Rod Derrett was a schoolteacher by day and a nightclub owner and performer at night.
Derrett fine-tuned his unique and incisive brand of New Zealand humor during the mid fifties and early sixties in his hometown of Christchurch until he had quite a live following.
Although live his show was incredibly visual, the humour transferred successfully onto vinyl and Derrett recorded several hit singles for Zodiac Records including the rock and roll spoof ‘Teddy Boys Picnic’ in 1960 and ‘Bongo Train' / 'The Kiwi Train’ in 1961, the latter making fun of our – even then – creeky railway system:
"All aboard!" shouts the guard and the carriage fills up And you sit there surveying your NZR cup. Now those cups are so strong that if you collected them all They'd make a good foundation for a new town hall. Now those cups are so strong, imagine it can ya? One railway cup would anchor Britannia!"
He also recorded a live EP Rod Derrett’s Com Pop Show that cleverly parodied the radio and television ads of the day for the same record label.
Derrett changed labels to HMV in the mid-sixties where he was dubbed “New Zealand’s Clown Prince of Parody”. Derrett then successfully captured the nation’s psyche on tracks such as ‘Rugby, Racing and Beer’, ‘Puha and Pakeha’, 'The Kiwi Hotel’, ‘The Springboks and The All Blacks’ spread across three big selling EPs.
These were compiled onto the album Rod Derrett Sings – Including Short Back And Sides And Other Favourites in 1967.
Derrett and his family left New Zealand in the early seventies and settled in Sydney where he re-launched his career in the clubs of Sydney before returning to teaching.
A pioneer of political and social parody in New Zealand, Rod Derrett died on 20th December 2010 in Sydney. He was 80.
The Chook Fowler Septet, Begg's Concert Chamber, Christchurch, 1960s: a Jazz Society Concert. From left: Ken McGrath, Harry Voice, Mike Gibbs, Stu Buchanan, Stuart Parsons, Rod Derrett, Martin Winiata. Obscured are Dave Easterbrook and Chook Fowler