BRYAN BEAUCHAMP (R.I.P.)

<Home>  <Bands>  <Musicians>  <Venues & Places>  <Reunions>  <Contacts List>  <Anthems>  <Search>

First published in November 2007

Photos & Memorabilia - Blue Diamonds, Bari & the Breakaways

(Editor's note - sadly, Bryan passed away on 7th February 2009)

TRIBUTES

I was very sad when I received the news of Bryan's passing as for me he represented a cornerstone of the wonderful era of music that developed in NZ during the early 60s.  I feel honoured to have the great memories of the people and a time that made us all comrades during a most exciting time of our lives.  My heart felt sympathy to all those who have passed I feel it very much.  Personal regards. Tom McDonald
(click here to email me your tribute to Bryan and I'll add it in - andy@nzmusos.co.nz)

November 2007 - Rock and Roll Drummer - A Short History

My career probably started at Henderson High School playing alongside Peter Posa in a school band.  The years were the mid fifties.  Rock n Roll had just reared its wonderful head to the world.  Early influences were to be the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Gene Vincent

It was as a singer, however, that I was to experience my first taste of what it was like to be in front of a wildly enthusiastic crowd.

The Maori Community Centre in Auckland used to run regular Talent Quests on a Saturday night.  All of 14 years old, I was going to be the next great Rock n Roll star so I entered.  I was shown into a room back stage and was shocked to find most of the competitors were a lot older than me.  I was to be second on stage.  The first act went on and when he finished, this almighty roar went up from the packed room.  I had never heard anything like it.  I WAS TERRIFIED.  I was duly called to the stage for my performance.  The other guy had had a band backing him, I had only a guitar player I had never met before.  Well, too late to back out now.  Being so short the mike was too tall so the announcer held it on an angle for me.  I was shaking like a leaf.  I collected myself together, eventually, and burst into song.  “Party Doll” was the tune, very popular at the time.  The crowd were very quiet during my performance so I assumed it was politeness for this young white kid.  I duly finished and the place ERUPTED.  It was deafening.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I was selected as one of two who would go onto the finals a couple of weeks later.  No, I did not win but the experience was to stay with me forever and to decide my future. 

High school was a drag.  Except for English and Art, I was a hopeless academic.  I had however become interested in sailing and had a paper round and a job after school to finance my first yacht.  I was to spend many happy hours on the water most weekends. 

It was on one of those days that I saw this yacht sailing into the bay.  It had a sail that had seen better days and the hull looked as if it had been built out of any timber it’s owner had found lying around.  The owner looked as rough around the edges as the boat.  For what ever reason, we became friends.  Over time I discovered we had a mutual interest in rock n roll music and what’s more this guy could play piano.

Enter Tony Blomfield.  The original mad scientist, Tony was at his mad best when tinkering with things electrical.  [He later worked in the Jansen factory designing amplifiers.] 

At this stage I was a struggling guitar player and we decided to form a band.  Tony knew this bloke Warren McMillan from his school days who played bass and a drummer whose name eludes me.  So began The Rockabouts, a band that would terrify the neighbours and parents but would develop a small but loyal following around Henderson.  We developed, with some help, a youth club in an old catholic church hall where we entertained the local teenagers.  I can’t recall the exact circumstances but somehow Tony, Mac and I were asked to go and join this guy Maurie Chan in 'The Mauri Chan Sextet', to play regular Saturday nights at St Seps ballroom in Auckland city.  Man, for a bunch of kids from out west, this was big time. 

By this time Tony had switched to playing guitar.  We were playing all the usual Shadows stuff as well as the expected waltzes and stuff.  A bit boring at times but hey, we had a regular gig.  Included in the lineup was a singer, Daryl Legge, and a female vocalist Loraine Durban, who’s sister Allison would later take the country by storm. 

We were always having trouble with drummers and so in desperation, I took over the drumming duties. 

I will now digress for a while to explain what was happening in Auckland at this time.   We will call it the Christchurch Invasion.  The hot bands in Auckland at the time were probably the Keil Isles, the Kavaliers, and the Embers who had in their line up Mike Perjanic and the legendary Doug Jerebine.  As musicians this was one of the best bands of all and would later form the nucleus of the Mike Perjanic Show band.  One night, however, someone said we should go and check out this new band in town from Christchurch called Ray somebody and the Invaders.  These guys would turn the Auckland music scene on its ear.  They would be closely followed by Max Merrit and the Meteors who would become my big influence. 

