Ray Columbus Profile

Michael Colonna, Grant Gillanders and Chris Bourke
23 May 2013

“You’re only as good as your next show,” was a philosophy of Ray Columbus, who died 29 November 2016, aged 74. He put it into practice every time he stepped on stage, until his final performances after the Christchurch earthquakes. He had many show-business aphorisms, among them a lesson learnt in Australia: “I don’t go to the toilet without a return ticket.” He often used it when recalling the time he and the Invaders got stranded in Adelaide in the middle of a tour.

Apart from performing tirelessly, Columbus spent much his working life offering advice to young musicians, on songwriting, recording, publishing and showmanship. He was an accomplished songwriter himself, represented New Zealand at APRA for many years – and managed acts from Shane to Zed. As New Zealand’s leading star of the beat era, he experienced the successes of the music business – and the pitfalls and disappointments.

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Ray Columbus and The Invaders win the very first Loxene Golden Disc in 1965
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Ray Columbus & The Invaders induction by Dinah Lee, Vector Arena Auckland, 8 October 2009
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The early 1966 advert for All Through Pride, the final Ray Columbus & The Invaders single (issued at the end of 1965), although there's no mention or image of the band on the copy. Ray was being positioned for a solo career, although not with Zodiac and this single seems to have been promoted this way in competition with his debut solo release on the Impact label.
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Ray Columbus, 1989
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A rare colour shot of Ray Columbus & The Invaders: Jimmy Hill, Dave Russell, Ray Columbus, Wally Scott and Billy Kristian
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A "pin-up" of Ray Columbus whilst he was in the US in 1967, with some accompanying news
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The 1966 Till We Kissed hits collection by Ray Columbus And The Invaders, one of the first Zodiac releases issued by Philips under the deal struck by John McCready and Eldred Stebbing in late 1965.
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Ray Columbus fronting The Downbeats, an early, pre-Invaders band in Christchurch.
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In San Francisco, mid-1960s
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Ray Columbus on the set of the NZBC TV show, C'mon
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The EMI released Ray Columbus solo years compilation, from 2004, compiled and annotated by Grant Gillanders
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Good Day - The Music and Record Industry (1978)
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Ray Columbus on the set of Happen Inn
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Ray Columbus and various children, including Mike Chunn's son Nikko, during the filming of Ray's No.2 duet with Double J And Twice The T, a pop-rap remake of 'She's a Mod', 1989. Peeking through the curtain are Rikki Morris and Debbie Harwood, then hosts of the TV show 3.45 Live.
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The US reissue of Ray Columbus & The Invaders Till We Kissed, still with the incorrect New Zealand writer's credit, and now credited to just Ray Columbus as an artist.
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Ray Columbus, Pos Mavaega (Pacific Underground) and Dalvanius Prime at the 2001 APRA Silver Scroll awards
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Ray Columbus
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Ray Columbus in the late 1970s
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The Beat Goes On with Gerard Smith - part 2
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That's Country (1982)
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The 2016 Ray Columbus compilation covering Ray's whole career, compiled by Grant Gillanders for the UK RPM label.
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Supporting Rob Orbison and The Rolling Stones, Sydney, January 1965
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On the set of C'mon '68: Shane, Suzanne Lynch (The Chicks), Ray Columbus, Judy Donaldson (The Chicks), Tommy Ferguson and Ray Woolf
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Ray Columbus and Dave Russell perform She's A Mod, Sydney, 2002
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Ray Columbus and Mike Harvey, winners of the 1973 APRA Silver Scroll for their song Jangles, Spangles & Banners
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A Ray Columbus publicity shot from the late 1970s
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Ray Columbus & The Invaders - Till We Kissed
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A press story on Ray's move to the US in 1966
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NZ On Screen Screentalk interview with Ray Columbus (2010)
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Ray Columbus and Roy Orbison in March 1965
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Ray Columbus 5-10-09 Radio Wammo Show with Glenn Williams, Kiwi FM
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Ray Columbus interviewed by Jeff Smith, 2010 Pt.1
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The Beat Goes On with Gerard Smith - part 1
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Ray Columbus & The Invaders - She's A Mod
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A New Zealand supergroup: Peter Posa, Ray Columbus, Billy Kristian and Jimmy Hill on stage in the early 1970s, venue unknown.
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Ray Columbus at The APRA Silver Scrolls, circa 2005
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Ray Columbus interviewed by Jeff Smith, 2010 Pt.2
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Ray and The Drifters, the band that would be renamed Ray Columbus and The Invaders in February 1962
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Ray Columbus in a Zodiac publicity shot, 1964
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Ray Columbus, circa 1966
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Ray Columbus & The Invaders in an Australian teen magazine
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Ray Columbus & The Invaders, 1964: Ray Columbus, Billy Kristian and Dave Russell
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Ray Columbus and The Invaders in 1991, with original member Brian Ringrose standing in for the deceased Wally Scott. The image was taken in Ray's courtyard in Othea Valley Rd, Albany and is a recreation of the image on the back of the debut Ray Columbus & The Invaders album. Left to right: Brian Ringrose, Ray Columbus, Billy Kristian, Jimmy Hill and Dave Russell.
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Ray Columbus meets US pop band, The Turtles, 1967
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Ray Columbus with the C'mon dancers, 1968
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Ray Columbus, Dalvanius and a selection of other familiar faces on Telethon in the mid-1980s
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The newly solo Ray Columbus in 1966
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A Girl to Watch Music By - Ray Columbus and Max Cryer (1969)
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The Rajahs and The Invaders at Auckland's Shiralee club. Billy Kristian on the left.
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Manager Ray Columbus signs The Chicks to Polydor in 1968. On the right is Polydor A&R manager Robin Robinson. Ray managed several artists very successfully in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of Phil Warren's Fullers organisation. 
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Mint Chicks 'She's a Mod'
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Ray Columbus and various children during the filming of Ray's No.2 duet with Double J And Twice The T, a pop-rap remake of 'She's a Mod', 1989.
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The Australian poster for She's A Mod and Yo Yo
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Mike Chunn and Ray Columbus in 1989
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Ray Columbus on the set of C'mon
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The surviving members of Ray Columbus And The Invaders are inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at Vector Arena in November 2009. Dinah Lee, who inducted the band, stands behind Dave Russell, Billy Kristian and Ray Columbus. 
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Mr. and Mrs. Ray Columbus at Billy Belton's wedding, 1965.
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Ray and The Drifters
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The very first Loxene Golden Disc
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People Are People
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Noel Parlane, Ray Columbus, Diana Trask and Phil Darkins in full flight on That’s Country in the 1980s
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Ray Columbus in 1987
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A 1966 Safari jeans advert featuring both Ray Columbus and Sandy Edmonds, both of whom were part of the Phil Warren stable of acts
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The Downbeats circa 1960, with Ray Columbus out front and Pete Ward on drums. This band would mutate into Ray and The Drifters who in turn would become Ray Columbus and The Invaders
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Trivia:

