You need look no further than the Waikato rock and roll of the late 1950s and early 1960s to see how completely a New Zealand music scene can disappear. The popular memory of one of our most active rock and roll communities has been rendered down to two bare signifiers: the long-lived and fondly remembered rock and roll group The Satellites and the inner city Starlight Ballroom, which hosted the region’s popular music movements on Hamilton’s Anglesea Street for more than three decades.
There’s no doubt The Satellites and the Starlight Ballroom were vital and important elements of the early Waikato rock and roll story. The problem is they have become the largest part of what people expect from the time, rather than the least, leaving yawning gaps and silences in and around the stories.
Those gaps are where Hamilton’s links to satellite scenes in the busy surrounding rural towns of Morrinsville, Te Awamutu, Ngāruawāhia, Cambridge and Huntly that fed musicians, groups and records into the scene can be found. In May 1959 alone, rock and roll was alive in the Waikato at Lawrence Hall and the town hall in Frankton, St Pats in Te Awamutu, Ohaupo Memorial Hall, Gordonton Hall, St Joseph’s Hall in Clarkin Road, Hamilton, Paterangi Hall, Toorak Hall in Hamilton, Lyceum Hall in Huntly, Nawton Hall, Hautapu Hall, Physical Culture Hall in Morrinsville and at the Starlight Ballroom. The shows were often sponsored by local sports or social and cultural groups, an involvement that has now fallen off the map.
Māori rock and roll groups, once active and popular in Frankton near Hamilton, Huntly and Ngāruawāhia have disappeared from the picture completely. And with them the names of the bands, musicians, venues and organisations that hosted weekly dances and intermittent large-scale public events with solely Māori performers. The Waikato’s links to nearby urban centres such as Rotorua, Tauranga and Auckland and the cultural exchange that took place has also dropped from view.
The Satellites weren’t the first rock and roll group on Waikato stages or the only Waikato group to release records.
The Satellites weren’t the first rock and roll group on Waikato stages or the only Waikato group to release records. As early as January 1957, the Ritz House Rockers, Jartland Rockers and George Vodanovitch and His Quintet featured the new sound at spots like the Ritz Town Hall in Frankton and The Wintergarden in Hamilton. The Downbeat Rockers performed at Te Aroha Catholic Hall in February 1957.
By October 1957, The Deadly Cravats, billed as “the only juvenile rock n roll band in the Waikato” were performing at Toorak Hall in central Hamilton. That’s them “in their smart apricot and black ensemble” playing before Rock Pretty Baby at Embassy Theatre on the 25th and 28th, just one of the many rock and roll movies shown in Hamilton picture theatres.
Fashion and style are further consequences of the emergence of a new sound. The same month, Johnny Morgan and His Rock n Roll Band took up the residency at Wintergarden Cabaret.
Every major group with a Waikato-wide following released records between 1960 and 1962, although you’d be hard pressed now to find them anywhere in a region that has no central archive of local music or any pronounced interest in popular music culture.
As important as they were, and still are, the stories of The Satellites and Starlight Ballroom are best read as indicative of something wider, deeper and more complex.
Formed in 1957 near Elstow, a rural area by Te Aroha, half an hour east of Hamilton, The Satellites’ origins pointed to a broader catchment for new rock and roll sounds in rural Waikato and the adjoining Thames Valley.
The group’s constants, brother and sister Ken and Gail Wadsworth (now Finch) first stepped out before their parents’ dance band as a sax and piano duo with their good friend (and third original Satellites member), Paul “Ivor” Fisher singing, highlighting the existence of multi-generational musical families in the rural regions. The Satellites’ first drummer Morrie Holmes soon joined them.
The Satellites released at least 10 singles in two bursts, mostly in the group’s most popular years of 1960 and 1962, which were boom years for rock and roll and new pop music in the Waikato. Paul (billed as Ivor) Fisher was upfront on many of the records that the band produced in their early 1960s heyday.
New Zealand rock and roll’s big bang moment arrived in November 1958, when the movement’s first national star, Johnny Devlin, along with a supporting bill, cut a noisy swathe through the country. Hamilton got the show early, being the closest urban centre to Auckland where Devlin was living.
But even that is deceptive and reductive. Devlin had already played the city at least twice before, bringing with him early examples of the November 1958 national tour bill that cemented his name in New Zealand music history.