It was the thing in the early sixties for night clubs to have live music at lunch times.  The Top20 had either the Invaders or the Meteors while the Shiralee had the Embers.  I would spend many lunch hours soaking up the music, watching and learning.  However, come the weekend, I was usually running low on cash and could not afford to go and watch the bands and also there was always a long line of people waiting to get in.  I had however formed a bit of a friendship with Johnny Dick, the drummer from the Meteors.  We were discussing the merits of different snare drums one day when he mentioned that he preferred my Ludwig snare over his Slingerland model.  We hatched a cunning plan.  I would arrive at the Top 20 with my snare drum for Johnny to use, get in for free and bypass the queues.  I could then spend many hours watching my mentor.  

Meanwhile Tony, Mac and I were getting a little frustrated with our Saturday night gig.  We wanted to branch out.  So we left our safe little gig at St Seps and along with Darryl the singer we moved on.  We picked up a rhythm guitar player named Al Dunster and formed a new group, DARRYL and the DEMONS.  This was not a bad outfit if I might say so, but to really break into the Auckland scene you needed a resident gig.  So we had to play any job we could get to get some exposure, but we just couldn’t break.  We even auditioned for the Top 20 gig when it was coming up but a Wellington band the Premiers got the job. 

I was 21 and wondering if I would ever make it.  I happened to be reading the Auckland Star one night and noticed this small add ‘’Drummer wanted for full time work in Taranaki’’ Phone 2323232 [or something].  What the Hell I thought I’ve got nothing to lose, surely.  So I made the call.  I found myself a couple of weeks later living on a cow farm with the Gordon family who’s son Bari was the guy who had placed the ad.  He was forming this band and I was soon to meet the rest of the musos that weekend.  I held my breath.  

I was to discover very quickly that New Plymouth was a zillion miles away from Auckland, especially it’s night life.  THERE WAS NONE.  There was the Saturday night dance, and that was it.  The local band the Nitelights, I think it was, were to me bloody awful, and Bari [sorry old son] very ordinary, and I had left Auckland for this!  There was one glimmer of hope however and that was the bass player - one Dave Orams.  I had yet to meet the rhythm guitarist and did that the next week. 

To digress once more I must explain that during the 50’s and 60’s Talent Quest’s were all the rage all over N.Z. and there was this Maori guy called Johnny Cooper who used to run his “Search For The Stars” shows up and down the country.  Basically he would put together a scratch band, run his quest in a province for a few weeks, milking it for all it was worth, then move on.  This was to be my new job?  As a drummer in a band backing questionable talent?  What had I done?

It got worse! 

We finally got this band together in one place, but the bass player wasn’t who I thought it would be [and he was only to last a short time] and then there was the rhythm guitarist?  This young kid walks in, Fender Strat and all, WITH NOT A CLUE IN THE WORLD!  Hell I had been through all this crap years ago.  Unfortunately I had pretty much burnt my bridges and had nowhere to run.  I had to make a go of it somehow.  And so I met Keith Marsden “Midge” to his mates, likeable enough, and keen as hell.  But was this going to be enough?  Time would tell soon enough as the show was to go on the road in a couple of weeks. 

Meanwhile Johnny decided we needed a name.  The Blue Diamonds, we would be.  With guitarist “Gordon Bari” [don’t ask].  We needed a uniform of some sort and so the mum of one of Bari’s friends made these sparkly blue tops for us.  SHOW TIME!  God they were awful.  How things would change a few months later. 

It was the beginning of the British sound era the Beatles and everything, so hair was a bit of an issue.  I had arrived in Taranaki with hair a lot longer than the locals were used to and under duress had it shortened a bit.  It would be the last haircut for a few years. 

The common thread in Johnny’s talent shows was for heats to be run in about 4 towns over a number of weeks then semi finals and a grand final in the main town [in this case New Plymouth].  Every week there would be a guest star, some not so well known and some very well known.  About 3 weeks into the show, which was going remarkably well, female Superstar of the moment Dinah Lee was to appear.  This I thought would test the band.  Then disaster!  Bari came down with the measles!  We had to use a ring in for rehearsals and Midge was learning the chords as he went along.  Dinah took it all in her stride and we had an incredible week together.

The upshot of it all, however, was Midge was still holding down a day job and while we had been rehearsing, the local newspaper had been down and some photos had been taken.  Midge, as far as his boss was concerned was having a “sick day” off.  Unfortunately the next day here is Midge, Dinah and the rest of us all over the front page.  Midge became a professional musician the next day, and he only knew about 6 chords on the guitar. 

The weeks went by and I was starting to enjoy myself playing music, meeting the odd loose woman, generally having fun.  As I said, bass players were a problem but for the duration of the talent quest we used a guy called Tim Nuku from Hawera.  The show had to come to an end of course and I hadn’t thought much about what would happen next.  It happened very fast !  One moment I was in New Plymouth, the next thing I’m in Wellington! 

