In 1959, at the age of 15, Ricky May walked down the stairs to the Picasso nightclub just off Auckland’s Queen Street, and took the microphone for an audition. At best he was hoping for a free toasted-cheese sandwich or the bus fare back to Onehunga. Instead he found himself with a career as a jazz vocalist without peer in this country.
Sadly, that career was cut short in 1988 when May – who battled with his weight – died of a heart attack. By then Sydney-based for about 25 years, he called himself a “Mossie” – a Maori Aussie – though never to New Zealand audiences.
There is no footage I know of that shows May while he was in his early 60s prime in New Zealand (though there are clips of him on YouTube when he first went to Australia). But NZ On Screen have just posted a complete TV special devoted to May, which screened in 1983 on TVNZ. The musical director is Tony Baker, but the actual musicians don’t feature in the credits (apart from the obscure guests). I can spot Mike Walker on piano and Billy Karaitiana on bass …