Johnny Devlin was first in town on 12 August 1958, playing his hits on radio station 1XH, before following up with one night only at Hamilton’s Embassy Theatre, the city’s key venue for big touring shows. To the first announced bill of Johnny Devlin, Mike Nock, Gene Blazer, Bill Frears, Bob Paris and Keith McMillan at William Paul Hall, Kahu Pineaha, Carol Davies, Dorothy Dennis and Hamilton’s The Cravats were added. Five shillings and six pence got you in the door.
The addition of The Cravats – Garth Hennessy, “Mighty” Halberg, Joe Alcock, Jim Hennessy and Dennis “The Menace” McBurney – was significant. They were already one of the region’s most seen rock and roll groups, knocking out the sound at the Starlight Ballroom since May 1958.
Bringing Johnny Devlin’s show to Hamilton wasn’t a shot in the dark. Phil Warren of Prestige Promotions was a businessman and this was a calculated commercial decision. He would already have known the Waikato was awash with rock and roll activity. The Satellites were playing shows at rural and small town halls, including regular music spot St Pats in Te Awamutu. The Cravats had set up what became a constant Saturday night home for them in the years that followed at Horsham Downs Hall just outside Hamilton, and built a following in Huntly.
The Howard Morrison Quartet, while not a rock and roll group themselves, did foster emerging rock and roll bands on their bills.
The Howard Morrison Quartet, while not a rock and roll group themselves, did foster emerging rock and roll bands on their bills; they were playing in Hamilton by February 1958 at Riverlea Theatre. It is they, not Devlin, who brought the first multi-act bill featuring rock and roll to the Waikato city.
The Keil Isles, who in the following years were frequent visitors, visited Hamilton with the HMQ and Scorpions Skiffle Group for a show at the inner-city Winter Show Buildings on 12 July 1958. The Keil Isles played the preceding night at the Wintergarden on Anglesea Street (billed as a “Rock n Roll Jamboree”) and returned a week later to the same venue.
It was a busy month in the Waikato for rock and roll. Fresh from a rock and roll jamboree at Auckland Town Hall, The TPM Dixielanders (soon to be TPM Rockers) performed at Lawrence Hall in Frankton. Massey Williams’ Mambo Rockers played Huntly Town Hall on Thursday the 21st for a “Mambo R n R jam”. Four days later, The Jackettes and The Satellites moved their Embassy Theatre date to the Starlight.
With rock and roll already popular and flourishing in the Waikato, RJ Kerridge presented The Johnny Devlin Show with Carol Davies, The Cravats and Noel McKay at the Embassy Theatre on Tuesday 21 April 1959, before taking the show to Te Awamutu and Cambridge the following two nights. A “final request performance” at the Starlight tidied up the incursion. Eight shillings and one pence was now the entry price.
With package shows, a strong region-wide rock and roll market and the regular presence of Auckland based acts in Waikato venues, the template was set for a frantic four-year stretch of rock and roll and contemporary pop-related activity in the region.
Moo cow boogie blues
The Cravats and The Satellites were soon joined by another perennial Waikato rock and roll band: the “diggin’, swingin’, mad, rockin’, rollin’ Rockettes” with featured singer Owen Griffiths.
Māori rock and roll was also jumping. You could “Rock Rock Rock” to the Dusky Nepia Orchestra (soon to be Dusky Nepia and His Rock n Roll Band) with vocalist Johnny “The Joker” Reinhart, and to Morgan Inia at dances in the strongholds of Frankton, Huntly and Ngāruawāhia.
A late month Sunday night concert at the Starlight Ballroom featured The Rockettes and The Cravats onstage with teenage female R&B trio The Reataz (Coralie Wilson, Claire Beale and Jan Jones).
The crowds kept on coming through June, July and August 1959. Highlights included Joe Brown’s Nationwide Search For Stars at the Embassy in July, Hamilton rock and roll groups heading out of the district to Pukekohe, and the Rock n Roll Jamboree at Ritz Town Hall in Frankton. (Jackie Te Papa’s The Twilighters; Reddy Teddy, a 14-year old vocalist from Rotorua; George Taulai and his Rock Islanders; and Toko Pompey all featured that night.)
