The same guys Maybee had known for all that time kept coming back around, playing better than ever. He knew them, he felt comfortable with them and they enjoyed each other’s company.
People such as keyboards whiz Liam Ryan, whom he met decades earlier as part of Midge Marsden’s band, and drummer Neil Reynolds. Hell, Maybee had helped set up Reynolds’s first recording studio in Hamilton’s Victoria Street in the mid-1970s. These were fast friendships forged over long hours in vans, rehearsal rooms and stages all over the country.
The men spent Easter Weekend cracking jokes and reminiscing about life on the road. Maybee and jazz guitarist Trevor Braunias recalled being at the jazz festival as teens when it was held in a dingy venue near the old railway bridge. It was the first place Maybee smelled dope.
He was co-instigator of the “Mudshark Mondays” in Raglan that lasted through the 1980s.
It’s an extraordinary journey that has taken Maybee from selling Coca-Cola in the Tauranga nightclubs of the 1960s to touring New Zealand with rock, blues and country bands, to recording sessions and production credits and numerous releases with bands Acoustic Spirit, Torch Songs, and more recently, The Saddleblasters. He was also co-instigator of the “Mudshark Mondays” in Raglan that lasted throughout the 1980s.
Maybee was born in Wellington in 1952 and the family moved to Tauranga the following year. His English father had arrived in New Zealand in 1939 and served in the NZ Army’s medical corps during World War II. An actor, comedian and musician, Maybee Snr toured the world as part of the Kiwi Concert Party after the war.
Dave Maybee’s maternal grandmother Laura Crump was from a family of 10 who came out from Yorkshire circa 1900. Most of them became professional musicians on all manner of instruments.
He recalls: “Just before I left to go to Waikato Uni at the end of 1970, my dear old 4’10’’ Grannie ask me in her broad Yorkshire dialect why I was going to Uni. I replied that it was sort of to honour my father’s memory. She held up her hands and wiggled her fingers in the air, paused for effect then said, ‘You were born with a gift, you need to use that gift or otherwise it may be taken from you’ … I’d like to think I have followed her advice.”
Growing up with a love of singing and an understanding of entertaining, Maybee taught himself to play guitar on a Hoyer archtop, the body of which he still has.
It wasn’t long before he started playing around Tauranga in an old-time dance band run by a piano-playing accountant. Playing local halls and Caledonian Society dances, Maybee and friend Paul Hume swapped between guitar and drums. There was an alto sax and a squeezebox and Hume sometimes even played the bagpipes.
When summer rolled around, Maybee took in the touring bands such as The Human Instinct (who started life as The Four Fours in Tauranga), The La De Da’s and The Underdogs. In high school, he formed his own Dave Maybee Trio, playing the area’s school balls and socials. They performed songs by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and other hits of the day.
Having to leave school in 1970 after a physical altercation with the principal, Maybee had University Entrance accredited and enrolled in Waikato University to study chemical engineering. After about three weeks he switched to social studies. It was there he also majored in sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll.
In Hamilton, he formed Climax with second guitarist Ray Chaber and bass guitarist Mike Parker. They performed anything from Santana to Chicken Shack to Grateful Dead and spent extended periods on the road.
Based in Wellington in the mid-1970s, Maybee briefly joined Midge Marsden’s Country Flyers. Making himself known to the band as a punter at their Royal Tiger Tavern residency, Maybee was Johnny-on-the-spot when guitarist Kevin Watson left. The line-up was Marsden, Maybee, Kevin Bayley on guitar, Neil Hannan on bass and Jim Lawrie on drums.
At the same time, Maybee was playing in a band with Wellington stalwarts Dave and Wayne Feehan, Bob Smith, Clinton Brown, Bruno Lawrence, Rodger Fox and Denys Mason, backing floor shows at a private nightclub off Plimmer Steps. By 1975, he was touring the country again with Climax.
Back in the Waikato, he helped soundproof and began working at original Dragon drummer Neil Reynolds’s Musicare Sound Recording Studio, where he co-engineered the first recordings of multi-instrumentalist Robbie Lavën’s Hamilton-formed Red Hot Peppers.
He fronted his own band in Hamilton and played with Sid Limbert in Smokestack and The Golden Slippers Band before moving to Auckland. It was downstairs at The Crypt that Maybee encountered Sonny Day’s Caravan playing the country and blues crossover of Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard. The band featured former members of Ray Columbus and The Invaders Jimmy Hill and Dave Russell and studio gun Red McKelvie.
The musicians took Maybee under their wing and utilised his guitar skills on live radio shows and session work. Russell was instrumental in teaching Maybee how to write his own charts in as much time as it took to listen to a song.
Meanwhile he performed at a variety of seedy Auckland bars with a Māori show band, and teamed up with McKelvie and pianist Peter Woods as Ole Faithful for occasional western swing big band shows.
Maybee joined Wayne Baird and ex-Underdog Lou Rawnsley in the politically charged Bamboo.
One of the sessions was on country blues singer Rick Steele’s Take It Or Leave It LP, the first release on the Mandrill label. Maybee’s partner Colleen Ralph sang backing vocals on the record. Maybee was signed up for the ensuing tour, but Steele’s career was stymied when his next single, ‘The Ballad Of Arthur Allan Thomas’, was banned. Released on Philips in 1980, the remaining copies were allegedly destroyed by the National Government.
