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First published in 2007, last updated February 2016
Photos & Memorabilia - Librettos, Premiers, Tony and the Initials, Embers, Wellington 60's Reunions, Wellington 60's and 70's Reunions, Auckland 60's and 70's Reunions, Night Shift, Kavalliers
My memories are fading fast. There are bound to be lots of errors and omissions in my story. If you can correct any of these recollections, or have anything to add, please contact me - firstname.lastname@example.org
There was something special about Miramar and music back in the early 60's. A 10 minute walk around the block from our house passed the houses of Glyn Tucker, Neil Harrap and Doug Harrap, and John Donoghue.
Times were very different back then
- Instruments were very difficult to get, there were none of the 'Aladdin's Cave' style music shops of today, and if you wanted anything new (and good) it had to be imported - by sea!
- Our early recording sessions were recorded using single track tapes, so everything had to be recorded at the same time, with the drums hidden behind sound proofing screens. Mistakes were often overlooked.
- Early dances were pretty much 'old school', and we played things like 'The Supper Waltz' and 'The Gay Gordons'. 'The Gay Gordons' aren't how they sound today, that would probably have been much more fun!!
I'd like to dedicate my personal memories to all the great NZ drummers who influenced my career. Names that spring to mind are - Brian King, Ray Earle, Peter Pritchard, Tuki Witika, Peter McKee, Gordon Jenkins, Dennis Stott, Gary Kennington, Vern Clare, Dave Fraser, Johnny Dick, Jimmy Hill, Bruno Lawrence. But the biggest tribute must go to the greatest influence on my early drumming - the Shadow's original drummer, Tony Meehan.
My mother played piano, usually accompanying my grandfather who sang what you'd probably call 'Music Hall' songs. I took piano lessons when I was quite young, from a lady across the road from where we lived in Brussels Street, Miramar. I can't remember her name - I think it might have been Mrs Bedingfield. Unfortunately I didn't stick with it for long and ended up playing everything by ear, so never learnt to read music properly. I loved listening to Larry Adler playing harmonica on the "Goon Shows" and taught myself to play a couple of tunes.
My brother Mike played guitar and I was given a "banjolele" as a gift, so I used to play along with him when he'd let me.
started playing in the Swampdwellers at the "Rio Grande", which was
above a car workshop
in Miramar. I teamed up with
Rod Stone and we sang Everly Brothers songs during the band breaks.
At that time we both played guitars - I'm quite proud of the fact that I
taught Rod Stone his first guitar chords!
can't remember quite how Rod and I got involved with our own band, but we ended
up forming the first Librettos - with Dave Clark on piano, John England on
guitar and vocals, and
Peter Hindmarsh on bass guitar. I
had already started playing drums by then, practicing on upside down cake tins
with marbles rattling round on top. I
somehow obtained a funny little plastic drum set that was OK for practicing on.
I can only vaguely recall a couple of the gigs we played at (Ngaio,
Karori), but I do remember we ended up paying out virtually all of our
fees on hiring drums for me to play - that plastic set was NEVER going to see
the stage! We used to hire the
drums from Hull-Brown's music shop in Vivian Street.
I loved that shop. It was pretty much "old school" - dark, and with
the most wonderful smell. I also
remember how we got the Librettos name. Rod
and I opened an Oxford Pocket dictionary at random and stuck a pin in it - on
the word "libretto".
in a 1961 diary that my mother had kept
List of Des Britten Hi-Fi Club Radioisms (sorry Des!)
See you round like a record
Hi there you there
Stacks of wax
Plenty of platter chatter
Spinning around with the modern sound
Bye bye for now now
Let's swing every little thing
The centre aisle of your radio dial
This is the daddyo of your radio
I'm not 100% sure why I left the Librettos and joined up with the Premiers when Ray Earl decided to call it a day. Partly because I wanted to play with my brother Mike, and partly because they were older and more sophisticated (I suspect!). The initial band members were Mike Shackleton, Neil Harrap, Peter Hindmarsh, me - and Ken Cooper on bongos and management. Barry Millage joined us later on piano.
are lots of things and places I remember from my time with the Premiers.
Very exciting stuff for a 16 year old!
Practices in a garage halfway up the steep part of Vivian Street, and at the
Lodge Hall in Miramar.
Playing all of the Shadows hits, with Neil using his home made tape echo unit.