From what I can remember, Bari got a phone call from someone asking us to join the band circuit in Wellington but we had to be there that night to play in the Lower Hutt Town Hall.  Apparently Tommy Adderley, who we had worked with on the talent show, had recommended us.  Tommy also recommended a name change, so we were to hit Wellington as BARI and the BREAKAWAYS.  I had to untangle myself from this delightful young girl in Hawera and wait for Bari to pick me up on the way through.  HANG ON I thought, there is only Bari, Midge and myself, what about a bass player?  Tim, a married man was not prepared to come with us.  What a way to start in Wellington with a ring in bass player.  I had always hoped that, when the band was first put together, Dave Orams would be the bass player but he did not want to leave the comfort zone of his Sat. night gig.  I think over time, however, he may have regretted that decision.  

So our first gig in the misnamed “Windy City” was not as polished as it could have been.  We must have made enough of an impression to be asked to be on the Wellington circuit, which was nothing like what it was about to become.  Two problems came to mind very quickly, where to live and what about a bass player.  Dave finally decided to take the plunge, chucked in his storemans job in New Plymouth, and finally joined us. 

The living solution though was something else.  A Boarding House in Willis St.  What a dump! Still we had to have somewhere, right?  The other SMALL problem was, lack of finance.  Much to our horror we had to get jobs to survive.  We had done nothing but play music for the last year and this was not meant to be part of my plan!  So, here we were, working days and playing weekends.  However there was light down the tunnel. 

As I said, the British boom had arrived, maybe a little slower in Wellington but it was about to change and we happened to be the band in the right place at the right time.  There was this bloke, Johnny Coolman, who had a small night club of sorts just down the road from the boarding house, I think it was the” Sorrento”.  I think Johnny was enough awake to realize that “Guitar Bands” [i.e.Shadows type bands”] were on the way out and “Groups”were in.  He began booking us on a regular basis. 

From this shaky start we began to build a small but loyal fan bass. Other small clubs also started to take notice of these new “upstarts” and so began the bookings.  At the time Booking agents and management people were pretty thin on the ground until one evening Bari was called to a meeting of “group” leaders at the Sorrento.  The outcome was that a new agency was to be formed under the wing of one Thomas McDonald.  There were a lot of new young groups appearing on the scene and Thomas was signing them up as fast as he could.  He was also to be our personal manager, which we thought was pretty cool at the time.  However, because of the work he was able to get us we could finally chuck our jobs and be professionals [at last].  It also meant we could move into some better digs in Brooklyn.  Things were starting to happen and the Wellington music scene was about to take off. 

The first thing of course, was our image.  No more sparkly blue shirts, we had to look “Mersey”.  In came Yellow shirts with lace trim down the front, black trousers, and of course the compulsory Beatle Boots.  Even our every day wear had to be “Mod”.  One of the perks of becoming “famous”, if you like, was that people and businesses wanted to give you stuff, we would get given clothes or had them hugely discounted by the new Mod clothing shops, the deal being we would tell people where we got them.  We were all the time building a reputation as THE hot band in Wellington [much to the annoyance of some of the local muso’s].  I think part of their problem was, we were pinching all the women ! [well some, anyway]. 

This did create a problem for me one night, although not with a fellow muso.  We had finished a gig at the Mexicali, one of our regular gigs, and had gone on to a hall somewhere near the central fire station, I think, to check out another group.  We were sort of milling round the hall, listening to the music, when on the dance floor I spied this stunning blonde, long hair short skirt, LONG legs, and she was staring at me!  Well, what is a bloke supposed to do?  We eventually started talking and I asked if she wanted to come back to our flat.  She said yes and at the end of the night we wandered off down Courtney Place.  Half way down I am confronted by this bloke who did not look too happy.  Unbeknown to me at the time, the blonde was supposedly his girlfriend!  He wanted to sort me out there and then.  I remember mumbling something about “she making her own decision about who she went home with “ but I don’t think he was amused.  I was by this time feeling a bit uncomfortable, a feeling this bloke wanted to do me some damage.  Luckily for me, a couple of the bouncers from the Mexicali happened to walk by and asked if I was O.K.?  ”Not really “, I said.  They stopped, and this guy disappeared.  The blonde and I were to spend many eventful nights together.  [Two or three years later, I ran into this same bloke, we shook hands, and he shouted me a beer.  We both agreed she had been a pretty stunning lady.  No hard feelings]. 

Meanwhile, the music scene was getting bigger every day, although we were the only full time band in Wellington.  Because of this, we were able to travel anywhere at any time.  It was great fun.  One moment we are here, the next thing I know, we are on a plane to Blenhiem for a one night stand [in more ways than one], staying in hotels and generally having the time of our lives.  This is what I had wanted all along, and it was only just beginning. 

