PAT HARRISON

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First published in March 2009

Pat can be contacted at patrick.rick.harrison@gmail.com

Photos & Memorabilia - Cabaret Quartet, Impact, Dorados, Colorados, Al Davis Group


1960 Auckland in The Colorado's

Well what do you say?  I don't look like him any more; I'm old now but still full of music and very active.  A few years ago I would not have believed that a bunch of geriatric musicians could play to packed houses at every venue they play at.  With rock n roll dance clubs teaching the good old dance 50s 60s rock n roll is very much alive here in Australia on the Gold Coast, and good Kiwi entertainers are more than welcome, I started playing rock n roll again when a friend of mine told me of a rock n roll club that had just started up and was trying to find bands that could play 50s 60s rock n roll, I thought this should keep me in work for about a year or so.  12 years later and still going strong.  I've been in several bands and even had two of my own, THE SILHOUETTES, SOUTHERN COMFORT, THE ROCKIN REBELS (my own band), DANCE ON, and THE ZODIACS (my own band), but due to health problems with myself and my partner I nearly gave it all away, until a good friend of mine Wally Watkins asked me to join his band WALLY AND THE GATORS of which I am now a full time member.  They have a Rock n Roll festival every year that keeps it all alive, it's called Winter Sun and attracts around 250,000 rockers from all over the world to Coolangatta Tweed heads, every year in the first weeks of June, Bands on the street, on the back of trucks, and in all the local clubs and pubs.  All dressed up and looking the part, except most of the musicians don't have hair any more.  They have a parade with rock n roll floats and hundreds of rockers on foot that parade around the streets for an hour or so and all those nostalgic cars from the 50s 60s era, they come out of the moth balls are polished up and lined up for every one to see.  Mouth drooling stuff if you like big old cars.  The festival runs from 1st June for seven days and finishes on a long weekend with the best of winter sun, bands playing in an open park to thousands of rockers.


2009 in Oz with Wally + The Gators

But that's another story I'm here to share with you my experiences in New Zealand entertainment as I was growing up with some of N.Z.s best artists some who are no longer with us.  I could write a book about my musical life in New Zealand and this might just be it, as I have been privileged to meet and work with some of the best musicians in the world.  It all started out when my elder brother John (YUK!) Harrison came home with a guitar! He was paying for lessons and having trouble playing it, I was watching him through the crack in the door and when he wasn't home I'd sneak into his room pick up the guitar and play it.  He could never figure out how I could play and he was having trouble.  History tells us why; because he had the wrong guitar and of course became quite famous and sort after for his bass playing skill.  I used to go to all the local dances but not to dance, I'd go to watch the bands play and pick up all the chords they played then at home I'd play them.  I saw some real cool bands in those days; well at least I thought they were.  They had this guy around at the time that used to throw himself all over the stage, a bit like Elvis I thought he looked like a spastic, but the ladies all seemed to love it and screamed at every move he made.  His name was Red Hewitt and the band was called the Buccaneers.  I got to know him and work with him later on.  They also had a local dance in the Mt Albert Memorial hall with a great rock n roll band called The Bob Paris Combo.  Again I got to know Bob later and also work with him I believe he has also passed on.

I also used to go every Sunday night to the Mt Roskill youth club dance.  The band was Freddie Keil and the Cavaliers and it helped that my brother John (Yuk) was the bass player in the band.  Freddie (no longer with us) would invite me up to sing a couple of songs each night and that started my singing career.  One night they had a guest band on, and this real cool looking dude playing a home made guitar which he had made out of packing cases and odds and sods it looked weird but boy could he play the thing.  The band was called The Tornadoes the lead guitarists name was Errol Timbers and I was spell bound at his skills on guitar.

One day brother John called me into his room and said do you think you can play 4 hrs of music! I said yea I think so.  But I don't have any gear.  Not a problem says John we will supply the gear.  Wow my first gig!  Apparently the singer for the band had done a runner and the gig was that night and was a sellout and brother John knew I could sing so dropped me right in it.  We arrived at the gig at the Crystal Palace ballroom Mt Eden Rd and I remember watching all the people coming in dressed in ball gowns and thinking what sort of gig is this.  Once inside John introduced me to the band.  Well I nearly died, this cool dude came up to me and said hi ya kid, welcome to the mad house (he still calls me kid), it was Errol Timbers playing lead guitar, Gary Hollis on piano, Tiger Purdy on drums, me Pat on rhythm and vocals and brother Yuk on bass.  Errol was the leader of the band and just said to me watch the crowd and give them what they want, and that's exactly what I did.  The night was a great success and I became a permanent member of the band who at that time didn't have a name.  But Errol called us the Dorados.