Prestige Promotions clearly hadn’t forgotten the way south. Their Big Show – with Kahu Pineaha, Vince Callagher, Marissa, Demino and Mino, The Jesters and Simone and Clyde Scott – arrived at the Embassy in September. The Viking Variety Show landed at the same venue in mid-October bringing Will Jess and The Jesters, Ronnie Sundin, Garth Young, Noel McKay, George Tumai and The Barnyard Boys. The Turangawaewae Marae Committee lined up the High Five Showband, Toni Williams and his Tremeloes and Sonny and his Aotearoa Satellites for an all-Māori show at Kimikimi Hall on Labour Day. Regular Friday night slots at Masonic Hall in Kent Street and Frankton Town Hall were filled by Jay Oti and His Crusaders and Junior Enoka and the Hamilton Jive Cats.
Howard Morrison, who later described Hamilton as his “favourite stop off”, brought his quartet along with Bob Paris Combo, Eddie Howell and “torchy blues siren” Hiria Moffat for two nights at Embassy Theatre in October. Fans saw them up close at Cleave’s Radio Ltd in the city.
The fourth perennial Waikato rock and roll group, The Beatniks from Morrinsville, fronted up with a set of Duane Eddy instrumentals the following month in the Mormon town of Temple View, west of Hamilton, at Latter Day Saints Auditorium. The Prestige Promotions bill, which included Kahu Pineaha and Vince Callagher, then headed to Matamata for a night.
December was just as busy. Johnny Devlin was back at The Embassy, this time as part of Lee Gordon’s Sensational Big Rock n Roll Show. Howard Morrison was over in Ngāruawāhia at Kikikimi Hall.
The Satellites, with their featured front man Ivor Fisher and the newly added Reataz, settled in to the Starlight, playing there on Christmas Day after a night in Morrinsville at Physical Culture Hall, and seeing in the New Year there. By then the Starlight had become the city’s top rock and roll dance spot.
Lookie lookie lookie
The popularity of the new sound in the Waikato didn’t go unnoticed in Auckland and Wellington. In 1960, Zodiac Records and Viking Records harvested the Waikato’s top groups for a run of singles. The Satellites’ live ads now described them as “featuring recording stars Ivor Fisher and The Reataz”.
Didthe first rash of home-town rock and roll singles find a place on the jukebox at nocturnal lair, London Coffee Lounge, in Hamilton’s London Street? If not, the Musikraze Record Bar in Commerce Street in Frankton, newly opened in February 1960, had them at the shop and at their stall in the Starlight foyer.
Ivor Fisher and The Satellites’ ‘Lookie Lookie Lookie’ from late 1959 was a loose limbed rockabilly cut first recorded by Ronnie Smith and backed by the post-Buddy Holly Crickets at early Holly mentor Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico, July 1959. The flipside of the Viking Records 45 is a take on Sonny West’s ‘Call On Cupid’ from 1958.
In 1960, Fisher followed up with ‘Wild One’ backed with ‘Shimmy, Shimmy Ko Ko Bop’, then a Viking Records EP, which bundled them together with versions of ‘Be Bop A Lula’ and ‘Rave On’.
The Reataz’s ‘Daddy Cool’ is New Zealand girl group doo-wop and a spirited and enduring take at that. It’s a sharp, swinging version of The Rays and The Diamonds’ dual 1957 US hit, from three sassy Hamilton teenagers and ably backed by the city’s rock and roll perennials, The Satellites. Here Ken Wadsworth’s sax yakkety yaks convincingly as The Reataz squeeze a tempting bad girl vibe out of the Leiber and Stoller-ish R&B gem from Bob Crewe and Frank Slay. By the end of the year, The Reataz had a Viking Records single of ‘The Spider and The Fly’ and ‘Wiggle Wiggle’ in the stores as well.
Owen Griffiths was also busy. He had ‘Dreamin’ backed with a take on ‘Joey’s Song’, earlier recorded by Bill Haley and His Comets, out on Audion Records. Griffiths had two more singles available that year. Zodiac Records took a punt on his and The Rockettes’ version of Bobby Rydell’s ‘Swingin’ School’ backed with a version of the much covered John D. Loudermilk song ‘Angela Jones’. Next up for Griffiths with Clive Weir and The Rockettes were two rocked up versions of traditional Australian folk songs ‘Out Of The Blue Gums’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ for Zodiac. Griffiths also had a stab at ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ for Zodiac in 1961.
In a year where they were able to go full time and professional, The Satellites maintained their presence at the Starlight Ballroom.
