They called their business the Hi-Five Company, which is why so many of the band names were a play on the original band’s name, such as The Maori Hi-Quins, and The Quin Tikis. All the groups were strictly controlled by Anderson and Mather, their clothes – both on-stage and off – and their behaviour. They were fined for being intoxicated, for not smiling enough on stage, and even for being seen too often with the same woman (this made them seem unavailable, reasoned the management).
The line-up of The Quin Tikis kept changing, but many of the original members were from Rotorua. Early Quin Tikis included Dora Amohau, Weasel Tairoa, Garry Wallace, Anzac Teeoka, Tab Painga and many others. But the person who would achieve the greatest success was the vocalist Rim D. Paul, who grew up in Ohinemutu, on the lakefront near Rotorua.
Blessed with a big, velvety, soulful voice, Rimini Dennis Paul was the son of Tai Paul, the legendary leader of 1950s Rotorua dance band Tai Paul and the Pohutu Boys. Tai Paul was blinded in Egypt during World War II, but afterwards his band became the leading musical attraction in the Bay of Plenty area, especially for dances at the Tamatekapua meeting house at Ohinemutu.
As a teenager in the mid-1950s, Rim sang doo-wop with a group at Te Aute College, then began singing rock and roll and ballads with his father’s band. The Pohutu Boys’ set lists were notable for their variety: They would play a Latin bracket, rock and roll, country music, Hawaiian pop, and musical impressions – changing costumes throughout their shows. Many of these techniques would later be incorporated into a typical Māori showband set.
Rim D. Paul joined the Maori Hi-Quins, the first showband to follow the Maori Hi-Five to Australia.
Rim D. Paul joined The Maori Hi-Quins, the first showband to follow the Maori Hi-Five to Australia. They were especially popular on the Gold Coast, but also toured Britain and Europe. Paul left in 1963, and joined The Quin Tikis.
In 2011, looking back at his time as a member of the pioneering showbands, Paul said, “Let’s face it, we were being groomed to become professional entertainers. In those days you couldn’t go on stage in jeans – you wouldn’t get the gig. We looked like the All Blacks in our black blazers with the silver ferns, but that was part of the job. You had to dress smart, and look available. Learn how to handle yourself.
“The one thing we didn’t learn at the time was how to handle the business side. We got taken for a ride, but somehow that seems to be the norm in this business. But I wouldn’t have traded that life for anything, and I’d like to be able to pass that on to the future. There are a lot of pitfalls along the way.”
Thanks to Sammy Davis Jr taking a shine to The Quin Tikis after seeing them at the prestigious Pigalle club in London, he invited them over to appear with him at the Sands in Las Vegas. But Jim Anderson, their manager, didn’t take up the offer, wanting the Maori Hi-Five to be the company’s first act in the entertainment Mecca.
In 1963 Paul recorded a uniquely New Zealand rock and roll song with The Quin Tikis. ‘Poi Poi Twist’ was written by Jay Epae, the brother of Wes Epae in the Māori Hi-Five. Paul added a chorus from the traditional Māori song ‘E Papa’, so that the sweaty, generic rock and roll groove kept returning to the marae harmonies of his youth. It was an idea later borrowed by Herbs and Dalvanius Prime. His other solo singles in the mid-1960s included the title song to the 1964 New Zealand feature film Runaway, written by young Wellington composer Robin Maconie. Directed by John O’Shea, the movie opens with a clip of Paul and the Quin Tikis performing in a club. In 1966, Paul and The Quin Tikis were featured in O’Shea’s slapstick musical Don’t Let It Get You, set in Rotorua and also starring Kiri Te Kanawa and Howard Morrison.
The Quin Tikis carried on without Paul, performing around the world, and even doing a tour of duty in Vietnam, entertaining the US troops. The band’s line-up changed often, but they made two albums, Make Friends with The Quin Tikis (Sunshine, 1968, later reissued on Calender) and The Fantastic Maori Quin Tikis Showband (Joe Brown, 1968), that mixed lounge standards with rock and roll.
Paul’s biggest solo hit was ‘The Ballad of Lionel Rose’ (1967), a tribute to an Aborigine boxer who was the world champion bantamweight; this reached No.11 in the Australian charts.
His rich, baritone voice made him a powerful interpreter of the velvet bow-tied ballads of the 1960s. His biggest influence was Billy Eckstine, especially his phrasing and his swing. But also his pronunciation: As Paul’s 1969 solo album That’s Life indicates, he was adept at singing in an American accent. Released by Philips and his only solo album, it was recorded live at the Playroom on Australia’s Gold Coast, and concentrated on late-1960s pop standards. Besides tunes such as ‘Up, Up and Away’, ‘Little Green Apples’, ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’ and ‘Lara’s Theme’, the album also includes a medley of hits by Stax and Motown acts, and the Beatles.
Soon after his return to New Zealand in 1990, Paul became director of the 300-strong National Māori Choir.
Paul was invited to appear on Australian television, but to his regret he was usually asked to perform soul songs, and he felt pigeonholed. “It lost me work in the clubs, especially in the RSL clubs. ‘He’s a soul singer,’ they’d say. Despite the ‘Danny Boys’ and ‘Impossible Dreams’, which I sang in RSL clubs. Because of TV, I got branded – even by clubs I’d been to before.”
Soon after his return to New Zealand in 1990, Paul became director of the 300-strong National Māori Choir, which appeared on the same bill as Kiri Te Kanawa at the opening of the Aotea Centre in Auckland. In recent years he has been developing a course in Māori music for use in education. In 2005 he described his goals to iwi radio producer Piripi Walker: “There is a need for infrastructure in the Māori music industry, in more ways than you can imagine. It’s about time we woke up to the fact that we shouldn’t just clone ourselves on other people’s success, but actually learn to do things with a bit of tikanga [correct procedure], and have some kawa [protocol] laid down. So that it’s not just an overnight thing, it’s something sustainable.”
Paul looked back at his period in one of the leading Māori showbands with pride. “It got me around the world, took me to places I’d never be able to go to, and opened the door not only for myself and the solo career that took off in the late 60s after leaving the Quin Tikis, but for all the New Zealanders performing in Australia.”
Rim D Paul
Sam Mateparae was the older brother of Sir Jerry Mateparae, the Governor-General on New Zealand