BRUCE JARVIS

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First published November 2014, last updated February 2016


Photos & Memorabilia -
Chequers, Starlights, Silhouettes, Kavalliers

Bruce can be contacted at jarvos2@xtra.co.nz

 

BRUCE JARVIS - BASS GUITAR/VOCALS

CHILDHOOD

I grew up on the North Shore, Auckland where my family have lived since the 1950s.

Music has always played an important part in our lives. We had a piano which my mother could play by ear, my dad played the spoons and my brother the bagpipes. My sister sang in the school choir. Whilst at Takapuna Primary I also sang in the school choir.

We used to listen to the radio a lot, and my favourite programme was the Lever Hit Parade. Music developed from Easy Listening to Sing-a-Long to something called Rock ‘n’ Roll.

In high school, Westlake High when it was co-ed, I learned to play the guitar. This was taught by John Willetts who was in a great band called Red Hewitt and The Buccaneers.

On Friday evenings I went to the local church Coffee Club. I met a few guys there who said they wanted to play music. Thus, in 1961, I was playing guitar in my first band, The Starlights.

By 1962 I realised my guitar skills weren’t great and, on hearing another band needed a bass guitar player I offered my services. I quickly traded my guitar for a bass – a Jansen. The band, The Chequers, entered 1ZB’s Have A Shot. This was recorded each week in the Durham Lane studios, in front of an audience. The band did very well and was in the finals at the Auckland Town Hall. The band comprised of Bruce Mason – lead guitar; Wayne Lythberg – rhythm guitar; Rhys Clark – drums; and me on bass guitar.

On Friday nights there was a rock ‘n’ roll dance in the Takapuna War Memorial Hall. This was where I first met The Silhouettes. I already knew Rex Bowmast as he had given me guitar lessons.

EARLY MUSIC CAREER

1963 was my first year as an apprentice engineer with TEAL, the precursor to Air New Zealand. During this year Rhys Clark told me he had been offered the drum position with The Silhouettes, and that they needed a bass player. I auditioned with their leader, Mac McInman. He told me I played okay but my bass, a six string Jansen, didn’t sound the best! Thus, in early 1964, I bought a sunburst Fender Precision Bass, and this is the guitar I still play. Mac and Rex bought matching Fender Stratocasters.

The Silhouettes were now Mac McInman – rhythm guitar/vocals; Rex Bowmast – lead guitar/vocals; Rhys Clark – drums/vocals; and me – bass guitar/vocals. We played mainly early rock ‘n’ roll, and a lot of Cliff Richard and The Shadows.

THE BEATLES!!

In June 1964 our lives were changed forever when a new band with a new sound came to New Zealand - The Beatles. Rhys and I went to the Auckland concert where The Beatles played for only 30 minutes, but the crowd went wild. After the show Rhys and I stood outside the Royal International Hotel and were rewarded by The Beatles coming out onto the balcony and waving to the huge crowd gathered below. What a fantastic night! By the end of 1964 The Silhouettes were playing The Beatles’ songs. It helped that all of us sang.

At this time British bands were very popular, so our repertoire also included songs from these artists. Into 1965 we became known as Auckland’s Beatles Band and played at most of the popular dance venues: Beatle Inn, Top 20, Monaco, Shiralee, and the Crystal Palace. Finally, we were the resident band at our local hall, Surfside in Milford.

RECORDING

The Silhouettes also recorded and backed other artists in the recording studios. Our single, ‘Theme From Endless Summer’ which was the title track from the surfing movie ‘Endless Summer’, became a local hit and was nominated for a Loxene Golden Disc Award. We recorded covers of several popular tunes of the day, and Mac McInman’s originals. I also recorded with Gray Bartlett – more about that later.

RESIDENCIES

Apart from the Surfside residency, at Christmas 1965 we were offered the much coveted spot at the Top 20. We backed Peter Posa and Tommy Adderley over the season. The club wanted us to continue fulltime into 1966, but Mac and Rex had solid daytime jobs and wouldn’t make the commitment. Rhys Clark went to Sydney and I left for a break from music.

LIFE AFTER THE SILHOUETTES

Some break! Straightaway I was offered a job at the soon to be opened Playboy Club with the John Battersby Band. John played the trumpet and the only other guys I can remember are Bill Fairs on saxophone and Lou Mercer on drums. There was also a guitarist, keyboard player and a female vocalist. The club was closed down by the police within five months as it flouted the very strict liquor laws of the day.

The next position I was offered was with Gray Bartlett’s Band playing the Auckland club scene, and doing shows. We featured on an Auckland radio show about modern music which was recorded at 1ZB’s Durham Lane Theatre. Other groups featured on the show, too, but mainly us and The Brew. Our band was: Gray – guitar/vocals; Kerry Hart – trumpet/vocals; Robert Pattinson – keyboards; Ross Sutton – drums; and me – bass/vocals.

