CATCH HANDS PHOTOS & MEMORABILIA

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First published in March 2012, last updated 25th August 2015

THE CATCH HANDS STORY - WELLINGTON (by Malcolm Connolly)

The Wellington music scene in the 60’s really was something else....a variety of great bands, holding down residencies all over a vibrant city.

One band I briefly got close to was an underground four piece outfit called the Catch-Hands. They weren’t main stream and worked hard not to be. These four talented musicians, who hit the stage with a unified image of matching black, thrived on simply doing their own thing....and man did they do it well.

The Catch Hands were:
Bill Patchett – guitar / lead vocal
Ray Kelsey – bass / lead vocal
Graeme Osten – keyboard / vocal
Colin McLean – drums / vocal

While most groups in town were playing either Pop or R&B covers, these guys were pumping out their own huge ‘wall of sound’. And this ‘wall of sound’ would almost shake walls down wherever they played. With a mix of driving Spencer Davis Group, early Manfred Mann and The Animals tracks, which were in turn contrasted with thumping Dave Clark Five and Paul Revere & the Raiders numbers, Catch Hands created a unique style that was polished, tight, while at the same time being up in your face.

Catch Hands deliberately steered away from the usual front-man format, as the guys were each capable of singing. Though it was either Bill the guitarist, or Ray the bass player, who usually led the way vocally. Their sound was best demonstrated when powering out screaming keyboard covers like - ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ or the ground-shaking - ‘Bits & Pieces’. So, along a with stage image, this ‘keyboard up front’ and ‘beefy guitar’ sound fast became the band’s point of difference on the local scene.

What was also clear about these guys was that their own gigs dragged in more chicks than you would expect to find on a poultry farm. So apart from great music, they drew great crowds, even having their own ‘fan run’ Fan Club that boasted a couple of hundred (mostly female) members. The drummer, Colin, was a particular draw-card....the youngest of the mob, he always signed the most autographs. Off stage, he had a trendy image that you would swear had just stepped out of the ‘Small Faces’.... (another of the British bands whose music suited the Catch Hands style).

As I recall, they were resident down in The Cellar in Victoria St (renamed Chelsea Club) every Wednesday night and on Friday nights up Hill St, at St Francis Hall (behind Parliament). The rest of the week they would either do the rounds, or tour out of town, like a lot of bands of that era.

The Catch Hands old Bedford van used to go all over the place....down South and anywhere and everywhere around the lower North Island. The four of them all squeezed in across the front seat, with their gear filling up the back. Though a lack of space always bugged the guys, particularly when following gigs they could never find sufficient room to cart groupies. But that’s a different ‘story’ altogether....one best told on another day !

One thing I also admired about these self-styled ‘rebels’ was, their refusal to be controlled by any form of management. Instead, choosing to market and find their own work from wherever they could....thus being in control of their own fate. Hence the name Catch Hands....drifters, forever on the move, in search of work....in their case, gig opportunities.

These guys were your classic band members....they stuck together like glue through thick and thin and weren’t easy to crack through to either. Particularly for any outsider (like me) who attempted getting in too close. I know, because I had an entrepreneurial bent back then and was determined to tame, or at least manage, these cool cats. They eventually weakened and let me aboard. Then for a while, we got along quite nicely. But my demise came when trying to introduce a spunky young vocalist I had come across. The final straw came in trying to coax Bill into singing duets with her. Most definitely this would remain a staunch ‘boys band’ !

My brief involvement with the group was an eye opener at least and a most interesting few of months....believe me !  People just aren’t aware of the amount of ‘behind the scenes’ effort guys like these put in, to further their music. Catch Hands were their own masters and although I had arranged some top gigs within the city, they actually couldn’t care less where they played, just so long as the gig went off, covered gas and left a bit in each of their back pockets. So on reflection my role with them was only ever as an unnecessary passenger.

Catch Hands were hardened dudes and real neat guys all in one, but things changed one night. Bill got seriously electrocuted....a Newtown gig. Touching the mike, he was thrown to the back of the stage, right through his amp, etc. Took a few weeks to get themselves back out there again but when they did, Ray the bass player had begun falling madly in love....meaning his heart wasn’t in touring all round the countryside any more. The guys went about replacing Ray (of 3yrs) and did, quite soon, but the magic glue had begun showing signs of cracking. So eventually Bill (guitar) and Graeme (keyboard) who by now were both living in Upper Hutt, felt it was time to move the band forward and in so doing, rearrange the format....even tried experimenting with a brass section. But try as they might, that old magic could not be restored with different chemistry.

Graeme continued on, playing as a journey-man in various bands, even ended up working in the UK for a while. Ray’s career (real job) led him all around the world. Colin, the drummer who worked in a Wellington Musical Instrument retailer went his own way. Bill, who had formed the band along with Graeme, sold his gear and entered a career with a major Motor Co. He also found success as a local motor racing driver for years.

- Ray Kelsey is back in NZ and now lives happily somewhere in Auckland.
- Colin McLean by all accounts, is still around Wellington somewhere.
- Bill Patchett returned to the Wellington music scene in the year 2000. He nowadays resides and is still performing, somewhere in Western B.O.P.
- Graeme Osten the talented keyboardist who never ceased playing in bands, returned to live in Upper Hutt, but sadly passed away in 2003

Well, that’s my hazy recollection of the infamous Catch Hands, another unique component of that fantastic ‘Wellington in the 60’s’ live music scene. A bunch of dedicated muso’s, who left their mark and are more than deserving of a mention among this esteemed list of NZMusos.

Malcolm (author)

From the Bill Patchett Collection

(Hover over thumbnails for captions, and click on thumbnails to enlarge photos)

Photos of Bill Patchett, Ray Kelsey, Graeme Osten, Colin McLean


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