In a year where they were able to go full time and professional, The Satellites maintained their presence at the Starlight Ballroom and the small town and country halls they knew so well. But first, they went on a triumphant out-of-town tour with Ivor Fisher and The Reataz in February 1960, on which the 20-year-old Fisher “brought the house down” at Auckland Town Hall.
That month in the Waikato, a large outdoor concert was held at Claudelands Showgrounds, on the east side of the Waikato River in Hamilton. The Showtime Spectacular featured Howard Morrison Quartet, Ronnie Sundin, Eddie Howell, The Keil Isles featuring Herma Keil, Noel McKay and Clyde Scott. An all Māori Open Air Concert at Rugby Park followed at the end of the month.
The Dominoes, another new group making the Waikato scene that year, had a residency at Peachgrove Tennis Club and played shows in Huntly, Te Kowhai and at the Physical Culture Hall in Morrinsville.
If you want to gauge just how big and busy the popular music scene in Hamilton and its hinterland got, just check out March 1960. The Satellites were back, taking their acts and new records out to Te Awamutu and Huntly as well as Hamilton on at least 10 nights.
On Sunday 27 March 1960, The Satellites stepped on to an even bigger stage, that of the Embassy Theatre, as feature group in the Viking Variety Show with The Reataz and Jim Allen’s Dominoes, who had vocalist Mike Buckler upfront. The Waikato Times live ad mentions that The Satellites’ records were re-pressed three times in five weeks and points to the involvement of the Starlight management in the production. Compere on the night was Sam Taylor, stage manager was Charlie Lea, and producer Leo Beeson.
Outside interest in the city’s music scene remained strong. On 3 March the Mighty Carlaw Park Show, a Benny Levin promotion, featured Eddie Howell, Red Hewitt and The Buccaneers and “seven year old rock sensation” Pierre Bidois onstage at Claudelands Showgrounds with Toko Pompey and The Crescendos, The Sunbeams, Riria King and Ben Broughton.
There were rock and roll auditions for “Hamilton’s new recording company” at the Embassy Theatre a week later with bands from Tokoroa (Sunny Watene and The Midnighters), Ngāruawāhia (Kimikimi Band), and Taupiri. The auditions were followed by a Frank Sinatra film, Kings Go Forth. Over in Frankton Town Hall on the same night were tryouts for Joe Brown’s Search For Stars.
Māori rock and roll was clearly thriving. Tommy Hawkins (“Rotorua’s Little Richard”) and Bobby Aranui (“Rotorua’s Sarah Vaughan”) checked in at Frankton Town Hall mid-month as did Little Bill and The Midnighters. The King Hits were on at the Masonic Hall.
Elsewhere, The Dominoes started a residency at the Wintergarden and dropped in at the Lakeside Skating Rink for the Variety Galaxy to end the month. In Morrinsville, The Beatniks starred at Physical Culture Hall, where The Rockettes also checked in. The Cravats were on at Pembroke Street’s YMCA in Hamilton.
That’s how it continued for the rest of 1960. There was yet another Showtime Spectacular at the Embassy on 18 April, this time with Max Merritt, Claude Papesch, Toni Williams and The Tremeloes, The Satellites, Ivor Fisher and The Reataz joining the Howard Morrison Quartet. Also in the region, Red Hewitt and The Buccaneers played Morrinsville and Will Jess and The Jesters with Ronnie Sundin were at the Starlight. All became regular visitors.
A second Embassy Theatre showcase for The Satellites on 1 May 1960, flagged as the City Sunday Show, had 11-year-old saxophonist Miles Tremlett, The Three Deuces and The Dominoes on the bill. A new batch of Viking Records singles also arrived that month; The Satellites made No.8 on the Lever Hit Parade and Ivor Fisher climbed to No.8. The Starlight booked a second showcase night at The Embassy Theatre with the same line-up and Ronnie Sundin to see out the month.
June brought more of the same. Showtime Spectacular was back again at the Embassy, followed a week later by Starlight Star Bright Parade (the name soon changed to Spotlight on Stars). In the following months there was Cavalcade Of Stars (September), Waikato Summer Show with Red Hewitt and The Buccaneers, The Silhouettes, The Dominoes and Rusty Greaves (October), The All Star Show with Herma Keil and The Keil Isles and Ronnie Sundin at The Embassy and Zodiac-Viking Open Air Stage Show at Claudelands Showgrounds (November).
July had two Satellites-based bills at the Embassy on consecutive nights. New groups in town included Eddie Paul and The Tarantulas, Jim Fitzsimmons and The Deltones from Tauranga, The Novatones and The Spotlites with Sonny Murray.