Television was still a bit new in N.Z. but TVNZ were bright enough to realise there was a huge youth market out there.  They had this weekly half hour show called “Let’s Go” that went Nation wide, and we were asked to appear on it.  This was huge, as at this stage we didn’t even have a recording contract [that was about to change].  We turned up at the TV studio in the morning and set about recording two tracks that we were to mime to.  If my memory serves me correctly, they were the Kinks ‘I Cant Explain’ and ‘Long Tall Shorty’.  Ironically, they would also turn out to be our first record. 

By this time I had become not just the drummer, but the lead singer as well.  When it came time to go ‘live to air’, I had to start out on my drum kit then while the camera was on someone else, get up grab a pair of maracas and act like a lead singer.  Very strange, but that’s television. 

We never did see ourselves on the box, no video recorders in those days and the even bigger crime was that TVNZ did not save any of it.  A huge part of NZ music history, particularly the 60’s, was lost for ever [so now you know why you only ever see ‘She’s a Mod’ as representing the era].  CRIMINAL. 

About this time, Johnny Cooper decided he would do another of his talent shows, this time up Levin way.  So we hit the road again.  It was a little different for us this time though as, because of our TV appearance, we were in the limelight.  Much hysteria surrounded us, in the provinces anyway. 

We ran into the usual talent all trying their luck and very occasionally, someone with some real talent.  So it was in one of the heats in Foxton we ran into this group ‘Winston Cartnel and the Marauders’ [I’m pretty sure that was the name].  Mate, these guys were not half bad.  Very R&B with this young guy playing some very raw lead guitar.  Dave Hurley was his name and we would run into him again later.  The whole show carried on as usual with sell out crowds every week and working with the stars of the day, including our old friend Tommy Adderley again. 

There was the usual run of invitations to various party’s and so on but they could get a bit embarrassing sometimes when someone would bring out a guitar and try to impress us with their perceived talent.  You could only smile and try to look impressed as they made complete dick’s of themselves. 

So it all came to an end again with Johnny making shit loads of money [although he would deny this], and we would be back on the Wellington and Hutt Valley Youth club circuit. 

We now resided in Hataitai in a very comfortable house with plenty of space.  It was here one morning that Thomas arrived with some people from the HMV recording studios.  “We would like to sign you up for a three year recording contract”, they said.  Out came all the official papers and we signed.  At last, We Were Recording Stars.  Within days, we were in the studio.  This was something new for all of us actually making a record.  It was all very exciting.  First we put down the music then I had to go into a booth and record the vocals.  This was new to me, listening to the backing through headphones and singing my head off.  It took some getting used to but we all got there. 

The recording process was one of my favourite things.  I loved recording.  The things you could do to fix mistakes you made, how you could harmonize with yourself, it was all fun.  You could experiment with new ideas to see if they would work or not, sometimes they did sometimes they didn’t, it didn’t matter.  You just started again. 

It’s quite exciting the first time you hear yourself on radio.  It’s also very weird because for a fleeting moment, and don’t ask me why, you’re embarrassed.  I think its just the fact of hearing your own voice on the wireless.  Then comes the mayhem.  Interviews on radio, live appearances in record stores all over the place, even playing live in some of the bigger stores during the lunch hours.  And then the wait to see if you have made the charts.  All of this had happened within the space of a few months and it wasn’t about to slow down. 

Things were happening world wide, the 60’s revolution one might say, music, fashion, and groups from England were taking the world by storm.  The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Manfred Mann, The Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Tremeloes, Dusty Springfield, P.J.Proby, The Honeycombs.  We saw them all and we were influenced, especially the Rolling Stones.  So much so that we, like them, stopped wearing uniforms on stage.  This would have, to us, quite a funny reaction in a few weeks time. 

It was coming up to Xmas 1964 and we were off on a great adventure.  We had been booked for a 2 week stint in Christchurch at a club called the Safari Lounge.

In those days you could either fly, which was very expensive, or travel on the Wellington to Lyttleton ferry.  Like I said it was all exciting because none of us had done this before, an over night trip by boat.  I don’t remember sleeping much, I just wanted to take it all in.  We were met by the bloke who ran the place [the Safari], and after disembarking, we were taken into Christchurch and to the club.  It was quite a large room, an upstairs location, with a decent size stage, with 2 band rooms, one each side of it.  After some breakfast, which they did from the coffee bar [clubs had them back then], we made enquiries about where we would be staying.  The answer was that we were going to stay on the premises.  Shit!  What about beds and so on? All organised, and out came some bunk beds and blankets.  Hell, we were going camping in the Safari.  It wouldn’t be too bad I supposed, so we then started to set up our gear on stage for our first night.  Um, excuse me but, where is your P.A. we asked?  In Wellington all the clubs had a house P.A., but not here.  By this time it was Saturday afternoon and we had to find something soon.  We did eventually find something, of sorts, in a second hand shop that the club hired for a couple of weeks.  It wasn’t that flash, but it did the job [as long as we ran it full bore]. 

