KELVIN DIEDRICHS (R.I.P.)

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First published in August 2009

Kelvin Diedrichs was born in 1949 and passed away in August 2007 after battling cancer for nearly a decade.

Stu Johnstone: I first met Kelvin when I came home to find him playing guitar in our lounge with my younger brother Greg, and two of their friends. He was a year younger than me (probably about 11 or 12), in the same class as Greg in Form One at Rongotai College. I was then in Form Two.

It was obvious to me that Kelvin (like Greg) was a reasonably accomplished guitarist, the first impression being that he was a very relaxed and fast strummer of his guitar and could change chords pretty seamlessly. I don’t recall him reading music but he had a good ear and could sing in tune.

During the winter of that year, Kelvin and I happened to be selected for the same rugby team, as we were about the same weight, even though he was a year younger. I played hooker and he was a stroppy open-side flanker. I also knew him as one of the best gymnasts at College and was impressed how fast he and his best mate Brook Barwick, could ride their respective “Raleigh three speed” and “no-brand, no-gears, basket on the front” push-bikes.

I joined Greg and Kelvins’ band, the Pickadors, and together we set about developing a repertoire, getting gigs and establishing the band on the local church youth club circuit.

Kelvin’s mother was a piano teacher and his father was also an accomplished part-time professional pianist, and (like my parents) they gave us plenty of encouragement and freedom to develop our musical interests. We spent a lot of time checking out melodies and chords on the white Diedrichs baby grand piano, and on one occasion I caused chaos by hitting a loud dis-chord on it in the dead of night in the course of a sleep-walk during a sleepover. I remember waking up sitting at the piano and being immediately surrounded by four pyjama-clad Diedrichs looking just as startled as I must have looked.

We took over the Diedrichs garage in Evans Bay Road and made it our principal rehearsal room, where we spent countless hours listening to pop music programmes on the radio, and to 45s and LPs of the Shadows, Beatles and other bands to transcribe their chords and work out their harmonies. This was a huge learning experience for us, which proved to be extremely useful throughout our subsequent years as musicians. In those days we didn’t have tape recorders, MP3 players, computers or anything that remotely matched the musical aids of today, and we became extremely adept at hearing and transcribing rhythm patterns, melodies, lyrics, chords and licks, then developing imitations of the songs that were then ruling the air waves.

In his mid and late teens, Kelvin developed a strong liking of the opposite sex and we were at times green with envy at his ability to win over some of the band’s more experienced female admirers, including one or two who were a few years older than we were.

In 1964 Kelvin and I teamed up with Frits Stigter from the Berets and Steve McDonald from the Strangers, who we recognised as strong lead singers in their respective groups. We stepped back into the roles of backing vocalists / harmonisers, and moved our focus more to the guitar and bass parts.

In 1968, with the Dizzy Limits well established on the Wellington music scene, we took over from the long-standing resident band Tony and the Initials at the Caltex Lounge in Taranaki Street.  For this gig we played several nights per week and backed vocalist Coleen Bowden, who Kelvin started dating and in time, married. 

When we organised a 1970 voyage to the United Kingdom playing on the Shaw Saville liner, Northern Star, Kelvin decided against making the trip and left the band, to be replaced by John Donoghue.

From then on our lives took very different directions and after 1970 we were in contact with each other on only about four occasions that I can recall; once in the early 1990s when we bumped into each other in a restaurant in Auckland, once for a 1996 Lower Hutt reunion of New Zealand bands, once when we partied ahead of his move to Australia in about 2000, and once when we went out for dinner in Queensland.

Frits Stigter: During the 1970s-80s Kelvin continued to play in various bands including Random Thoughts, Orange and Harbour City Showband.

Orange had a residency at the Broderick Inn, one of the more notable night clubs.

Following the Dizzy Limit reunion in 1996 Kelvin and I teamed up with Colleen and Noel Neemia in a covers band doing pubs, clubs and private functions.   For me it was rather quirky being in a band with Kelvin’s ex wife and her new husband!  This line up evolved into the band Full Circle, with Bob Smith on keyboards and Con Curtin on drums, following Noel’s decision to go solo.

As a result of Kelvin’s  cancer diagnosis, he moved to Australia, attracted by the warmer climate and better medical care. Tim Occleshaw replaced Kelvin and the band was renamed Sugar Daddies.


John
Donoghue:
I knew Kelvin of course from the Pickador and Stranger days and saw him often on and off over the years.

The last time was in Wellington in 2004 before he moved to Oz. Steve and I went around to his place for Dinner. The Dinner turned into a party and I wound up staying over and sleeping on the couch. We had a leisurely breakfast together and then I returned to Northland.

Of course I had no idea that would be the last time I would ever see him. I'm really grateful that good fortune allowed us that one last time together.

He was a fine Musician and a true Gentleman. 

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