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Echoes in the Valley

February 25, 2013

UH Fourmyla and girlsSomeone always comes out of the woodwork whenever I discuss Blue Smoke material in public. Last night I did an item at a musical evening at Expressions in Upper Hutt, put together by Paul Lambert.

I mentioned many local acts, among them Fred Gore’s stint living at Brown Owl in the 1950s, where he invited young jazzers such as Lawrie Lewis and Mike Nock out for jam sessions and lunch, after they’d cut some scrub; the Fourmyula, of course; Dedikation (featuring luthier/city councillor Ray Mercer and a future member of Dragon, Graeme Collins); Frankie and Jon Stevens; Upper Hutt Posse and Sonny Southon (a singer songwriter who sold 70,000 copies of her album Falling Through a Cloud, released in London in 1990).

On the way there I listened to the Fourmyula’s Creation album, and was reminded how, after the band had returned from its first stint in the UK in 1969, it evolved into cutting edge hard rock compared to their earlier orchestrated pop, and Small Faces’ humour. I played their poignant ballad ‘Home’, released in New Zealand just as they had left on the boat to Britain (an echo of the genesis of ‘Blue Smoke’). It recalls the Bee Gees in their velvet jacket and bowtie days.

Upper Hutt municipal band VJ day 12112-800I met a 90-year-old woman who was taught guitar by Fred Gore 60 years ago, a fellow who used to go to singalongs in Hawke’s Bay with Kahu Pineaha, and the daughter of one of the Canadian Sisters, a Christchurch-based, Saskatchewan-born duo who recorded for Tanza in 1950.  The photo to the left shows the Upper Hutt Municipal Band entertaining the locals as they celebrate VJ Day in 1945, on Ferguson Drive outside the original Hazelwood’s store. (P4-190-11888)

UH Youth club committeeWhile preparing the talk, I came across a stash of photos that have been put online at the Upper Hutt City Libraries’ heritage collections site. Among the 15,000 photos are many that are music oriented. The photo above is one of over a hundred that feature members of the Fourmyula, backstage after a concert in Lower Hutt, making themselves available for photos with their fans. Photographer Revelle Jackson’s portfolio is quite unsettling. This one shows the confident vocalist Carl Evensen and an uncertain looking Wayne Mason, giving three Valley girls their brief moment of fame-by-association. (P1-3973-6363). The other photo shows the committee members of the Upper Hutt Youth Club, including a coy looking Frank Stevenson – aka Frankie Stevens – peeking out second from the left. The line-up is, from left, Margaret Ward, Frank Stevenson, Malcolm Gogging, Kerry Williams, and future Fourmyula manager Perry Lennon. The band at the back is the Bitter End. The photo, taken in 1966 – 47 years ago – is also by Jackson (P1-6422-8812).

It was a great surprise to meet relatives of the Canadian Sisters. Irene Hume and Violet Williams were born in Christchurch and spent their childhood in Saskatchewan – where they lived in a log cabin – after getting stranded there while visiting their uncle as the depression got under way.   In this clip they are performing ‘Between Two Trees’ at the Wellington Bluegrass Society in Petone  on 21 May 2004. Sadly, Irene has now passed away.


One Comment leave one →
  1. December 13, 2015 8:51 pm

    My father in law is in a retirement home where Violet Williams of The Canadian Girls now lives. After hearing her story I Googled her and her sister and came across this video recording. Just played it to her today on our phone which she was delighted by, and was great to hear her sing along! I’ve been trying to encourage her and a few of the ladies to get a new act together. Lots of laughs about it but no joy yet! 🙂

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