In a seeming response to the Annual Musicians Ball of August 1960 at the Riverlea Theatre, Hamilton’s youngest rock and rollers put on the Young Musicians Ball on Friday 1 October, featuring The Satellites, The Dominoes, The Spotlites, The Rhythmaires and The Moonglows.
Change was in the air in November. The Reataz had broken up. Claire Beale was now stepping out front of Ray Sentch’s 11-piece. Mike Buckler also moved on, leaving Des Wardell to front The Dominoes. Sonny Murray had left The Spotlites and was singing with The Satellites. He later took up bass with them.
There was a new Friday night dance in the city. The Teen-a-rama in the William Paul Hall in the Waikato Winter Show Buildings was kicked off by The Satellites. The dance then shifted to Bledisloe Hall, where it featured local and touring acts in the coming years.
December turned teen and post-teen Hamiltonian heads to the Waikato River and a bank, barge and river concert featuring Red Hewitt and His Buccaneers on the 22nd. The Dominoes took the stage at the Starlight for the annual Christmas Day dance and returned for New Year’s Eve.
Who were all these other musicians and singers peopling the busy and ongoing rock and roll and pop scene in the Waikato? Many names have been lost to time. Media coverage in the editorial pages of daily newspapers was largely non-existent and it was left to the informative live ads to shed light on who played with whom and when in the Waikato in 1961.
The Dominoes had Derek Cummings on guitar, Dick Te Paa on saxophone, Tony Ronke drumming, Kevin Wilson on piano and Jimmy Allen, the band’s leader, playing bass. At least that was the line-up in February 1961 when the combo held down slots at Wintergarden and Starlight Ballroom.
When The Beatniks fronted up at Teen-a-rama at Bledisloe Hall in April 1961, Lou Manson was handling lead guitar and vocals with Barry Manson on saxophone and vocals, Ken Fellows on rhythm guitar, Alan Midgely on bass, Owen Henderson on drums and Rex Gatenby on piano.
The fluidity of band line-ups was evident in August 1961 when Derek Cummings shifted from The Dominoes to play guitar for The Satellites. Jim Allen similarly moved from The Dominoes to The Cravats to play bass. The Cravats rump of Jim Hennessey, Keith Halberg, Garth Hennessey, Jim Hennessey and Bryan Hawkins (drums) remained.
By August 1961, singer Claire Beale had changed backing bands again, this time stepping out at Pines Lodge with The Cravats’ George Sargent in front of Johnny Morgan’s Pines Trio.
Dusky Nepia was back at Frankton Town Hall in September 1961, direct from Auckland’s Hi Diddle Griddle, backed by The Playmates (Dick Smith, Johnny Dee, Charlie Tye, Tommy Rudolph and Star Nepia). Des Wardell, who played with The Dominoes, was on guitar and vocals for The Beatniks at the Matangi Dance Centre, a new venue in suburban Hamilton, promoted by Graham Newland. The Dominoes had a new featured singer in Richard Bell and a 14-year-old drummer, Wayne Te Paa.
Of The Hellaire Rockers, TPM Rockers, The Tarantulas, The Chameleons, The Novatones, Hi Brows, The Moonglows, The Del Coasters, Super Five, The Teenbeats and Sparkling Sapphires, who all made the scene, there is little information outside where they played and when and if they put out a record.
Just as band line-ups were fluid, so too were their repertoires.
Just as band line-ups were fluid, so too were their repertoires. In the absence of set and radio station play lists, it is the nature of the group and how they are billed at specific times that gives the best clues to what they might have played. Pop music was evolving and most groups followed the flow. They checked out the Hit Parade and adjusted their music accordingly.
Another indicator of stylistic changes was the genre of movies shown in Hamilton picture theatres. The early rock and roll years opened New Zealand doors to most of the teen movies made in the United States and then Great Britain. You could see Carnival Rock with The Platters (March 1960), Rebel Without A Cause (September 1960), Elvis Presley in King Creole, the jazz greats-sprinkled St Louis Blues with Jailhouse Rock and Blackboard Jungle (all November 1960), Adam Faith in Beat Girl and Cliff Richard in Expresso Bongo (both December 1960) and The Subterraneans (July 1961), based on the Jack Kerouac novel and set in a modern jazz world.