The deal was that we played Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, [or was it Thurs, Fri, Sat].  4 hours a night, the rest of the time we had to ourselves to explore this new, to us, city.  Well, came our first night in the unknown.  Would we be accepted down here?  It was about 10 to 8 and the manager was looking a little worried.  We couldn’t see why he should be, the place was starting to fill up nicely, and some of these mainland women didn’t look to bad at all.  “Hey guys,” said the boss, “Um you’re due on in a few minutes.  Aren’t you getting changed?”.  “No,” we said, “This is how we dress”.  I think the guy nearly had heart failure, I wondered then how he would take our music.  He didn’t have to worry, the locals loved us.  The crowds got bigger every night.  In fact, it was jammed. 

Anyway, we came to the end of our fist night, and the crowd started to leave.  We were sitting around having coffees, and then the boss said he was off home and he would see us in the morning.  It was then we noticed a few women still in the place, sitting in the shadows of this still dimly lit club.  Bari disappeared into one of the band rooms.  He reappeared about 5 minutes later, clad only in his undies and declared, quite loudly,  “I’m off to bed.Is anyone coming ?”  A moment or so later there was movement in the half light, and this girl followed him into his room.  We had an interesting couple of weeks. 

We also met a group down there that we were to strike up a friendship with, the Chants R&B.  We were a kindred spirit, if you like, Blues enthusiasts.  We would meet them again on our next trip. 

Our two weeks were soon up and on our last night, the resident band came in, Peter Nelson & the Castaways.  They got on stage and did the last set.  They were one Hot band.  We would see a lot more of them as well when they moved up to Wellington. 

Traditionally, when groups moved to the hot city, Auckland was where you went, but I firmly believe in the early 60’s, Wellington was IT.  Now I can hear all the JAFAS choking on their Latte’s about now but I’m sorry it’s true.  It may have swung back later on but for a while the Windy city was Top Dog .There were more bands and more venues.  The place had a heart.  [It still does I might add].  Auckland groups were coming to Wellington to crack it.  Not just from there but from Palmerston North, Nelson, Christchurch, as well as musos looking to break in. 

Because it was so vibrant, Thomas had this bright idea to run this huge Jamboree in the Lower Hutt Town Hall which connected to another huge hall along side [the name of which eludes me for the moment].  It was to be the biggest thing ever.  And it was.  It ran all day and night with groups from everywhere, plus solo acts, radio D.J.’s, you name it, they were there.  As well as local punters, there were bus loads from Palmy North, Wanganui, even from Taranaki.  Amongst the mayhem there was this band from Palmy North called the Saints, with this guitar player we had seen before, one Dave Hurley.  The drummer, Maurice Greer, and his brother ran a night club in Palmy, and they were the resident group.  We were to play in their club quite regularly and got to know the Saints very well [in case you are wondering, it was quite common back then to have two bands performing on the same night].   

Anyway, back at the Jamboree, the place was jumping.  If you didn’t like the group in one hall, you moved next door.  There must have been over the day at least 4,000 people through the doors.  Back stage there was a definite pecking order when it came to changing rooms.  The Headliners in one the rest to fend for themselves.  Anywhere in the car park will do.  It was also a bit of a brewery back stage, much to Thomas’s dismay, but hey, we were here to party, and we did. 

Our own set was pretty wild.  We had seen the WHO on TV with the wild antics of smashing gear on stage during their act.  How could we pull something like this off? Our last song in our set was to be the Who’s My Generation.  Unbeknown to anyone, we had on stage an old speaker cabinet with no speakers in it, sitting along side Midge’s amp.  So, we get through our set and get to the last song.  We tear into it like men possessed then get to the lead break.  We already had the crowds attention [and quite a few musos] when Midge started to attack this empty cabinet with his guitar.  You could see the looks of disbelief in the crowd and they went nuts.  Bari got so carried away with the moment that he was making threatening movements towards my bass drum head.  The crowd might have enjoyed it but not me.  He didn’t do it anyway but we had done enough to keep the punters talking for quite some time.  A pretty wild moment.  I went and got drunk [something to do with the adrenaline rush]. 

It was about this time that we went back into the recording studio.  We were to record our biggest HIT, ‘Sea Cruise‘, backed on the flip side with ‘Tough Enough’.  This record was to establish us N.Z. wide along with more T.V. appearances.  From all accounts, it was climbing charts everywhere, but being on the road so much, we were not always aware of what was happening. 

