When I was a kid, our family vacations almost always involved car trips to Las Vegas.
Mom and Dad would gamble all day, while my brother and I would bowl and play miniature golf at the now gone but not forgotten Showboat Hotel.
The famous Las Vegas Strip wasn’t nearly as long or as congested as it is now, so as we arrived in town from California, we’d drive up the Strip and look at the lights. Almost every casino had a big, colorful, flashing neon sign back then, along with a marquee showing the names of the stars performing in the showrooms and lounges.
Frank Sinatra…Dean Martin…Sammy Davis Jr.
But the biggest star of them all, as far as my not-yet-fully-developed brain could determine, had to be Don Ho.
Don Ho, the easy-going singer from Hawaii who made even Perry Como seem exciting. (Man, am I dating myself!) Ho was a huge star in his native Hawaii, and also made appearances on the mainland at such venues as the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, the Palmer House in Chicago, and The Sands in Las Vegas.
But he was no Sinatra or Martin or Davis. So why did I think Ho was such a big deal?
Because, as we’d pass the marquee of The Sands, his name appeared in huge letters. And I mean huge. Much bigger than the names on any of the other signs lining the Strip.
I could never figure out why Dad had a bunch of Sinatra, Martin and Davis records around the house, but none by Ho. So, one day I asked him.
“Don Ho had just one hit song,” Dad explained, which may or may not have been true at the time. “Frank…Dean…Sammy…almost every song they record becomes a hit.” I knew that wasn’t true, but I definitely heard their names more often on the radio.
I can remember the day I finally figured out why Don Ho’s name was so much bigger on those marquees. It was several years later, when I was visiting Las Vegas as an adult. I was driving on the Strip, and I noticed the marquee at Caesars Palace featured lettering as large as I’d seen years earlier for Ho. That lettering spelled out the name “Cher.”
Don Ho’s name had been so big on the marquee of The Sands simply because it was short. Duh!
Without question, Ho’s biggest hit was a tune called “Tiny Bubbles.” Even if you never saw Ho perform it in Las Vegas or elsewhere, you probably saw him sing it on television at one time or another. He was a regular guest on all the talk and variety shows back in the day.
And even if you never saw him on one of those TV shows, you’ve still probably heard “Tiny Bubbles.” It has been featured, in full or in part, in the movies “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” “Meet the Parents,” “King Ralph” and others.
It’s really not much of a song, in my ever-so-humble opinion. But it’s probably the most famous song dealing with Champagne, even if my personal preference for such a tune would be the Atlanta Rhythm Section’s “Champagne Jam.”
So, with a nod to music history and vivid childhood memories, the No. 8 song on the Vinesse list of the Top 10 Wine Songs of All-Time is “Tiny Bubbles,” written by Leon Pober and made famous by Don Ho.
In the wine
Make me happy
Make me feel fine
We’ll be back on Monday with more wine news and views, and our countdown will continue on Tuesday with another song that references Champagne. Care to guess what it is? The comment box below awaits.