Chronicles of "The Uke of Wellington" Chapter 4

Chronicles from The Uke of Wellington - The Harmonica.

 

In June 1969, Skiffle-Pop group Hogsnort Rupert were recording their first album at HMVs studios in Wellington, they had signed a five year record deal and this was their first project.

 

During the recording session, band member Dave Luther realised he needed a blues harmonica for the track they were working on and it had to be in the key of A. Dave looked at his watch, it was ten minutes past five, shops will be closed now he thought but he needed it then and there, so he took a chance and headed for the nearest music store. Most were shut but he found a little shop that was open.

 

“How can I help?” asked the old chap behind the counter. “I’d like a blues harmonica please and it has to be in the key of A”

“Mouth organ!” exclaimed the old gent “Nobody plays the mouth organ these days, only young kids and old p*** heads” he announced “Mmm” mumbled Dave, “Better give us two then”, expecting at least a chuckle from the shop keeper who was busy rummaging around in a cupboard behind the counter but there was no reaction, not even a smile. Suddenly he let out a blood curdling “Eureka! Got one and it’s in the key of A”. Dave’s initial glee turned to horror, as the harmonica was triumphantly placed on the counter, it was twice as long and twice as wide as a 10 hole blues model. “That doesn’t look like a blues harp” said Dave. “Well it’s all I’ve got” replied the shop keeper “Take it or leave it cos I’ve got to lock up and go home” “Can I try it?” asked Dave “Sorry son, can’t let you do that…..hygeine regulations, you understand”. Well I need one thought Dave “I’ll take it”. He paid the man and headed back to the studio. 

Back at the studio, Dave took the harmonica out of its box and played a blues riff on it, it sounded dreadful, it had a different note configuration and made a warbling sound when played, it was definitely not for the blues. 

On the box was a picture of a wooden chalet in front of snow covered mountains with the words Tremolo Harmonica, made in West Germany written in small letters. Dave put the harmonica in his neck harness so he could strum his guitar at the same time and started to play. Almost immediately a little riff that sounded very Swiss/German with the harmonica sounding very much like an accordion started to evolve. “What’s that you’re playing?” asked Producer Peter Dawkins, who had returned from his tea-break “I don’t know, I’ve just written it” said Dave. “Well write a song around it, it could be a hit” joked Peter “Now let’s get on, we have an album to finish”.

The album was released and in the immortal words of the great Music Guru, It Bombed! Dave eventually wrote a song around the harmonica riff he had written and rang Peter Dawkins to ask about recording it. “Well the album didn’t do so well eh? So let’s just leave it for the moment” said Peter.

Dave decided to go right to the top and talk to the Sales Manager of HMV Records NZ, Graham Feasey. Graham was a very likeable person and had always shown an interest in Hogsnort Rupert’s music. After a battle with the receptionist at HMV “Sorry you need to make an appointment” etc Graham popped his head around the door of his office. “Come in Dave” he said “I’m a bit busy but what’s up?” Dave told him about his new song. “It’s a Swiss German sort of a number called Gretel and it features a harmonica” Graham stopped smiling and peering over his spectacles spluttered, “A mouth organ but only young kids and old p*** heads play mouth organs…..don’t they?” ( a little bit of poetic licence from The Uke there). 

What Graham really said was….. 

“I’ll give you four hours studio time to record Gretel and we’ll put a song off your album on the B side.” 

 

Gretel was released in January 1970 and after a guest appearance from the band on the televised Miss Wellington show it climbed to No.2 on the Wellington hit-parade losing out on the No.1 spot to The Beatles-‘Let It Be’

 

It eventually reached No.11 nationally and was released in Germany where it sold 10,000 copies.

 

As for the Tremolo Harmonica, well that also featured on the Band’s next single ‘Pretty Girl’ along with the kazoo and went to No.1.

 

Hogsnort Rupert owe a lot to that dear old chap in the music store who inadvertently helped to create the band’s very distinctive sound…….when he sold Dave Luther the wrong mouth organ.

 

Funny Old World     innit

 

Keep Smiling

The Uke of Wellington.

Chronicles of "The Uke of Wellington" Chapter 3

In 1966 two newly arrived English immigrants were playing soccer for two different clubs in Wellington, Alec Wishart for Wellington United and Dave Luther for Diamond United. They had never played each other and had never met until one night in early 1968.

 

The two clubs had decided to amalgamate and become one under the new name of Wellington Diamond United (WDU). Because the two sides played in different leagues, their respective management decided a social gathering would be a good way of introducing the players and their supporters to each other.

 

During the evening Dave was introduced to Londoner, Alec and was immediately drawn to a kazoo sticking out of his pocket. After a bit of banter including that old chestnut, ‘Is that a kazoo in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me’ the lads got talking.

 

“Seriously though,” said Dave, “Why do you have that in your pocket?”

 

“Well,” replied Alec, looking over his shoulder as if being followed, “Every time we have a social gathering I am expected to perform my party piece playing the kazoo and singing a cockney son. Tonight it’s, 'Any Old Iron'.”

 

Dave winced a little and said, “That’s weird, I play the guitar and I'm also expected to play at our socials. Tell you what, it must be hard singing and playing a kazoo at the same time, why don’t I get the guitar and strum along with you?”

 

Alec agreed with an audible sigh of relief that almost played a note on the ‘you know what’. They performed three or four songs that night and were an instant hit.