The big "Coca Cola" dances at the Wellington Town Hall with all the
big bands of the day (Librettos, Skyrockets, etc). Des
Britten, Neville Chamberlain. Playing
with drumsticks painted with fluorescent poster paint and lit with a black light (thanks
to Clive Cockburn for reminding me about this).
These dances were huge.
Sunday Youth Clubs at the Lower Hutt Town Hall and Taita. Who
could forget "Ice Age Hockey" at Taita??
Or was it Ice Age Soccer or Rugby? Who
- Christmas at Paraparaumu, playing at the Blue Moon. Getting washed out of our campsite one year and spending the night in some kind person's garage. And we wondered why no-one else had pitched their tent in such a good spot!
Dances at Pauatahanui, what a great atmosphere. Palmerston
North, Wanganui, Nelson, Napier.
Flying to a couple of gigs with "Fearless Frank" piloting.
To Nelson, where we circled round (and Mike filmed) the first swimmer to
swim Cook Strait. To Napier, when
the engine stopped as we were crossing the Rimutakas and we went into a steep
dive (I think to get it started again!)
- Playing Nelson with Jim McNaught
- Having a bet with Des Britten on the way to Wanganui. It was something to do with me playing a drum solo (which I hated) if we got there by a certain time. We did, I played, I dropped my sticks!
- Teddy Bennett. We recorded "Clap Your Hands" and "Wimoweh" with Teddy. I think "Clap Your Hands" went to number one on the NZ charts. This was recorded in the old single track mode, where we played and sang the whole thing in one go - unheard of these days!
- Late night (early morning?) hamburgers and waffles at a tiny hamburger bar by the Basin Reserve, just around the corner from Kent Terrace. (see Step-a-Side)
was made redundant from the Premiers and joined up with Tony and the Initials
playing at the Caltex Lounge. This
was fairly short lived for me (see below), and when I left Peter McKee took
Not long after I started playing with Tony and the Initials I went to Auckland for a short holiday. While I was in Auckland I called in to the "Top 20" to say hello to Tommy Adderley, who I knew quite well from playing gigs around Wellington. Ray Columbus and The Invaders were playing there at the time, but were about to leave to move to The Downtown Club (as I recall it). Tommy asked if the Premiers might be interested in moving to Auckland to play professionally. Of course, I didn't know, but said I'd find out. Stan Blenkin and Jack Shanks thought I should play with the Invaders so they could see if we might be good enough, so I sat in and played something (Shadows, I think). They were apparently happy enough, so I went back to Wellington and sounded out Mike, Neil, and Peter about making a move to Auckland. Unfortunately, Neil didn't want to move to Auckland, but Mike, Peter, and I decided to give it a go - in part because of the 30 pounds a week salary, which was three times what I was currently earning in my day job.
I can't remember how much time we had to get up and running once we got to Auckland, but we first had to audition lead guitarists. Once we heard him play, there was no question that Jimmy Ellyett was our man!
We shared a flat on Marine Parade in Herne Bay. It was great spot - an old two storey house with a lawn that ran down to the water. It even had a 'speaking tube' for calling down to the servants!
Later on (after Mike got married?) Jimmy and I shared a flat a bit closer to the city.
We worked hard at the Top 20 for our 30 pounds a week. We played for 2 hours every lunch time during the week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons. We used to practice during the day after the lunch time sessions. We were also expected to play any other gigs that Stan and Jack decided we should - shows at the Town Hall with the Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, and Millie Small. A show at Hamilton with Gene Pitney. Christmas shows at Mount Maunganui.
The crowds at the Top 20 were great, more and more people came in every week. It got to the point where were almost unable to get from the stage to the bar and back during our few 5 minute breaks. And it wasn't a huge place!
A number of touring bands and musicians called in to the Top 20 while we were playing there. I remember Mick Jagger, Ray Davies (from the Kinks), and "The Pretty Things". The last guys weren't so pretty. They got up on stage and played, and at the end of the song the drummer stood up and smashed one of my cymbals through a light fitting above the stage. I also remember that Stan and/or Jack made us play one of the Kinks songs while Ray Davies was there......groan!
The Top 20 was in the old 'Browns Mill' building in Durham Lane, Auckland. While we were working there, a huge hole was broken through one of the walls to create a sort of window into the next door building, so that the dance floor area could be extended. Recently, the Browns Mill building has been converted to a pub. I read in the paper that they effectively had to build a new building within the walls of the old Mill, and that it wasn't allowed to be physically attached to the historic blue stone walls by nails, etc. I guess the walls weren't historic back in the 60's......?
