Here's a band that got together for all the right reasons – to play the music they loved with a bunch of mates down at the pub. There was no vision of world or even national domination as The Warratahs took to the stage at The Cricketers' Arms in Wellington in 1986.
Its members had all paid dues at home and away in such bands as The Fourmyula, Rockinghorse, Timberjack, and The Tigers. In their seminal first decade, The Warratahs featured two of New Zealand music's best songwriters, Barry Saunders and Wayne Mason. A group this stuffed with talent simply could not be denied.
They earned a large and loyal audience by retaining that spontaneous spirit, and by taking the roads less travelled. They played small towns and remote parts of the country that just about never saw bands back in the 80s and 90s. It was fitting that these road/ferry warriors made an Inter-Islander ad that further boosted their popularity.
The songwriting skill and performance quality of The Warratahs was high enough that a move to Melbourne or possibly Austin could well have brought them much wider success. They preferred to stay close to home, and the NZ music scene benefited greatly as a result. Their work ethic inspired others, while their commitment to the country/roots style helped keep that sound alive here. This was a band that even people that didn't really like country music took a shine to. Unlike many in that genre, they didn't write about Tennessee or California, but about the places and people they knew and loved.
For the full Warratahs history click here.
Barry Saunders - vocals, guitar
Nik Brown - violin, mandolin
Marty Jorgensen - drums
Rob Clarkson - drums
Nick Theobald - bass, vocals
Mo Newport - drums
Alan Norman - keyboards, accordion
Sid Limbert - bass
Mike Knapp - drums
The Warratahs were named by John Donoghue, after a character in Footrot Flats.
A highlight of Barry Saunders’ solo career was opening for Patti Smith and Bob Dylan in Christchurch in 1998. He recalls now that “my part went really well and got a great review. Patti Smith was fantastic, and Bob Dylan came and said a brief hello after.”