Columbus wrote The Invaders’ first release ‘Money Lover’ in 1956, aged 14. He sent the song to Elvis Presley, c/o RCA Records. He didn’t receive a reply.

The Invaders’ breakthrough instrumental ‘Ku Pow’ was originally recorded by English group The Outlaws, which featured future Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.

The original version of ‘She’s A Mod’ was recorded by Birmingham beat group The Senators and released in February 1964. The song was written by the group’s lead singer Terry Beale who was apparently rather bemused by the song’s Australasian success. The Senators’ drummer was John Bonham, who went on to join Led Zeppelin.

During Columbus’s first solo tour, early in 1966, he was billed with Herman's Hermits and Tom Jones. The original intention was for Jones’s backing band The Squires to also back Columbus, but after the first show Jones’s manager withdrew their services. Columbus explained: “Tom appealed to an older audience and during the first show me and Herman received all of the screams. That was it. Larry's Rebels were also on the bill so I used them instead”.

The 1969 NZBC-TV series A Girl to Watch Music By was hosted by Columbus and featured guests such as Pat McMinn, Eliza Keil, Yolande Gibson, and Allison Durbin. One item, in which Columbus played a ventriloquist’s puppet while sitting beside Max Cryer, was occasionally re-screened on television and repeated in other settings.

Columbus wrote many songs for other New Zealand artists. Among them was ‘The Crunch’, recorded by The Challenge. Columbus wanted to promote a new dance craze, while Smith’s Crisps wanted the song to promote their potato chips (“the ones with the big CRUNCH flavour”).