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First published in June 2007, last updated June 2009

Mike can be contacted at mike.shackleton@bigpond.com

Photos & Memorabilia - Swampdwellers, Premiers, Wellington 60's and 70's Reunions


Where did it Start?

With a group of friends from the Miramar Baptist Church Bible Class which decided it was going to hold a concert,  we decided to form a ‘Skiffle Group’ as an act.

Neil Harrap, Gary Foothead, Graeme Beadle, Brian King, Ken Cooper, Doug Harrap and myself were the members of the Group which we named the ‘Swampdwellers’ as Miramar used to be a swamp in early times. The first number we learnt was ‘Freight Train’.    

What happened Next?

Somebody from the Kilbirnie RSA heard us play at the concert and hired us to play at one of their Social Nights. That was the beginning of the Group and we played as a skiffle group for a while performing at concerts with the Howard Morrison Quartet and Johnny Devlin. After touring with Johnny Deep and the Metro Five we decided that Rock and Roll was our future and we moved into Electric Guitars and Amps etc.

Ray Earle also became the drummer at some stage.

We become The Premiers

It was decided that Neil and myself with Peter Hindmarsh and Andy Shackleton that we would form a new Group under Ken’s management and this was the basis of The Premiers. Along with Teddy Bennett (Clap you Hands and Wimoweh) and appearances at the Hi Fi Club (Des Britten) we transformed into a Cliff Richard and the Shadows type group (complete with Steps) and a few years later into a Beatles type group with a regular weekly job at Teenarama. Jim McNaught was another singer we backed regularly at shows and on recordings.   

In 1963 and opportunity came up for us to turn fully professional and become the resident group at the Top20 nightspot in Auckland (replacing Ray Columbus and The Invaders) . Neil decided he would stay in Wellington which meant we had to find a new lead guitarist when we got to Auckland and after a few auditions including Gray Bartlett we decided on Jimmy Elyett. During our time in Auckland we toured with Gene Pitney, Peter Posa,  Dinah Lee and appeared on the Rolling Stones Auckland show.

We also made a recording of The Top Twenty Theme  Peter’s  own composition.

When Peter’s mother died he returned to Wellington and The Premiers never played together again.

10 Years Later - Evergreen

I had a knock on my door one night and Don McGrory introduced himself to me (we both lived in Newlands at the time) and asked if I would be interested in forming a duo where he would tell jokes and we would sing a few songs as an act. I agreed to give it a try  and we instantly hit it off  and performed our act at night clubs and other venues around Wellington.

This lasted until one night where the audience really appreciated the type of songs we were singing and wanted us to carry on for the rest of the night. We then realised that there was a market for a group which could perform sing-along type numbers which they could also dance to. This meant finding a bass player and drummer and eventually ‘Evergreen’ were born consisting of Don (vocals), myself (rhythm guitar and vocals), John Ellis (bass guitar and vocals) and Richard Kerekere (drums).    

My association with this group lasted until 1984 when I moved to Napier. Since then I have not played in any groups, but occasionally Andy and I would get together and have a bit of a sing-along. 

Looking Back

One of the great things about the above groups is that I still have contact with just about everyone from time to time and it seems like yesterday when we start reminiscing.

I never regret giving it a go as a professional musician, although there was never the money to be made in comparison to today. The memories and friendships that have been made are reward enough.

Some Names from the past

Singers  - Rochelle Vinsen
              Alison Durban
Tommy Adderley
Ray Wolfe
              Lyn Barnett

Aquaintances – Tom McDonald – Leader of the Skyrockets  
John Koolman - Hangeron
                      Neville Chamberlain - DJ
                      John Philpott – Drummed with the Premiers
                      Laurie Lewis – Played Sax with the Premiers
                      Barry Millage – Played Piano with the Premiers
                      Ian Dawson – Manager of the Librettos (partner of Ken Cooper)
                      Stan Blenkin – Owner of the Top20
                      Jack Shanks -   Owner of the Top20

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