Friday, July 31, 2009

Max Merrit's Meteors & The Pleasers 2 in 1 Australia\NewZeland

(Very Rare Australian Beat) 
Max Merrit's Meteors - 1965
  Max Merritt (Guitar / Vocals)
1960 Line-Up:
  Pete Sowden (Drums)
  Maurice Cook (Lead Guitar)
  Billy Kristian (Bass Guitar)
1966 Line-Up:
  Peter Williams (Lead Guitar)
  Billy Kristian (Bass Guitar)
  Bruno Lawrence (Drums)

In November 1959, Harry M Miller flew Max to Auckland for a solo spot on the 'Summertime Spectacular'. On his return to Christchurch, and also because he was now a recording star, his popularity soared even higher. The group started doing lunchtime performances at record stores, with crowds spilling out onto the footpath, and audiences at the Teenage Club increased.

There were more personnel changes in 1960, with Bernie Jones, Rod Gibson and original member Ian Glass all leaving. Pete Sowden returned to the group on drums and Billy Kristian switched to his favourite instrument, the bass, and new-comer Maurice Cook joined on lead guitar.

This twin guitar, bass and drums combination was to be the standard Meteors format over the next few years. In 1961 they started playing a third venue to their schedule by also playing at the Hibernian Hall. This place had a reputation as being a rather rough joint and often fights would break out. When Maurice Cook left the band, Max replaced him with Geoff Cox, who was also a South Island boxing champion, and this came in handy when fights broke out. Cox didn't stay too long with the group and he was replaced by Peter Williams on rhythm guitar.

The group continued to cement their status as the most popular group in the South Island and in 1961 had another successful local hit with "Mr Loneliness"/"If You Want My Lovin' ", but outside their local area they remained relatively unknown. 1962 saw two more singles, "Weekend"/"Easy To Dream" and "Cossack"/"The Slow One".

By the end of 1962, Max came to the conclusion that if he was to be more successful, he would have to venture further afield, a view also shared by Ray Columbus and the Invaders. The two groups gave a farewell concert to Christchurch in November 1962 and headed north. Max and the boys gigged their way up the North Island during December and arrived in Auckland just before Christmas, to find that Ray and his group had gone straight there and had already taken the town by storm. Max Merritt and the Meteors started to find that they were always playing bridesmaid to Ray Columbus and the Invaders. Everything they decided to do, Ray was already there.

After a few gigs at the Oriental Ballroom, Max Merritt and the Meteors took up residence at a newly opened club called the Top 20. Word spread fast around Auckland and every rock musician in town was checking out these two new groups to hit town. With their Fender gear, fancy routines, matching outfits, Auckland audiences just stared in disbelief. They were way ahead of anything that was performing in Auckland at the time.

During 1963, Max retained the residency at the Top 20 club and also did some tours. When Max was offered a month long tour around the North Island, he needed a replacement band to mind his spot at the Top 20. He did not want to allow a local opposition Auckland group the opportunity, so he called another Christchurch group called the Playboys and offered them the gig. They jumped at the opportunity and headed north. The Playboys contained a female singer by the name of Diane Jacobs. She made the most of the groups time playing every night for the month. When Max finished the tour, the Playboys returned to Christchurch. Diane now had a taste for the big smoke and when the Playboys folded, she moved back to Auckland as Dinah Lee. Work as a singer was not easy to find, but she did manage to get a few spots with Max Merritt and Ray Columbus, and guest spots with a number of other established groups, before becoming famous as New Zealand's top female singer.

Meanwhile HMV released the last single they had from their earlier recording sessions, "Valley Of The Sioux"/"Laughing Girl" in 1963. There were also some more line-up changes, with Billy Kristian leaving to try his hand on the Pacific Islands Resort circuit, before soon joining up with Ray Columbus and the Invaders, and Pete Sowden deciding to head back to Christchurch. Their places were taken by two musicians from Hastings, John Dick on drums and Mike Angland on bass. Both John and Mike had been members of the Contacts.