Once again, Johnny Cooper was to run one of his Talent Quests, this time through the Wairarapa, and we were to be his band again.  We had got used to these shows by now, and the format Johnny used, except now, we were stars if you like, so things were a little different for us.  We were now able to promote a couple of records and get used to screaming fans and being mobbed back stage.  It was all huge fun.

A couple of things that spring to mind about this tour;  I believe we were the first group in N.Z. to have a #1 and #2 record on the Hit Parade, sure it was a regional one but, can any one else make the claim? [#1 Sea Cruise #2 I Can’t Explain].  And we knocked the Beatles out of top spot in the process. 

You would think, also, that we were living pretty well on these tours.  In some cases we were but with Johnny?  I think it was after the first show in Carterton that we realised our accommodation situation was a bit dodgy.  To be blunt, Johnny hadn’t organised anything.  No problem to him though.  Toward the end of the show, he just asked the audience if anyone would like to take us home for the night.  What?  As it turned out, Dave and I were approached by a couple of young ladies, who had a flat in town, and you can work out the rest for yourself.  Our stopover in Carterton each week became quite enjoyable.  Need I say more? 

It was probably about this time, or not long after, that I began to sense a change could be in the air for our group.  The music we wanted to play, or at least Dave and I, was more Blues, more grunt, especially lead guitar wise.   

To side track a little, we were to tour back up to Taranaki for the first time since going to Wellington, a bit of a homecoming one might say.  We were certainly a different group from the one that had left 18 months before, longer hair, mod clothes, a much tougher sound.  We had heard that English wild men, “The Pretty Things” were to be appearing in Wanganui, so we wanted to see them.  We had a spare night on the way up so thought we would take the opportunity to check them out.  The funniest bit though was, we asked one of the locals for directions, and were told “they are all waiting for you”.  Mistaken identity.  Once seated in the theatre, we must have been recognised as people were turning around and looking at us and eventually, coming up and asking for autograph’s which we obliged with.  We then sat back and watched one of the best, and most under rated, group’s of the 60’s.They were to have a big effect on me. 

The return to Taranaki was a great success, with big crowds everywhere, but I could sense something in the air.  I think Bari either felt he had had enough or knew in his own heart that the direction we were taking was not up his street.  He waited till we got back to Wellington and told us he wanted out.  We had a lot of bookings to fill and needed a replacement fast.  Re enter Dave Hurley.  Although he was in a group in Palmerston North still, he jumped at the chance to join us.  His style of guitar was what we wanted and had an immediate impact on the group.  It was to be “down & dirty” time.  All of a sudden we were just, “THE BREAKAWAYS”. 

Then it was back to the old routine of night clubs, coffee bar’s and youth clubs around Wellington and the Hutt Valley, only this time with a tougher sound, a more intense blues style, particularly as Midge had started playing harmonica, I think influenced by Paul Jones of Manfred Mann, Phil May of the Pretty Things, and local hero, Tommy Adderley, who if I remember rightly, showed Midge the fundamentals.  It was all go, go, go. 

About now, H.M.V. decided it was time to do an L.P.  What a buzz.  Selecting material for recording was always interesting as in the early days, big record companies were not keen on you doing your own material [in N.Z. anyway].  However, what they did do was arrive up at our flat with a box full of records, singles and L.P.’s and let us sort out songs we might like to do, let us record them and not release the imported version.  So we were back in the studio, but with a new guitar player.  A baptism of fire for this young Dave Hurley, but everything went fine and, not long after, there it was, in the record stores, our first L.P. titled “Let’s Take a Sea Cruise with the Breakaways”.  It’s a great feeling having that record in your hands and I still own my copy.  To this day, I don’t know how many we sold! 

By this time the N.Z. music scene was in full flight, with hundreds of groups all over the place, but only a handful doing it full time.  Not just groups but solo acts were making their mark.  One in particular was beginning a career by touring with us, a Mr. Lee Grant.  To me this was a very clever move by his manager, Dianne Cadwallader, as it gave him a guaranteed audience as we were pulling big crowds.  Very cunning.  I don’t say for a moment we were the only group he worked with but we were very regular in his early days. 

And so it came that we were to do our first trip to Dunedin.  There were to be three of us, the Breakaways, Mr. Lee Grant and female singer supreme, Gwynn Owen.  It was all to do with a Girl Guide thing that was happening down there.  So came about the most horrendous journey to a gig we ever under took.  It went like this.  On Friday night we did a gig in Wellington and the next day, after not a lot of sleep, we had to take the ferry to Picton and drive to Nelson for a gig on Saturday night.  So far, so good.  Adrenaline keeps you going on stage, it’s when you stop you feel it.  We had a great night in Nelson, and then had to pack all our gear, including clothes for our week long stay into our trusty old V.W. van and head south.  It’s 1’o’clock or more in the morning and it’s winter.  We had no idea!  Thank god it wasn’t raining.  We decided to take shifts at driving, about a couple of hours at a time.  We couldn’t travel too fast as it was a bit icy in places and if you have ever driven an older V.W. you will know about their lights.  Not good.  Finding somewhere to get petrol was a mission as well and we had to wake up a couple of people in the middle of the night.  We were none too popular I can tell you.  We did stop in Christchurch very briefly, for something to eat and to refuel.  We were starting to feel a bit tired by this time but nothing like what was to come.  It all got a bit vague.  We found we could only stay behind the wheel for about 30 minutes at a time and we still had a long way to go to Dunedin. 

