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Trouble in River City

March 3, 2011

There’s a case to be made for Christchurch being the most influential city in New Zealand music. In pop music, the American servicemen who passed through as part of Operation Deep Freeze provided R&B 45s to bands such as Max Merritt and the Meteors (Max is on the left in this picture), and Ray Columbus and the Invaders. In turn they influenced bands throughout the Max and Meteorscountry. Earlier, guitarist Tommy Kahi taught hundreds of pupils, among them Billy Karaitiana (third from left) and Kevin Bayley (Rockinghorse). With his brother Mark, Kahi held court at the North Beach surf club, while beat bands competed for audiences at the Spencer St and Hibernian dances. In jazz, the Bailey-Marston big band hired the city’s best swing musicians, apart from Martin Winiata, whose own big band held down a residency at the Union Rowing Club featuring glamorous singer Coral Cummins (she can be seen here with the 3ZB Brian Marston band, and heard here with Winiata’s Quintette, along with several other Christchurch radio swing bands from the 1950s). Winiata also backed Peter Lewis on the local rockabilly classic ‘Four City Rock’. From the 1950s, musicians such as Doug Caldwell, Harry Voice and Stu Buchanan passed on their skills to countless young musicians. Caldwell backed All Black Pat Vincent on an excellent EP on local label Peak in 1960. Now in his 80s, was still teaching at the Christchurch Polytechnic jazz school the last I heard.

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