Have bag, will travel
Just six hours after the February 22 earthquake struck Christchurch, one of the city’s most colourful characters – and a legend in New Zealand entertainment – passed away. Trevor King worked for Sir Robert Kerridge during the cinema magnate’s 1950s and 1960s heyday, managing theatres such as the Tivoli. He also became adept at accompanying international and local entertainers on their tours throughout New Zealand, but in particular the South Island. In this capacity he was road managed tours by the Beatles, the Howard Morrison Quartet, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, Johnny Cooper, Mr Lee Grant (seen below with King) and countless others. “Have bag, will travel” was his motto.
King was instrumental in making Max Merritt a star in Christchurch (that pic in John Dix’s Stranded in Paradise of Merritt with Johnny Devlin was a photo opportunity created by two master opportunists, King and Phil Warren) and produced many variety shows. Although he had become frail, as recently as 2006 he was writing to friends such as Ray Columbus – using his reliable Imperial typewriter – to offer them promotional advice. In his capacity as a cinema manager he became known as “Uncle Trevor” to thousands of Christchurch children, running interval games during matinee sessions.
On hearing of King’s death, John Dix wrote:
In 1956, with Jim and Ilene Merritt, Trevor King founded the Teenage Club at the Railway Hall in Sydenham. The Teenage Club featured Christchurch’s first rock’n’oll band, led by Jim and Ilene’s son, Max Merritt & the Meteors. Trevor managed Max though till 1963, and other Christchurch talents to receive his assistance included Ray Columbus & the Invaders, Dinah Lee, Dave Miller & the Byrds, Peter Nelson & the Castaways, and many more.
His reputation soon spread outside the Garden City and throughout the 1960s he toured with numerous national and international acts throughout New Zealand, including the Howard Morrison Quartet and the C’mon Shows. He may very well have been the only person in the world to have tour-managed both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He was still occasionally active as late as the 1990s, tour-managing the Morrison Orpheus Choir and Al Jarreau.
… Above all, though, Trevor King was a true gentleman who always put others’ welfare above his own, one of The Good Guys. He was definitely one of a kind. Farewell, Master … Hei maumaharatanga ki te tino hoa …
I visited Trevor King in 2009, just to get to know him, perhaps for a future interview, and to source pictures for Blue Smoke. He was delighted to help. Among the pictures we weren’t able to use is this one of veteran entrepreneur Joe Brown (far left) and King (at the typewriter) as part of a judging panel on Brown’s Search for Stars talent quest. I love the way it has been art-directed, presumably by master publicist Brown: the spool of tickets, the strategically placed newspaper, the publicity photo of a star (perhaps Kahu Pineaha). Between Brown and King is another New Zealand show business veteran, George Tollerton.