To this day I don’t know how we made it without killing ourselves, or someone else.

But we did get there.  I don’t know what time of the day it was, all I knew was there was supposed to be a motel room with my name on it.  “Oh, we weren’t expecting you ‘till tomorrow”.  I cant remember where it was or how we got there but we found ourselves in the grottiest camping park cabin you have ever seen - 4 bunks and that was it, but we were so tired at the time, we didn’t notice till the next day.  We couldn’t get out of that dive fast enough and finally get to our motel.  It was Monday morning and we had to do our first appearance at lunch time!

The idea for the week was that we were to play in this big department store every lunch time, two shows each day, and a big final show on the Saturday in the Dunedin Town Hall.  So here we are in the dining room of this store, remember when all big department stores had such rooms where the Blue Rinse set used to hang out for lunch and be treated to the occasional fashion show, compered by these women with the most terrible “plum in the mouth” accent you have ever heard.  We were going to cut loose in this place.  Here we were, on stage, ready to rock and roll, and this announcer walks on stage and welcomes all and sundry and finishes off in her best plummy voice, “Take it away,Breakaways”  It was all we could do to stop ourselves falling about laughing.  I guess it was one of those, you had to be there, moments.

Needless to say, the store decided we were not really the sort of act suitable for the dining room, so the next day we were shifted to another part of the store where we could do our own thing, the teenagers could cut loose, and for the rest of the week, we had a great time.

By the time it came to Saturday night, we, along with Mr Lee Grant and Gwynn Owen, had worked out a pretty slick act, and so by the time it came to “show time”, we were well ready.  The Dunedin Town Hall has great acoustics, [along with the Dannevirke Town Hall, which has possibly the best in N.Z ] and a P.A. system like we had never seen before.  There was this large sort of box hanging above the stage and nothing else visible.  I queried the old bloke who ran the sound booth as to if we were going to get enough volume out of this thing.  He just smiled.  I haven’t worked out yet what the system was but, oh yes, it worked just great.  So we walked on stage at 8 o’clock and the place, which was full of Girl Guides with raging hormones, ERUPTED!  It was possibly one of the best shows we ever did, at least that’s how I remember it.

I enjoyed our stay down there.  We met some great people and a few hard cases as well.  With a lot of spare time on our hands we had plenty of opportunity to look around and to be taken around.  On one occasion we were taken up to Larnach Castle and met the then owner.  We got to talking and, while in the ball room, we all wondered out loud about playing a gig there some time in the future.  Nothing ever eventuated which was a shame really, as I think it could have been quite something.  Oh, something else I remember.  Did you know that Midge has a tattoo? He has you know, a tiny dot on one of his fingers.  I think we were having one of those wet days when you couldn’t do much and this bloke we had met invited us up to his parlour for a few beer’s.  One thing led to another and Midge decided to have a micro tattoo.  I defy anyone to find it.  I believe there was also some incident with a Polaroid camera and a younger lady.  None of us were involved I hasten to add.

So it was goodbye Dunedin and back on the road.  The trip home was not to be as hectic as the one down, as we had some one nighters in Timaru and Christchurch where we were to run into our old mates the Chants R&B again.  We went to the club they were playing in, an old brick dungeon if you like, but it had atmosphere if nothing else.  It didn’t matter really as they were pulling in the punters anyway.  During a break, they asked us to do a set.  Personally, I was a bit worried to start with as they had a fiercely loyal following and we were in their territory.  I needn’t have worried.  The crowd was great and they were even requesting tunes from our play list.  The last set even turned into a jam session with both bands honkin it out, much to the delight of the crowd.