We also toured NZ with Dinah Lee and Peter Posa. We travelled by car, and had to pay for our own accommodation (out of our 30 pounds!). We went round the South Island first (West Coast, Dunedin, Ashburton, Christchurch) and back up through the North Island. By the time we got to Wanganui (I seem to recall) we couldn't afford to pay for accommodation any more, so we decided to be sneaky and stay in the Halls. I'm not quite sure how we managed to do this, but I remember we once found some first aid stretchers in a Hall and Mike decided to sleep in one of them. He laid it out across a couple of benches and climbed in. Unfortunately it closed up on him and he was stuck fast! The rest of us thought this was hilarious (of course).
Our recording career was something of a disaster. We recorded two originals for a 45 - "Top 20 Theme" (written by Neil Harrap and Peter Hindmarsh), and "Every Time I Look At You" (written by Jimmy and Peter). It wasn't until the day the record was released that we discovered they'd replaced our vocals on "Every Time I Look At You" with a gravel voiced 'talk singing' 'Ribs' Parkinson (Chris Parkinson, I believe). Those were the days when band Managers were King. We couldn't do anything about it.
All good things eventually come to an end, and ours came with the unfortunate passing of Peter's mother.
We never played together again.
We were together in Auckland for almost two years - what an experience ……
My memory is even more vague at this point, and I'm not 100% sure of the sequence of events. The Can Can Club was in Victoria Street Auckland, between Queen Street and Albert Street (sort of opposite Federal Street). I clearly remember Crombie Murdoch on piano, and I'm pretty sure Bill Belton was on bass, but I can't remember much else. The 'highlights' of this club were playing the 'Can Can' for the Can Can dancers and the fact that the bailiffs were called in to close the place down and confiscate the equipment. I recall racing in to get my drums before they were impounded!
I joined up with Gray Bartlett for a short while, I think with Bill Belton and Bob Pattinson. The only two things I can recall from this time are playing at a Remuera 21st (or engagement party) and being continuously told to turn the band down, which we did, until it got to the point where we had switched off completely - so we packed up our gear and went home early! Other things I recall are some recording work at Les Andrews' house and a show in Gisborne with a young Kiri Te Kanawa.
Bill Belton, Bob Pattinson and I joined up with Ray to form the Avengers, along with Tommy Ferguson, Red McKelvie and Tony Blomfield. My only clear memory of this time was at our first job. We played "Can't Buy Me Love" and enjoyed it so much we immediately played it again. Unfortunately this band too was fairly short lived for me. I moved back to Wellington for family reasons.
The Embers were formed to play at Vern Clare's nightclub (Clares). The lineup was John Ellis and Brian Magill (who had earlier recorded as the Holden Brothers), Rex Wenham, and me. My memories of Clares are Vern playing the trumpet (a la Louis Armstrong), me doing a lot more singing that I'd ever done before, and a young Roger Hall and Don McGrory doing a standup comedy act most nights. Things became fairly hectic around Xmas time when we were playing quite a few nights of the week at Clares and also holding down day jobs. Still, we were young(ish) .... I enjoyed playing with The Embers, but couldn't resist the next opportunity that came up ....
I'd always wanted to try my hand in a small jazz trio, and when the possibility to play at the Royal Oak with Terry Crayford came up, I pestered Terry to let me give it a go. I seem to recall he took a bit of persuading! The basic trio was Terry on keyboards (that unique Fender Rhodes sound!), Terry's brother Ross on bass, and me on drums. Peter Caulton was our resident vocalist. The great Kevin Watson played bass and guitar with us throughout 1973.
- Dudley Moore was in the restaurant one night, and we had a quick chat. He didn't play.
- eating "Curried Prawns" in the restaurant just about every time we had the chance. Perhaps that's why I'm now a vegetarian...!
- Terry and me riding our motorbikes to the Royal Oak, passing a couple of 'ladies' as we crossed the footpath into the parking area, and one of them calling out "You think you shit hot!" (sorry, I can't do the right accent here). We used this phrase as a greeting for some time afterwards, and still do on the odd occasion that we meet up with each other.
