Class of 1980
By Cody Moniz
Guy Aoki, one of the first WHS graduates of 1980, has interviewed and written about popular musicians in America for the radio since 1984. Between January 1989 and December 16th of this year, he was a writer of syndicated radio shows at Dick Clark Productions, including “Countdown America with Dick Clark,” which was re-named “Dick Clark’s U.S. Music Survey” in 1995. “Countdown America” won the 1991 Billboard Magazine award for “Best Syndicated Radio Program in the Adult field. Between 2003 and 2004, he also wrote the daily one-minute radio program hosted by Dick, “The Daily Music Calendar,” which talked about musical events in history.
Guy’s career began with a trivia question to the radio show, “American Top 40 with Casey Kasem,” in 1983, as he left the University of Hawaii at Manoa to return to Occidental College in Los Angeles. Just before leaving Hilo to go to L.A., he wrote Casey Kasem a trivia question with the answer: What singer sang lead with the most different groups that made the Top 40? The answer was Tony Burrows, who sang “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)”/Edison Lighthouse, “My Baby Loves Lovin’”/White Plains, “United We Stand”/Brotherhood of Man, “Gimme Dat Ding!”/Pipkins, and “Beach Baby”/First Class. In December, 1983, Casey read his letter on his show and played pieces of all of the songs and gave Guy credit for the story! Guy wrote a thank you to Casey, and, as an afterthought, asked for a job as a statistician for the show. The producer tracked Guy down, finding his number to his dorm, and offered him a job. It was a dream come true for Guy to not only meet the man he had idolized for nine years, but to work with him for four years.
One of his jobs was to retype the first draft scripts of the writers, which would be sent to the producer, who would make edits. From the time he was in the 7th grade, he was interested in the hits of the day and became interested in learning as much as possible about music from the past. He would go to record stores and study the liner notes, borrow music magazines from the library, and keep up with the current music scene. Eventually, he bought books which listed all of the records that made the 100-position singles chart and 200-position album chart.
Guy said that it’s a dream if you can get paid to do what you love or would do anyway for free, and that in his case, he gets paid to read about music and artists and to write about them in an entertaining way for people. He says he likes the creative challenge of selecting interview cuts to make an artist seem interesting, or to tell dramatic, funny, or sad stories which move people. He also says it's great when he gets the chance to interview artists that he grew up loving and to talk about their music and what inspired them to write certain songs.
He also heads MANAA, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, which is a watchdog group educating the TV, radio and movie industries about Asian stereotypes. He and Casey Kasem have helped each other on issues regarding Asian American and Arab American media and civil rights issues
One of Guy’s proudest days at Waiakea was when he did really well at a track meet. In one race, he cut his 100-yard dash time down from 11.8 to 11.4 seconds, just trailing the fastest guy in the school in the same heat (he ran an 11.2). His 11.4 tied someone else from Hilo High, so they had to run off against each other to break the tie. Despite the other guy being on the track, football, and basketball teams, Guy ended up beating him with an 11.2. “So that day,” he says, “I ran as fast as the fastest guy in the school.” Later that day, when that “fastest guy” was in the same heat with Aoki in the 200 yard race, he told Guy, “Ai! I gotta run against you? I no like! I scaid!” It reinforced in Guy’s mind that he could do anything if he believed and put his mind to it. At not even 5 feet 5 inches tall, he had run as fast as a guy close to 6 feet tall!
Mrs. Corliss Yamaki’s AP English class taught him how to make points and back them up in coherent and persuasive ways. He also wishes that there were journalism classes back then.