Pixie Williams Profile

Chris Bourke
Published: 23 May 2013
Updated: 24 Nov 2020

The first star of New Zealand’s post-war recording industry was a reluctant participant. When Pixie Williams was approached in 1948 by songwriter Ruru Karaitiana to record ‘Blue Smoke’, she turned him down – twice.

Williams was born in 1928 in Mohaka, northern Hawke’s Bay and brought up by her grandparents. At 17 she moved to Wellington, and lived in the YWCA hostel on Oriental Bay where she became known for singing in the shower and at sessions around the hostel piano. When Karaitiana was looking for a singer, his girlfriend Joan Chettleburgh recommended Williams – a friend at the hostel.

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Pixie Williams with Shelley Hirini, who recorded a version of 'Blue Smoke' in 2010. 
Photo credit: Amelia Costello collection
Original sheet music to Blue Smoke
Blue Smoke
Pixie Williams - a signed portrait she sent to her friend Joan Chettleburgh, who introduced her to Ruru Karaitiana in 1948. The portrait was used in publicity for a 2020 documentary about Pixie Williams, available on demand on Maori TV (sign-in required). - Karaitiana family collection
National Film Unit Weekly Review 407: Blue Smoke pressing
Pixie Williams (far right) with, from left, musicians Doug Brewer, Bill Hoffmeister, Jim Carter, Keith Willet and Russ Laurence. The women from the audience are unknown. Wellington, late 1940s.
The cutting of the first release of Blue Smoke
Labels:

Tanza

Pixie Williams was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2019. The Hall of Fame is an initiative of Recorded Music NZ and the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), whose support of AudioCulture enables the site to stream music content.