- a concert at the Wellington Opera House(?) when we tried to play Blood Sweat and Tears "Spinning Wheel" for the first time. It went fine during rehearsal, but on the night we couldn't hear each other, or Peter's singing. I think I just stopped playing!
- backing Craig Scott one night (using charts) and I think we all got lost! Sorry, Craig.
- Terry proudly telling us that we'd been offered a season on a cruise ship - and he'd turned it down!!
When the Royal Oak closed up (and was pulled down), Kevin Watson and I joined up with Midge Marsden at the Royal Tiger Tavern in the first incarnation of the Country Flyers. I also recall that Terry Crayford joined us for at least one gig. This was fairly wild and loud (compared with the restaurant at the Royal Oak), and I loved it! Once again, for job and family reasons, I shortly had to call it quits and move back to Auckland.
I bought myself a set of Yamaha DTX-III electronic drums for a recent birthday, thanks to a great selling job by Nathan Trainor at Musicworks (Hobson St), who told me "I get a lot of ex-drummers coming in to look at buying a drum kit. You're one of the few that can actually play!" (yeah, right - well done Nathan!!). I was fascinated by the technology - that it had 900 different drum voices I could use, that I could play along with midis and mute the midi drums, and also that the family could be spared the ear splitting noises of drum practice if I played with headphones on. Playing with midis is 'ok', but most of the midi music I've found to date is pretty awful.
I teamed up with a couple of neighbours (Jo and Allister Ainsworth) and started playing in a band again. I guess they felt sorry for the old grey haired dude from down the road. We were joined by Will LaMont on guitar and, as "Night Shift" we steadily built up our repertoire ready to be discovered. We played at a few paying and non-paying gigs and were sounding pretty good (if I say so myself!).
Sadly, Night Shift wasn't destined to stay together. Other commitments and lack of gigs meant that we drifted apart in 2009, and I don't think that Allister and Jo have performed in public since. This is a great pity - they are both very talented and should be sharing their talents with others.
Full Frontal and the Shambles
Will was already playing with at least one other band and invited me to try out with "Full Frontal and the Shambles". FFATS is a large start-up band consisting of four vocalists and five musicians. A great concept, but (at the risk of sounding precious) I wasn't comfortable with the hours of repetitive practice and lack of gigs. My enjoyment is in playing music for others, and the fact that we were never going to earn any money with such a large group didn't help. I decided to quit the band after the gig on New Year's Eve in December 2009, to give the band the opportunity to find a replacement drummer and get him/her up to speed. Happily, FFATS have kept going and are now getting regular work. Thanks to Richard and Mandy Moon, Will LaMont, Chris James, Alison Levet, Nicola Shirley, and Ryal Saunders, for giving me the opportunity to play music with them.
So, that was it for me - back to the midis for eternity (actually, playing with midis for eternity might just be one of my concepts of Hell!). But then..........
... a few days after I'd decided to give it all away, I got a phone call out of the blue from Bruce Jarvis. "The Kavalliers" were regrouping (Bruce, Mac McInman, and Pete Traille), and were looking for a drummer. I was a bit unsure about joining an "R.S.A." band, but decided to give it a try if they were happy to give me a try (if that makes sense). We raced through a huge number of songs at the first practice, and our first gig together (at the Avondale R.S.A.) was a real eye opener for me. I had always thought that R.S.A.'s were full of grumpy old buggers. They're certainly full of old buggers, and I very quickly realised that I was now one of them! We're playing lots of different styles of music (R n R, waltzes, foxtrots, line dances, etc) and it's great how the crowd get up and dance - and are quick to tell you what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong. It's very much a two way relationship between the band and the dancers.
I was very impressed with the musicianship of Bruce, Mac, and Pete. I guess you don't get to be still playing after this many years if you're not up to scratch. We've currently got a repertoire of around 250 songs, and every week we seem to manage to play something we have never rehearsed (and sometimes never heard of!).
Sadly, Mac McInman passed away in October 2013 after a short illness, and shortly afterwards Pete Traille decided to move on to new horizons. We eventually managed to recruit two very able replacements for Mac and Pete, David Marshall and Cliff Andrews. I believe that the band is now sounding better than ever. There are photos, samples, etc, on the Kavalliers website - www.kavalliers.co.nz
Click on the image above to view the full programme "The Kavalliers - 'Rockin the Planet with Shane' - October 2014", including interviews with Andy Shackleton and Bruce Jarvis.
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