A career highlight for me was recording an LP with Gray as he’d become very popular both in New Zealand and overseas. Benny Levin, of Impact Records, wanted him to release an album in Japan. This was made with, as well as Gray and me, Frank Gibson Jnr on drums and Tony Blomfield on piano/keyboards. Somehow I never did get a copy of the LP!!

THE PUB CIRCUIT

The New Zealand Licensing Laws changed in 1967 to allow pubs to stay open till 10 pm. I was now playing with The Diplomats around the new pub circuit. This band was Maurice Chan – steel guitar/vocals; Gary Bayer – lead guitar; George Sabbage – drums/vocals; and me – bass/vocals. Gary only lasted a couple of months before he headed off to Australia to seek his fame and fortune.

I believe he started backing Dinah Lee as her personal guitarist. This led to Rex Bowmast, my mate from The Silhouettes, joining the band as lead guitar/vocals. We continued around Auckland on the pub circuit.

In late 1969 we became the resident band at the Cascade Room of the Royal International Hotel; and we played upstairs in the House Bar from 10 pm till midnight.

In 1970 I was also in a trio playing classic rock and feature tunes at the Milford Marina Hotel. Great fun with John Rangi – drums and Brian McCarthy – lead guitar. We did tunes from such greats as Hendrix and Cream. Brian then decided to go overseas, too.

I joined the resident band at Trillos, Westhaven in late 1970. We were known as, simply, The Trillos Band. What a great bunch of guys! There was Tui Timoti – lead guitar/vocals; Ian Laird – drums; Dennis Benns – saxophone/vocals; Ashley Burrell – piano/keyboards; and me – bass/vocals. After a few ‘indiscretions’ the band was asked to leave. The incoming band leader, Terry Gray, asked me to stay on, so from late 1970 through 1971 I was still at Trillos, but with the Terry Gray Orchestra!

By 1972 I was offered my old job back with The Diplomats. There were some line-up changes: Rex Bowmast – lead guitar/vocals; Owen “Danny” Campbell – guitar/vocals; George Sabbage – drums/vocals; and me – bass/vocals.

AIR NEW ZEALAND – life after playing in a band

In January, 1973 I passed my training course to become a steward (Sky Hunk!) with Air New Zealand. I was also married and a father so my trusty Fender bass was put under the bed in our spare room. It was to remain there until 2006.

From 1973 till 2006 I did occasionally dust off my bass and played at various musicians’ get-togethers. These were organised by Keith “Haggis” McIntyre, then Roger Skinner. Proceeds from these entertaining and fun gatherings went to charity.

I also helped out mates, especially Mac McInman, when they needed a fill-in bass player.

LIFE AFTER AIR NEW ZEALAND

I left Air New Zealand, after 43 years, in 2006. Later that year I had a phone call from Robert Pattinson who asked if I still had my bass and was I retired. As I answered yes to both questions, he asked me to audition with Alphonso Keil and The Kavalliers, which I did and got the job. My latest career in music was under way.

Alphonso was one of the few famous Keil family left, and had played in the original Kavaliers (one ‘l’). He added the extra ‘l’ later when he became Alphonso Keil and The Kavalliers as a point of difference between the two bands. The members of the latest Kavalliers were Alphonso – guitar/vocals; Clive Whelan - lead guitar; Robert Pattinson – keyboards; Mike Beck – drums; and me – bass/vocals. We played at RSAs, Cossie Clubs and private functions.

Sadly, Alphonso passed away in late 2008. My old friend from The Silhouettes, Mac McInman, joined us on rhythm guitar/vocals.

The start of 2010 saw more changes in the band personnel. We now had Andy Shackleton - drums/vocals and Peter Traille – lead guitar/vocals. We still played the RSA network, clubs and private gigs.

Our dear friend and my life-long mate, Mac McInman, passed away in October 2013. He’s forever in our hearts and music.

In 2014 Andy and Bruce welcomed into the band two great guitar/vocalists: David Marshall and Cliff Andrews. The Kavalliers are better than ever, and are well known for their rock ‘n’ roll and superb harmonies.

We still play the RSA and club circuit, as well as at private functions. Our music ranges from truly great classic rock to dance music and, yes, even the odd line dance.

Bruce - Rockin the Planet - 2014
Click on the image above to view the full programme "The Kavalliers - 'Rockin the Planet with Shane' - October 2014", including interviews with Bruce Jarvis and Andy Shackleton.

Phew!!!

Music always has been, and always will be a huge part of my life. I thank my darling wife, Morag, for encouraging me to get that bass out from under the bed and going to that last audition.

I wish you all safe and happy times, and let’s keep the music playing…


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