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First published February 2016, last updated 8th March 2016

A stalwart of the Auckland music scene, Johnny Watson passed away on 22nd February 2016, aged 82.


It was great knowing you, Johnny.  The V.A.C. nights won’t be the same without your smiling face there anymore…….. Judy & Ross Hindman  
I will always remember Johnny singing with our band, The Ben Tawhiti Group at the Musos Bash which used to be held at the Glenfield Tavern.  Belting out his rendition of “Route 66”. 

A fun gentleman who loved his jazz.  Johnny was also Santa Claus at the Glenfield Mall every Christmas.  I used to catch up with him there on a regular basis.

His humour will be missed.   Buddy Wilson on behalf of the surviving members of Ben’s band
Johnny(John) Watson.....A character who loved life and especially music...always lit up the room....I shall always remember his true enthusiasm for performance and his love of music.

I will miss him...a truly great Variety Artists Club supporter. Remembered by Trish and Gray Bartlett
My parents owned Dairyland on Jervois Road 1964 to 1968 many Entertainers were regular customers.  Tommy Adderley, Ray Columbus, Ray Woolf and the inimitable Johnny Watson!  My folks adored Johnny, he was always smiling, always had a new joke to relate, and never had a bad word to say about anybody.

Like several others, Johnny had a running bill with my parents, a bill that without fail he would always eventually square up.  Not once did he ever let my old man down, however sometimes Johnny’s bill was the largest of any single customer.

My constant presence in the shop annoyed the hell out of my old man who was openly miffed about me not having a new job.  As a consequence my Mother was copping regular grief and decided to try and do something about her problem child Larry!  When Johnny popped in for his morning paper and packet of cigarettes Mum had a quiet word with Johnny.  My son Larry needs a break Johnny, and he is not a bad singer, do you think you could arrange an audition for him with Benny Levin?  It would be my pleasure Lister he said, and in his own words, the rest is New Zealand Music history folks!

Whenever I would see Johnny, he would greet me with the same words. “Hello my son”.

I will really miss that now he has gone. Johnny was not only a wonderful friend to myself and my parents, throughout our lives, he was that to whoever he associated with.  Truly one of life’s great delights, a man who could brighten your day with his presence alone, and a stalwart of the Jazz Club and the VAC.  Johnny never stopped giving to both those clubs, and only when he became very ill did that cease.  He was without doubt a very special human being.

My cousin John Dean and his partner Val drove Johnny to our gig at Real Groovy as a surprise for the guys, especially John and Nick who flew in from Oz.  It was an honour to have him present at Larry’s Rebels 50th Anniversary show at Real Groovy Records.  After all, he really started my involvement with the band.

I will miss my friend Johnny deeply, and I will never ever forget, that without him and his kindness, I may have never had the opportunity he gave me.  We are all grieving for Johnny, my parents were deeply saddened when I relayed the news of his passing to them early yesterday morning.

My sincere condolences to all of Johnny’s children, Grandchildren and loved ones.   Rest in peace dear friend.  Thanks Johnny, I love you mate.  Chur doy.

Larry Morris (Lister & John)
Sadly Auckland and NZ has lost one of it's most loved singers, Johnny Watson, he was an inspiration to many, and those of us lucky enough to have known him got to love him. 

He was a wonderful entertainer, he loved to put a smile on everyone’s faces.  Always had a good joke to pass on. 

It was a joy to watch Johnny singing, to see the pure enjoyment he got from 'doing it'. 

Lovely man, loved his spirit, Johnny, may you cruise on along Route 66 forever, R.I.P. - Tom Sharplin
RIP Johnny, thanks for your music and hope the gigs pay better in Heaven - Murray Hancox
(email me your tribute to Johnny and I'll add it in -


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