communicating. I always considered him a friend even though our communication wasn't as often as it once was. When I got the news of his passing I too was shocked and still am. I know he lived a full life, and was loved by many. Alan you will always be a part of my world and I will never forget you. May joy contine to embrace you in a new world.

  4. Alan first priority was to give. He was mentor to many, never taking credit, always encouraging, with a way of teaching with his smile but with great strength of character. Simply put, Alan Hirano was my teacher of music. A true prince of a man that trascended all bullshit, he will be greatly missed in my hearth and in the Latino community. Did I mention that he was the best bass player ever?
    Thank you for remembering Alan and sharing.
    Willy Ruben Paffen Urrutia

  5. Announcement to all - To Al's Bandmates, Friends and Colleagues,On Sunday February 8th from 3pm to 8pm at the Totally Frank Studio there will be a "Gathering" to celebrate the life and music of our dear Brother Al. Refreshments will be served and music will flow. Bring your Weapon of choice (unless it's an accordion), and an Arsenal of Hirano stories for us all to share.Franks Place is located at 20654 Bahama Street, Chatsworth, Ca 91311.Looking forward to seeing you all on the 8thKeep The Faith,RevCarl PS If there is a friend of Alan's you


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