We had been back in Wellington for a while when H.M.V. wanted us to do another single.  This time we were going to put down a track called ‘Old Man Mose’ b/w ‘I Got That Feelin’.  It seemed to get easier each time we went in to the studio and I still loved it.  ‘Old Man Mose’ got some good critical acclaim and was once again to get us in the charts.  And this time, we recorded one of our own songs [the B side but who cares]

During the 60’s, American war ships were still welcome in N.Z. and were a great pleasure to work for.  The seamen on these ships used to have favourite haunts they liked to hang out at, and quite often, they were the places we used to play.  We got to meet a lot of these Americans and on occasions, we were invited back to their ships.  Socialising seemed to be done in the Barber Shop on board where they used to have bottles of Canadian V O bourbon hidden all over the place.  As you can imagine, we had some great times.  On one of these visits, Midge happened to spot a Fender amplifier one of the guys had on board.  After a bit of discussion, the guy agreed to sell it to Midge [equipment from overseas was still hard to get in NZ at this stage].  All very nice but for two small problems - (1) how to get it off the Ship, customs and all that crap, (2) it was only a 180 volt amp where we ran 230 volts in NZ.  I still don’t know how the first problem was solved, but the amp did get off the ship, and problem (2) was solved with a special transformer.  That little baby served Midge well for a long time.

Life on the road had its lighter moments, you had to make them happen, like the time we were driving back from somewhere up north and came across a hitch hiker.  It was night time and I think a little damp.  We decided to pick this poor soul up and see where he was headed.  We of course were headed back to Wellington, and this bloke was going too.  We never mentioned our destination and away we went.  Now, somewhere we came upon this roundabout out in the sticks, and decided to have some fun.  We circled this thing I don’t know how many times and then stopped, telling the poor sod we were off somewhere else and we had to drop him here.  We then kindly directed him, totally disorientated, back in the direction we had just come from!  I wonder how far he got before he was redirected by someone.

If we were a little insane at times, we were not even close to kindred spirits, the Underdogs.  This band of Auckland musos used to go out of their way to create havoc but away from the spotlights were a great bunch.  We used to spend many hours talking music into the small hours of the morning, swapping ideas and just generally talking shop.  They were brilliant musicians and highly under rated.  They deserved a better deal than they sometimes got, particularly from Television where, if you didn’t do it Kevin Moore’s way, you didn’t get on.

Another band we were impressed with early on were the NZ Pleazers, a tight R&B outfit also from Auckland but who later “sold out” to TV becoming resident band on one of the shows, playing, god forbid, Herman’s Hermits music and the like!  I don’t know if I felt sorry for them or not

I think it was a Friday when we got the news.  Midge was to be called up to do 3 months military service!  What the hell were we going to do?  I mean, they can’t do that!  It would put the rest of us out of work!  No matter what we tried, the army were not listening.  So, it was short back n sides and off went Midge.  Now we were 3.  We were determined we were not going to break up so we were to spend 3 months in Nelson at a small club called the TOP 20.  Nelson is not a bad place to be in the summer, nice beaches, friendly natives, but a little conservative back then.  I don’t think there was a week went by when some old plonker would write to the local newspaper complaining about “the terrible loud music” coming from the club.  As a 3 piece group, we became very tight, we had to.  It helped I suppose that the room wasn’t too big.  But it was upstairs and maybe the sound carried.  Who knows, who cared?  We didn’t and the boss wasn’t complaining so we carried on.

We had never stayed in one place for so long before and so we had to get a house to stay in.  It was a bit out of town though, more than walking distance and no transport.  What to do?  Well somehow Dave Orams came up with this 1929 Essex car.  I can’t recall the circumstances of how he got it but the old thing was to serve us well, transport and occasional beach buggy.  We had the occasional gig in Motueka and we would load all our gear into and onto this car and off we would go.  It must have looked a sight, three long haired guys surrounded by drums and guitars on the inside and amps hanging off the luggage rack outside.  What a picture! The poor old car also had a bit of an exhaust problem, a very noisy one.  There was not a week go by when we were not pulled over by the local police asking us to please do something about it.  We never did and the old girl served us well.  I wonder where it is now?  The three months passed pretty uneventfully, except for the time some local stole my drum pedal.  We got it back and after a court case, the bloke got 3 months in prison!

Midge was finally out of the army and we were back to four again.  It was more of the same old same old, playing the same circuit, seeing the same places, and for me the shine was wearing off.  We had been at it solidly for four years and I was starting to feel jaded.  I let the guys know how I felt and suggested they look for a replacement for me.  We were in the middle of recording our second album at the time and I wanted to finish that first.  The new drummer was to be another Taranaki guy, Doug Thomas, who actually played on a couple of tracks.  Within a few weeks, it was all over for me and I walked away with no regrets and with the feeling of having fulfilled my dreams, such as they had been.

I had travelled the country for free, I had made records and been on T.V. I had played with some of the best N.Z. artists of the time and made a lot of friends.  I had met a lot of tight musicians and a lot of loose women, I had done something that a lot of people only dream about.  IT WAS WORTH EVERY MOMENT.

Am I now a “Has Been”?  If I am, it’s better than being a “Never Was”.

<Home>  <Bands>  <Musicians>  <Venues & Places>  <Reunions>  <Contacts List>  <Anthems>  <Search>