The Beauty of Kalapana & the Tragedy of Mackey Feary

From the 70’s to today, one Hawaii’s most popular bands is Kalapana and one of Hawaii’s most tragic stories is Mackey Feary.   Their music was not traditional Hawaiian music but something more along the lines of America or the Eagles but with some island themes.  They were put together by a music manager in ’73 who auditioned local musicians and ended up with Mackey Feary, Malani Bilyeu, DJ Pratt, & Kirk Thompson.  Mackey was only 17 at the time but had been playing guitar since he was 7 and performing solo in a local bar for some time.  Legend has it they picked the name by blindfolding a member and having him point to someplace on the Hawaiian map.  He picked the small town of Kalapana on the Big Island, which might have been foreshadowing as Kalapana was destroyed by a lava flow in 1990.  By ’75 they had completed their first album, written mostly by Feary & Bilyeu and started touring.   

The Hurt

They put out a second album the following year and were one of Hawaii’s most successful acts but by ’77 Feary left the band.

Moon & Stars
Lost Again

He went on to do a bunch of solo work and collaborate with other top local artists but was always fighting drug addiction.  What was not known at the time was he had been sexually abused as a young child and had been suffering from depression ever since. He turned to drugs to help him cope but he couldn’t get away from his demons.  His sister, Dancetta Feary, believes that the reason he wrote mostly love songs was because he was looking to fill that void he felt from this childhood experience.  Mackey had troubles with relationships too, including domestic abuse issues with his wife who separated from him several times before finally putting a restraining order against him.  Then in ’96 he hit what looked like the bottom when he was arrested for smashing his wife’s car in a parking lot after she would not give him money.  At the time of the arrest crystal meth was found in his car.  The next day while in jail he tried to hang himself but was revived by first responders.  After a six month prison sentence, he was released, went to rehab and reconciled with his wife.  While in prison he found religion to fill the void but once out he returned to drug abuse, though he was still able to perform almost nightly in the Honolulu club scene.  Kalapana even got back together and performed a 25th anniversary concert to a huge crowd but Mackey couldn’t stay out of trouble.  In fact, the morning of that concert Mackey had been arrested for breaking a restraining order and had to be bailed out just before the show. Two months later Mackey went back to prison when his probation was revoked for testing positive for meth, failing to complete his rehab program and breaking the restraining order.  He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and failed an appeal two months later.  Two days after that failed appeal, Mackey hung himself in his cell.  His sister claims a guard that had connections to his wife was taunting him in prison and nobody tried to revive him. If you speak to any old timer in Hawaii and mention Mackey Feary they will all say the same thing, “tragic life” or “what a waste”.  Other than the amazing music he left us, the only good thing to come out of this tragic tale was his sister filed a lawsuit against the state and was able to get a change in the way drug offenses are handled.

I Remember You

Dancetta Feary now raises Monarch butterflies to help save the species, she calls them Mackey’s Monarchs.



      • Awww, thanks!
        How did they not get more national attention? Is it because as Hawaiians they can only be accepted as an ethnic act, doing typically Hawaiian music?

        • Yes, they get labeled as a regional act and sign on small labels so don’t get much out of state attention. They usually do tours in Japan & Asia where the pay is good & the demand high for Hawaiian acts. Bands like Kalapana, Cecilio & Kapono, a few others had a few west coast tours but often it is just to places with big Polynesian populations or beach culture.

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