Parting ways with Steele, Maybee was snapped up by Wayne Baird and former Underdog Lou Rawnsley for their politically charged outfit, Bamboo, credited as one of the first New Zealand bands to play reggae. Their Malaysian frontman Hamin Derus had introduced the band to the music of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley.
There was a loose-knit conglomeration of musicians based at Jilly’s nightclub that at various times involved Maybee, McKelvie, vocalists Andy Anderson, Al Hunter, and Dave McArtney (Hello Sailor) and Paul Hewson (Dragon), who were both freshly available after their bands folded for a time. That unit would soon downsize and solidify around McArtney and Hewson as The Pink Flamingos.
Within the same week in 1979, Maybee and Colleen Ralph’s first son was born, Ralph’s father passed away and their landlord sold the house they had been living in. They bought a caravan and some months later purchased land and built a home in Raglan.
Maybee joined Midge Marsden’s Kiwi Connection for their debut gig at Sweetwaters in 1980. The Connection included blues veteran Sonny Day, bassist Sid Limbert and drummer Neil Reynolds. When they weren’t on the road, Maybee and Limbert gigged as a duo.
Both living in Raglan, they approached the Harbour View Hotel publican to take up a residency on his quietest night. They did the first couple for free but when Monday night crowds started to build, the price went up to $60 for the band and all the beer they could drink. The Mudsharks’ name came later but the residency only ended when a door charge was introduced.
Throughout the 1980s, Mudshark Mondays grew from attracting local musicians such as Clarry Cresswell and Peter Skandera to snaring touring musicians of the calibre of Liam Ryan and Gary Verberne. It inspired Midge Marsden and Dave McArtney to buy houses in Raglan and was the subject of the wonderful 1987 TVNZ documentary Raglan By The Sea, a precursor to raconteur Gary McCormick’s Heartland series.
At one of their duo appearances at the Tauranga Cobb & Co, Maybee and Limbert met former Think singer Ritchie Pickett, who was in the process of reinventing himself as a shit-kicking country rocker. They started writing songs and soon formed the earliest incarnation of Ritchie Pickett & The Inlaws, as well as western swing outfit Double Anything.
Soon they were signed to Gray Bartlett’s Country Gold Promotions. Instead of using them as a unit, Bartlett saw the benefit of using their musical director chops to lead independent backing bands for country artists of the day, who were taking to the road on the wave of massive That’s Country TV exposure.
Limbert left Ritchie Pickett & The Inlaws but by the middle of 1984 That’s Country host Ray Columbus had secured a reputed $50,000 to $60,000 Jim Beam sponsorship deal for the band and had them in Stebbing Recording Studio to lay down their RCA debut album.
Maybee’s emotionally charged vocals were a highlight of the ‘Gone For Water’ LP.
During recording, Maybee’s daughter fell ill and he left the studio for a couple of days. On his return he recorded his part for a duet with Pickett on the Hank Williams song, ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’. Although he only vaguely knew the song, his emotionally charged vocals were a highlight of the Gone For Water LP.
In early 1985, just four or five months after its release, Ritchie Pickett & The Inlaws imploded. Wild, relentless touring, copious amounts of liquor and the undisclosed details of the RCA-Jim Beam-Stebbing dealings had forced a wedge between Maybee and Pickett. By the end of that year, Maybee took his last gulp of alcohol.
When New Zealand country music luminary John Grenell moved to rural Waikato in the late 1980s, Maybee became his de facto producer and musical director on tours throughout the country. In 1991, the pair opened for The Highwaymen – Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings.
As much as playing in front of a packed outdoor Mt Smart Stadium was a big moment and getting to play each of the Highwaymen’s guitars was pretty special, the highlight for Maybee was his conversations with the star-studded backing musicians. These included the giants from American Sound Studio in Memphis: Reggie Young, Gene Chrisman, Bobby Wood, Bobby Emmons, and pedal steel maestro Paul Franklin.
During the 1990s, other musicians joined Grenell and Maybee for certain shows and Grenell took to calling the different combinations The Saddleblasters. The name stuck with the addition of Northland singer-songwriter Neil Hersey. In the latter half of 2020, Maybee pulled together all of the “orphan songs” the trio had recorded over many years and initiated a distribution deal through Sony.
Besides working as a freelance producer for Radio New Zealand (mostly in Wellington), Maybee produced three albums for Hersey, as well as tracks for The Coalrangers and collections by Joy Adams, The Toner Sisters, Celine Toner’s Mo Ghra and New Zealand country outlaw Kimball Brisco Johnson. In 2006 he toured the US with Johnson. He has recorded five or six albums with Liam Ryan in jazz-blues fusion band Torch Songs and the instrumental album Acoustic Spirit with Raglan neighbour Peter Skandera.
A harmonica player and fingerstyle guitarist, Skandera had moved to Raglan around the same time as Maybee. Both were part of Mudshark Mondays and when the residency wound up they continued recording in Maybee’s home studio. Another set of “orphan songs” of their brand of country blues has been compiled and is ready for release later in 2021.