Welcome to Blue Smoke – the blog of the book Blue Smoke: the Lost Dawn of Popular Music in New Zealand, 1918-1964. Here we can all share new information, stories and tangents.
The book was published by Auckland University Press in October 2010, and launched in Wellington by songwriter Wayne Mason, with help from Piripi Walker, Wayne Mowat and Ray Ahipene-Mercer. The Vaughn Roberts Quintet played new swing arrangements of some classic New Zealand pop songs (among them ‘Nature’ and ‘Paekakariki’), and Rebecca Blundell led a group of Radio New Zealand singers in her own arrangement of ‘Blue Smoke’ (below). In Auckland, Tim Finn and Merv Thomas spoke, with music by Bernie Allen’s discoveries, the Quadros-Keppel Group, and Simon Lynch and Tom Sharplin leading the crowd in ‘Blue Smoke’ and ‘Hoki Mai’. Robert Sarkies took photos of the Wellington launch, which can be seen here. Vaughn Roberts is on trumpet, and the legendary Colin Hemmingsen on saxophone. The venue for the Wellington launch was the splendid room on Bond Street, the Ruby Lounge. Above, the author is explaining how the room is in the heart of Wellington’s “music precinct” in the 1940s, where Ruru Karaitiana and other musicians visited long-gone shops such as Begg’s and Nimmo’s, dancers flocked to the Majestic Cabaret, and jazz buffs attended meetings – and jam sessions – of the Wellington Swing Club. If it is sad that this world is long gone, then it’s even sadder that just weeks after the book launch the Ruby Lounge was shut down by its landlord.
Peter McLennan has blogged about the Auckland launch at his Dub Dot Dash, and Russell Brown tells of Playdate deputy editor Tom McWilliams reuniting with Rip It Up founder Murray Cammick, 43 years after the latter visited the Playdate office as a young teen with story ideas. Tim Finn said that reading Blue Smoke, “I realised I had been culturally cut off at my knees age 12”– such was the dominance of overseas pop music, and the attitude of rock fans to pop of earlier eras.