With the Starlight, Teen-a-rama, Physical Culture Hall in Morrinsville, Horsham Downs Hall, and Frankton Town Hall all hosting the new music (along with many more country halls and surrounding towns), the Waikato scene flourished in 1961. There was a new dance at Fairfield Park Hall from late October, and plenty of groups to play them and fans to attend them. Afterwards, they could drop in for coffee at Diana’s Coffee Lounge, 16 Ward Street, open until midnight during the week and 1am on Saturdays from June 1961.
The big package shows just keep coming that year. Cavalcade of Stars (January), Hit Parade Variety Show (May), Parade of Stars (June), Spotlight Parade (July), Showtime Spectacular 1961 (October), and Gigantica 61 in December.
Hamilton’s confidence in its own acts was still high with Operation Showtime 1961 gathering up The Satellites, Mike Buckler, Ivor Fisher and The Deuces for a Sunday night concert in April, highlighting the Starlight’s new organ.
Regular visitors to the Waikato included Bill & Boyd, Freddie Keil and The Kavaliers, Will Jess and The Jesters, Ronnie Sundin, Vince Callagher, Peter Posa, Bob Paris, The Templars featuring Dave Hartstone from Tauranga, Tanza star Johnny Hamblyn, The Daltones (from Tauranga), The Comets (from Waihi), Toni Williams, Colin Minifie and Super Five (from Tauranga), The Coachmen and The Keil Isles.
The cultural traffic wasn’t all one-way either. Hamilton Entertainment Services Ltd set itself up in Ward Street to provide tickets and transport to international touring shows that played Auckland. On 1 May 1961, fans travelled north to see the all American line-up of Connie Francis, The Ventures, Bobby Vee and Johnny Burnette at Auckland Town Hall.
On 24 July, Jimmie Rodgers (USA) and The Delltones (Australia) featured at Auckland Town Hall with The Everly Brothers (USA) and Tab Hunter (USA) arriving three days later. And in the first real taste of the fully electric future, Cliff Richard and The Shadows (UK) played two nights at Auckland Town Hall on 30 and 31 October.
Hamilton’s one local international show of note that year featured the RJ Kerridge presented Lonnie Donegan (UK), Des O’Connor (UK), and The Four Clefs at the Embassy Theatre on 13 and 14 November.
The only record released by a Waikato group in 1961 was The Cravats’ sole piece of vinyl – ‘Wichita Town’ b/w ‘The End’ (sung by Bill Morton). In a rare piece of editorial coverage, the Waikato Times reported the recording, and talked about the group’s beginnings on tea chest bass, kettledrum, trumpet, piano and two electric guitars.
Let’s twist (again)
The teen buzzword of 1962 must surely have been twist. The live ads for the region’s rock and roll dances demanded that revellers do it, demonstrate it, and do it again, non-stop. Two world champions arrived in Hamilton mid year to show them how. The Rockettes, The Satellites and Ivor Fisher, The Dominoes and The Beatniks all had the sound, if you had the moves.
Up on Hamilton’s big screens, the film Let’s Twist Again featured Joey Dee and The Starlighters. Teenage Millionaire had Chubby Checker singing ‘Let’s Twist Again’. Checker could be seen with Dion in Twist Around The Clock while How To Do The Twist didn’t bill any music stars at all. Just the term "The Twist" in the title was enough.
Signalling yet another musical change was It’s Trad Dad (October 1962). The Dave Brubeck Quartet had played at the Embassy in March 1960.
In many ways, it was business as usual for Waikato rock and roll and the key venues and groups and dances that sustained it as an established scene shuffled the pop deck to look for a winning hand. The big package shows from up north that year included The Showtime Spectacular at Claudelands Showgrounds in early February, which brought Bill & Boyd, The Coachmen and Lou and Simon to town. Johnny Cooper brought his talent quest to Hamilton for a long run of Tuesday nights at the State Theatre, beginning in March and culminating in June 1962 with a final concert featuring Marina (Devcich, soon to become the hugely popular Maria Dallas), Chevrons Four, Miles Tremlett, Junior and The Tartars, The Spectres, The Vouge Trio, Wayne Te Paa, Helen and Carroll onstage with The Hi Brows over two nights.
New Waikato groups that year included The Astronauts (featuring Pat “Slim” Reinhart, who appeared with The Satellites in 1961), The Marvettes, Sam Peehi’s “Fabulous Fantastic” Flamingos, The Altones, featuring Barry Sheffield, The Orbiteers, The Cintillas and Eddie Paul and The Rumbling Rockers.