 

Six months later, with three other English newcomers to NZ they formed, 'Hogsnort Rupert’s Original Flagon Band' and two years after Alec and Dave had first met and performed together, they rocketed to No.1 on the NZ Hit Parade with ‘Pretty Girl’…and yes...it featured the kazoo…

 

Funny old world innit.

 

Keep Smiling.

The Uke of Wellington

Chronicles of "The Uke of Wellington" Chapter 2

In March 1971 Skiffle-Pop band, Hogsnort Rupert were riding a high in New Zealand. They had toured the North Island Holiday Resorts in January. Toured nationwide with British chart-topper, Roger Whittaker in February. They were signed for a five week nationwide tour in April with the Miss NZ Show and were currently touring the North Island for Leopard Breweries.

 

Their album ‘Have a Hogsnort Rupert Summer’ had reached No.1 in the album charts. A single from that album, Áunty Alice Bought us This was sitting at No.6 in the single charts and their 1970 No.1 hit, Pretty Girl had been in the Top 20 for eight months. Their music seemed to appeal to all age groups and front man, Alec Wishart had become one of the most recognised faces in the country.

 

So in March the band felt pretty good as they started their tour for Leopard Breweries promoting a new ale called Leopard Strong Beer. The tour took them to Leopard outlets from Wellington to a small pub in Kaikohe at the top of the North Island. This is where our little story starts.

 

Somewhere between Auckland and Whangerei the Hogsnort convoy consisting of three vehicles was meandering North. Vehicle One contained vocalist Alec Wishart, the advertising company's account director for Leopard Breweries and was driven by a brewery rep. Vehicles Two and Three contained the rest of the band members and their instruments and luggage.

 

An hour or so out of Auckland, the convoy found themselves behind a police car--not a traffic cop but the real deal--travelling at the permitted speed limit, all three band vehicles followed suit, as you do.

 

Suddenly, for no apparent reason, Vehicle One pulled out and overtook the police car, obviously breaking the speed limit in the process. (The driver later confessed to being so engrossed in conversation he didn’t notice it was a police car…..well he soon found out.)

 

Dave Luther travelling behind in Vehicle Two could hardly believe what he was seeing and neither could the police car which seemed to hesitate before setting off after the speedster with lights flashing. Vehicle One pulled into a rest area followed by the police car, the other two band vehicles carried on driving.

 

A little further up the road Vehicle Two stopped and after a pause and discussion, Dave suggested they go back to see what was happening. They arrived at the rest area to see a group including the officer in a huddle chatting while Alec was writing in the officer’s note-book. The officer then took his note-book and with a cheery wave jumped in his car and drove off.

 

So what was the outcome and what did Alec write in the officer’s note book?

 

Well no ticket was issued, just a verbal warning and Alec wrote:

 

Hello Suzie, Have a lovely 9th Birthday.

Best Wishes from Alec Wishart and Hogsnort Rupert………

 

……Funny old world in it?

 

Keep Smiling,
The Uke of Wellington

Chronicles of "The Uke of Wellington" Chapter 1

 

On a hot summer's day in February 2001, popular 70's band, Hogsnort Rupert arrived in Blenheim to play a concert in Pollard Park at the tail end of the Marlborough Wine Festival.

 

They sound checked in the afternoon to one man and his dog. Then they went back to the hotel for a meal and shower. Later, the band drove back down to the park in a council van which had been loaned to them for the duration of their stay.

 

Band member, Neil Worboys was the driver elect while purely by accident, the two oldest and founding members of the group, Alec Wishart and Dave Luther sat behind Neil on the driver side, with the younger members on the passenger side.

 

As the band approached the venue, they were astounded by the traffic build-up outside the park which was situated next to a golf club.

 

“Typical,” moaned Dave, “the night of our gig and there’s a do on at the golf club.”

 

“NO ONE,” chorused the band.

 

“Might as well turn round and go back to the hotel and watch tele,” said Kevin Findlater.

 

Just then a very kind looking lady with an armband that read ’Official’ stopped the van, looked at the two glum faces who were peering out (Dave and Alec) and whispered in such a soft caring voice to Neil the driver.

 

“There’s a massive crowd building up in the park, so I suggest you drive down that path and turn left at the front of the stage where there’s a ramp. You can offload your passengers there and you’ll find a special seating area where they will get a very good view of Hogsnort Rupert and it won’t be too loud.”

 

There was a pause before Neil spluttered, “But we are Hogsnort Rupert.”

 

The lady official peered back into the van as a flicker of recognition registered with her.

 

“Oh my God,” she cried, “I am so sorry.” She buried her face in her hands. “I am so, so, sorry.”

 

Neil turned the van towards the back of the stage, he could still see the distraught lady in his rear view mirror, head in hands.

 

“C’mon you old buggers,” laughed Neil, “Everybody out. We’ve got a show to do!”

 

The Band fell out the van in hysterics.

 

That night 7,000 people--one third of the population of Blenheim--sat and enjoyed a fabulous night with Hogsnort Rupert, completely oblivious to the Blenheim faux-pas, until the next morning when Marlborough Radio ran the story on their local news…

 

Funny old world in it?

 

Keep Smiling,

The Uke of Wellington   

"Hogsnort Bulldogs Goodtime Band could be New Zealand greatest 'Skiffle' band ever"
(Alfred E. Tonks, Te Pohue, New Zealand)
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