I played in a few different bands for a few years honing my skills so to speak.  I worked with Bill Wolfgram and his Hawaiian band for some time.  With Morgan Clark and Paul Linklater and Joy Yates vocals.  Did a stint at the Bellaire night club with Errol's band but I was solo, as they had a young guitarist working with them called Lindsey Wainhouse, on bass a fiery young lad called Leo Sleeman and on drums Paul Linklater.  They all moved up to Whangarei to play in a night club for a year or so and it was around the time that The Young Ones was released and Cliff and the Shadows were the in group, so I was employed to go up and sing all the songs from the movie.  Which I did, and wound up doing gigs all over Northland; from the Onerahi Hall to the Hora Hora Hall and even in the Whangarei Town Hall.  We belted out all the top hits from that era, I even played for an orchestra with I think his name was Skelton played regular at the Peter Pan Ballroom Queen St.  When the guys came back from Whangarei we formed a band called The Colorado's for a year or so with Dave McRoy , Lead (Eddie Lowe's brother), Alex Behrens drums, Leo Sleeman bass, blind Allan on sax and Andrew Quayle on piano.  Then brother John formed a band for Dave Dunningham to play the Trades Hall in Wellesley St a regular Friday night spot.  The band was called The Kings Men.  Errol Timbers lead guitar, Yuk on bass, Pat on guitar and vocal Trixy Willoughby on drums, Gary Hollis piano and a lead singer from England a hell of a nice guy called Steve Ellis.

In between bands I filled in for many a sick muso's.  I worked with Bob Wynyard and Sonny Day in the Sundowners, with Ted Toi, Nucky Walker, Alfonso Kiel (no longer with us), did a tour with Terry Dean and the Nightbeats all over the North Island - I remember that one - I never got paid for it!! Terry has also passed on.

I was personal guitarist for Frank Rowles for a year.  Another one passed on, rest in peace Wally?  Then joined up with old mate Errol again to form The Cabaret Quartet.  Dennis (Nooky) Stott, ex Larry's Rebels, worked with us in the Cabaret Quartet for over a year.  After a while Errol had had enough, so he left and we became Impact, with Leo Sleeman, Ian Macintosh, myself and a very pretty Donna Bruce on vocals (who I have caught up with in Australia doing an Oliver Newton John tribute show, and she does it well).

Sometime in here I got married and started a family; two boys, both potential musicians but didn't follow it up, although the younger boy did some band work for a little while.

The last band I worked for before coming to Australia was called The Al Davis Group.  Al was the original drummer for the band but he died, so they named the band after him.  These guys, all Maori, were to my mind the best guys you could ever work with, you became family to them all and were always treated great.  I worked in this band for 7 long years and if Adrian hadn't retired I think I would still be with them.  Adrian Tito lead guitar and a passion for being liked and boy he was, the ladies loved him.  Richard Mokaraka, a huge Maori drummer with a huge heart, Bill Simons (again no longer with us) a sax player who could play in any key, Morris Timu the quiet one, and me the only Waka Blonde in the band and I reckon I spoke better Maori than them all except Bill that is.

Sorry to all the other musicians that I haven't mentioned as my memory isn't what it used to be.  I know at some time I've worked with all these greats: TONI WILLIAMS, SIR HOWARD, RONNY SUNDEN, JOHNNY DEVLIN (who I've met over here in Oz), VINCE GALLAGER, RAY WOLFE, THE BEAU MARKS, BUDDY WILSON, BEN TAWHITI, RED HEWITT, MILLY SMALL, ROY ORBISON, HERMANS HERMITS, SIR CLIFF AND THE SHADOWS, HANK MARVIN...  I could go on and on.

And this news that I found out last December; I have a daughter 30 yrs old who had been looking for me for around 16 yrs I didn't know as I wasn't told at the time.  But through musicians help who know me she has found me and we are corresponding and planning to meet this year at the winter sun festival here in Australia as she wants to see her dad in action, thanks to all my muso mates wherever you are guys, keep on working.

 PAT HARRISON

 

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