Their only other release in 1963 was a one-off recording on the Zodiac label called "Soft Surfie"/"She's Everything I Want You To Be". This single was also released in Australia on Zodiac. On November 23rd 1963 Max took the group across the Tasman for the first time and visited Sydney. When he got there he found that the local scene was being dominated by Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and Ray Brown and the Whispers, as well as a new group that had arrived from New Zealand, you guessed it, the Invaders. Max stayed there for six months playing in a lot of the Sydney dives and making absolutely no money. They had to beg for work and in the end decided it was no good and came back to Auckland.

A record deal was struck with Viking Records in 1964 and their first release on that label was an EP called "Giddy Up Max", containing "Giddy Up A Ding Dong", "Almost Grown", "Little Bitty Pretty One" and "Sweet and Tender Romance". A single with "Giddy Up A Ding Dong" and "Sweet and Tender Romance" also came out. The releases didn't sell very well, but the band's musicianship so impressed Viking, that the Meteors became the label's house band. They provided backing for the label's solo artists, Tommy Adderley, Dinah Lee and Peter Posa.


The Pleasers - 1964
  Roger Skinner (Lead Guitar / Vocals)
  Brian Layton (Rhythm Guitar / Vocals)
  Kevin Walsh (Bass Guitar / Vocals)
  Max Thompson (Drums)

Roger Skinner had served his apprenticeship well, by the time he formed the Pleasers in January 1964. Roger began his career back in 1957 with a skiffle group he formed, called the Kool Kats. With him in that group were Jimmy Elliot, later of the Premiers and the Dallas Four, Peter White on tea-chest bass and Lance Whittington on drums.

After the Kool Kats, Roger formed the Top Hats, who consisted of Graham Gibson, Geoff Land, Neville Findlay, Ian Goldwater, Neil Harvey and Roger. They used to play at RSA dances for several months until Goldwater and Harvey left. This was in 1960 and the remaining members renamed themselves the Versatones. Basing themselves as a Shadows type band, they secured regular paying gigs on the social circuits of Auckland City, playing regularly until disbanding at the end of 1963.

The Pleasers was his next outing, formed with Brian, Kevin and Max. They were inspired by the Beatles and managed to get a residency at the Beatle Inn, taking over from the Merseymen. Building their own group of fans, they were also giving a guest spot on television's "In The Groove", where they came to the attention of the producers of the Wellington based TV music show "Let's Go". They were offered a contract to be the shows resident band until the end of 1964.

This required a move to Wellington, and as soon as they got there they were also offered residencies at Teenarama and at the Petone Youth Club. The Pleasers replaced the Librettos at Teenarama and also as resident band on "Let's Go", after they had gone to Australia.

A recording contract was also secured with Red Rooster, a subsidiary of Viking Records. Their first single was "Ain't Gonna Kiss You"/"Move It". It was a cover of the Searchers song and when released in 1964, the Pleasers used the TV show to help promote it. The follow-up single is their best known one, "Yes My Darling"/"For Ever". It also came out in 1964 and was included on an EP called "The Pleasers" and an album called "Let's Go with Pete Sinclair and the Pleasers" that was released in early 1965. Their third single was "Lovely Lovely"/"Let's Go" and was actually cut with host Pete Sinclair.
 1. So Long Baby
  2. Little Queenie
  3. You Are Treating Me Bad
  4. Rocking Robin
  5. I Believe
  6. Heatwave
  7. Without You
  8. I Wish You Love
  9. I Am Not A Bad Guy
10. Sticks And Stones
11. You Do Not Know Baby
12. The Work Song
13. Let s Go
14. Forever
15. Mona
16. She Has Had It
17. Memphis
18. Silver Threads And Golden Needles
19. When Will It End
20. Bo Diddley
21. Ain t Gonna Kiss Ya
22. I Just Do Not Like To Be Alone
23. High Heel Sneakers
24. Yes My Darling

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