As musical director of Mutual Network top-rated radio show, “Beat The Villian,” de Mello hired the Society Band, led by Joe Reichman. They went on to perform together at major US hotels After performing at a Hawaiian hotel, he decided to stay in the state, founding the the Aloha Record Co. and recording the song that became his first island hit, “Coconut Willie.” He later changed the name of his record company to Music of Polynesia.
De Mello’s biggest productions were commissioned projects, including “Songs of Hawaii’s Golden People” and “The Wonderful World of Aloha.” In 1966, he issued a multi-record project, “The Music of Hawaii: From the Missionaries through Statehood,” that inspired sequels that continued the story.
His arrangements were performed by the London Philharmonic, the Tokyo Symphony, the Victor Concert Orchestra and the NHK Orchestra, among others, and he developed the careers of local musicians Emma Veary, Nina Keali‘iwahamana, Marlene Sai. He also released the first albums by Keola & Kapono Beamer, Jon & Randy, the Brothers Cazimero and Hokule‘a.
“He was the dad of dads,” son Jon de Mello said in a statement. “He was always able to explain anything with wit and humor and was an encyclopedia on any subject. When it came to music, I saw him compose music on the kitchen table with no piano during a conversation over dinner. His talent was limitless.”
de Mello was given a Hoku Award in 2004 for his work as producer of an anthology of recordings by Keali‘iwahamana. He received the Sidney Grayson Award — the predecessor of the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award — in 1982.
In addition to his son, de Mello is survived by his wife, Ilse, and granddaughter Kamokila de Mello. Service information is pending.