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Ruru Returns

November 16, 2012

imageBlue Smoke sheet music

Ruru Karaitana’s return to New Zealand after war service was syndicated by the Dannevirke Evening News, and picked up by the Ellesmere Guardian in Canterbury on 4 May 1943. While the syndication is unexpected, that his return to Dannevirke would be covered by the local paper is not; the article emphasises his popularity, and before the war his band played throughout the lower North Island. This reads like a press release; in fact, Ruru’s service in the Middle East was chequered – he was disciplined for gambling and disorderly behaviour – and it seems odd that there is no mention of his musical activities while in the army. In the immediate years after his return, he kept dabbling at ‘Blue Smoke’ and performed it at dances and parties. In this period, a cousin of mine from Utiku, near Taihape – also a veteran of the Middle East campaign – heard Ruru singing it when he visited his farm with a shearing gang. By 1946 the song was well-known enough to be recorded by the National Broadcasting Service’s mobile recording unit when it visited Hawera, sung by 17-year-old Jean Ngeru – two years before it was recorded by Pixie Williams for Tanza.  This screen shot is from the extraordinary Papers Past via the National Library of New Zealand.

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