HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Down deep, the Bruno Mars who turns up the energy on stage today is the same performer who broke the mold for Elvis impersonators when he was a four-year-old in Hawaii.
Back then, the boy named Peter Gene Hernandez made a big impression on Fran Kirk, who booked entertainment for Outrigger Hotels.
"I certainly would have booked him if I had the opportunity to do so," she said. "He was the natural. It wasn't contrived. That was him."
Bryson Bayot is Bruno Mars' cousin. He's about ten years younger than the pop music icon. When Bryson was growing up, Bruno would come over to his house.
"He would take me to crack seed stores and get candy. It was just really fun. He used to come over and swim all the time, you know, cousin stuff," he said.
At Roosevelt High School Bruno performed in a group called The School Boys. Band mate Joey Kaalekahi said even then Mars knew what he wanted to do.
"He dreamt of one day being able to take care of his family, making sure that his parents never ever had to worry," Kaalekahi said.
Bayot said Bruno's musical talent comes from their family. He said Bruno could play other people's songs after just hearing them on the radio once or twice.
"He learned it from everyone. His mom, my uncles, my dad, everyone just contributed," he said.
"Bruno is a very talented young man," Kirk said. "He grew up in a showbiz family. His father Pete had a group called the Love Notes."
Bayot last saw Mars in the flesh a couple of months ago when the star slipped into town for a visit. He was blown away by his Super Bowl performance.
"That was amazing. Just seeing him on that screen. Not only Bruno, but his brother, Eric, on the drums. He's been drumming with Bruno since they were little," he said.
Bayot keeps his family connection to Bruno on the down low. And "no" he's not a fan of all of Mars' music. Cousin's can keep it real.