1962 was the year Marina Devcich popped over from Morrinsville with Lou Manson’s Beatniks to hold down a regular spot at the Matangi Dance Centre. Other future stars making the scene were Aucklander Terry Fido (or Terry Dean, as he’d soon be known) and Ray Woolf, a recently transplanted Englishman.
Charlie Lea bought out Leo Beeson’s shares in the successful Starlight Ballroom in April 1962. After renovation, the Wednesday and Saturday night entertainment mainstay reopened in early May with The Cravats and The Astronauts onstage. The Rockettes had a new singer upfront, Johnny Goodare, as Starlight Ballroom dancers saw for themselves in June 1962. Goodare moved to Auckland and release the first of five singles in 1964, including ‘I Begin To Like’ b/w ‘Mandee’ backed by The Beatkniks.
1962 was a boom year for recorded releases by Waikato groups.
1962 was a boom year for recorded releases by Waikato groups. The Satellites teamed up with Kiwi Records for a string of picture-sleeve singles that often paired a vocal outing from Ivor Fisher and new singer June Paterson with an instrumental B-side. ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’ b/w ‘Ali Baba’, ‘Venus In Blue Jeans’ b/ w ‘Come Back My Love’ and ‘Tell Me, Tell Me’ b/ w ‘Buckeye’ were the result. Retreading a successful formula, The Satellites found another female singing trio in The Harrison Triplets (Margaret, Janet and Nancy) to sing ‘Sugar Time Twist’ b/w ‘Uptown’.
Mike Buckler, now resident in Auckland, had three singles out that year on Auckland’s Octagon Records, including ‘Wild Wind’ with The Hi-Lites, his take on a Johnny Leyton single from 1961 that was written by Geoff Goddard, arranged by Charles Blackwell and produced by Joe Meek. Local fans could catch Buckler in Huntly in May with label mates Rudy & The Crystals.
Speaking of Johnny Leyton, the British actor turned hit pop singer appeared at the Embassy Theatre on a touring bill with Adam Faith, The Roulettes and Charles Blackwell on 26 October. Ten days earlier, Helen Shapiro put on two shows at the same venue.
Fast forward to June 1963. All the Waikato key venues were still intact as were many of the now long-lived rock and roll and pop groups. The Comets, The Astronauts, The Beatniks and The Satellites with Ivor Fisher were performing at the Starlight, Matangi Dance Centre, Morrinsville’s Physical Culture Hall and Bledisloe Hall. Look a little closer and you’ll see the future there as well. Max Merritt and The Meteors and Ray Columbus and The Invaders were in town, young and fully electric. The next pop cultural phase was in the house.
Breaking up is hard to do
As recently as 13 October 13 2007, The Satellites were still performing, headlining a 50-year reunion at Claudelands Showgrounds’ Waikato Convention Centre, before 600 fans. Incredibly, Ken Wadsworth, Dawn Finch and Paul “Ivor” Fisher were still with them as they had been since the beginning. New band members that night were Trevor Akoorie (lead guitar), Johnny McIntosh (saxophone) and Wayne Wright on bass guitar.
Sonny Murray was there as well. Ill with emphysema, Murray (who also played electric mandolin and violin in the group) took the stage to sing one song, ‘I Love You Because’, which he dedicated to wife Trudy, He died in November 2009 aged 79.
Paul "Ivor" Fisher passed away on 26 August 2014, aged 75. He must have sung at thousands of shows by then. He left The Satellites in the mid-1960s for club work in Auckland, followed by two and a half years in Australia. Other bookings included Maria Dallas’ 1968 NZ tour, and club residencies at Logan Park in Auckland and Beefeaters Inn in Wellington in 1970. Fisher left for America in July 1971 with Ray Woolf for club and hotel shows. In 1974, he was working on cruise ships.
There were three more singles under his name. ‘Teenage Heaven’ b/w ‘You Haunt Me’ in 1963, 1967’s ‘I Don’t Need That Kind Of Lovin’ b/w ‘Blue Monday’ for Viking Records, ‘It’s Better To Have Loved’ b/w ‘Happy Again’ for Zodiac Records in 1969 and ‘Lady’ b/w ‘Pickin’ Up The Pieces’ for HMV Records in 1970.
Many thanks to the Htown Wiki for assistance