With a musical upbringing that encompasses rhythm and blues, electric blues, acid rock and psychedelic soul, Rick Bryant's lengthy career stands as a testament to the US soul, R&B and gospel singers he admires.
Rick Bryant first hit the Wellington live scene in 1968, performing in the Pretty Things-inspired rhythm and blues band Original Sin and Chicago-blues act Gutbucket.
In the early 1970s, singer-saxophonist Bryant formed the more soul-influenced Mammal and Rough Justice, and performed with BLERTA. More was to come in the following decades, including soul, folk-blues and gospel groups.
Rick Bryant was an active participant in what Stranded In Paradise writer John Dix dubbed The Wellington Movement, a hotbed of counter cultural music, politics, lifestyle and industry fed by Victoria University and Wellington Polytech students; a restless young population seeking new ideas and answers.
In January 1973 Mammal performed at the Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival.
He took a shine to the spotlight of soul music and toured the country with Mammal, who in 1972 teamed up with poet Sam Hunt for a series of shows and a live album, Beware The Man. In January 1973 Mammal performed at the Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival and the same year they released a single, 'Wait'/'Whisper'.
As a featured vocalist, Bryant took part in the final tour of Bruno Lawrence's madcap theatre and musical troupe BLERTA. The national tour included a show at the St James in Wellington and travelled as far as Invercargill, taking in six university dates along the way.
Following a cannabis conviction in the mid-1970s (the first of many drug-related arrests), Bryant toured heavily with shifting line-ups of Rough Justice, which came to an end in 1979.
Bryant headed north to Auckland's thriving live circuit. In 1980 he joined the short-lived Top Scientists, and teamed up with with Sam Ford and Trudi Green in The Neighbours, who released singles 'Love Is Never Cruel'/'All My Dreams' in 1981, 'Watching Westerns'/'Hand In Hand' in 1982 and an EP, The Only One You Need, in mid-1983. The same year they captured a sweaty soul set at The Gluepot in Ponsonby, which was released as Vocal At The Local.
Bryant was back centre-stage later in 1983 with Rick Bryant and The Jive Bombers.
Bryant was back centre-stage later in 1983 with Rick Bryant and The Jive Bombers, co-founded with former Top Scientist (and Rip It Up co-creator) Alastair Dougal. With a full horn section and a mix of originals and classic soul covers by the likes of Bobby Bland, Al Green and James Brown, The Jive Bombers quickly became pub favourites. In 1984 they released a part-studio, part-live album called When I'm With You, along with an accompanying single 'When I'm With You'/'Got To Have It'. The album was recorded at Radio NZ's Wellington studios and at Wellington Town Hall, produced by Nigel Stone and released through Jayrem Records.
In 1985 Bryant shared the mic with Chris Knox and Don McGlashan as part of a collaborative protest against the proposed 1985 All Black tour of South Africa. Under the name Right, Left and Centre, they released 'Don't Go', a protest song complete with Soweto-influenced guitar, which peaked at No.2 in March 1985 and stayed in the NZ Singles Chart for nine weeks.
For Rick, the groups just kept on coming. In the early 1990s he sang in The Skills and The Rick Bryant Trio, and The Jive Bombers returned later in the 1990s.
The long-lived Windy City Strugglers, who first got together in the late 1960s but parted ways with Bryant in 1975, resumed in the mid-1980s, and headed into the new millennium with quality blues highlighted over six albums. The line-up includes Bryant's long-term musical allies Bill Lake (Gutbucket, Mammal, The Pelicans) and Nick Bollinger (also from Rough Justice). In 2009 they released an anthology, Time Comes Around.
New Zealand's blue-eyed counter-culture soul man shows no sign of letting up. The Jive Bombers recorded again in 2012 and continue to perform, and Bryant remains a member of the Jubilation gospel choir in Auckland.
Rough Justice reformed for a short tour in 2014. In late 2016, Nick Bollinger's memoir Goneville (Awa Press) featured a lot of material about his time in Rough Justice. The book is dedicated to Rick Bryant.
In 2000, Bumper Books published 32 of his lyrics as a collection called Clever Monkeys.
The Windy City Strugglers were the subject of the Costa Botes-directed 2005 documentary, Struggle No More.