Larry Rivera, a guitarist/ukuleleist who for seven decades performed at Kauai’s famed Coco Palms Resort and other Hawaii venues, passed away January 30. He was 92 and had been diagnosed with cancer shortly before his passing.
Known throughout the Islands, Rivera’s career began after he formed a band that won a talent show at his U.S. Army base on Oahu. After being honorably discharged in 1953, he returned to Kauai and began playing seven nights per week at Coco Palms while also writing and performing original music that gained local airplay.
In 1961, the resort became a setting for Blue Hawaii, and Rivera formed a friendship with Elvis Presley, who returned several times through the years and occasionally joined Rivera onstage.
Revered as Kauai’s “living legend of Hawaii music,” in 2013, Rivera was given the Na Hoku Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award. He is survived by his wife, six children, and extended family.
This article originally appeared in VG’s April 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.