Lester ’Lips’ Mundell 1950-2015

image001 Lester Mundell was a member of the Wellington Blues Club and a harp player in his wife and musical partner Carol Bean’s band, Blue Highways. They played for Roomfulla Blues at the Bristol over a ten year period.

Lester’s day job was as a chief advisor to the Ministry of Health, he advised in the areas of disability legislation. He had four children; his son Finn and three step-daughters, Jyoti, Matreya and Mitra.

It wasn’t until Lester’s memorial service on June 6th that we discovered he’d learned to play harmonica from his musically gifted mother Dorothy. She was a pianist and a fine singer, a soprano trained by Sister Mary Leo. On the family summer holidays Dorothy would bring out her harmonica and entertain holiday makers on beaches near New Plymouth where the family grew up. She also taught Lester how to cook – another one of his passions. At high school Lester was in a Madrigal Choir and he enjoyed acting in school musicals.
image003Lester’s first band was in Palmerston North in the late 60s. He played T-chest bass. The band was called The Anonymous Nipple and Stomach Trouble of 1968 Band. Their 2nd jug band was called The Nash Street Nooskie Band. They had a gig in Wellington once. They had one or two gigs in Palmy, but basically they just hung out and got into heaps of trouble and had fun listening and playing along to old blues and jug band albums.

At Lester’s memorial service, Rowan Peters (the guy playing banjo) arrived unexpectedly from Wales. He told the stories of those days, those infamous days of their enduring friendships and all the mad Goon Show, Furry Freak Brothers’ goings on. We laughed and we cried for Lester – a man who was gentle and loving and had great spirit and love of music. He will be sadly missed.

Lester died two years after a liver transplant. He’d had HepC since living at Nash Street, and he died of a sudden pneumonia on June 1st, 2015. May he Rest in Peace.

Elliotte Fuimaono

Elliotte Fuimaono

You’ll often see Elliotte Fuimaono on bass at the Bristol, leaning back with eyes slightly closed, behind Darren Watson, Dave Murphy, or the Kemptones. His baselines have anchored many a jam night and special show, and he has recorded with Darren Watson, Brannigan Kaa, and Carol Bean. Recently I joined Elliotte for a quiet beer and a chat.

In 1960 Elliotte Fuimaono was born to Maori and Samoan parents in the King Country town of Taumarunui. His early life centred around family and church: first a mainly Maori church, then a Samoan church after his family moved to Wellington when he was 9.

Music started with singing at church, and later playing on family instruments. He took up bass at his brother’s 21st. His brother was the usual bass player for the family band, but he didn’t want to do it on his birthday so Elliotte filled in and has never stopped. He has been playing in family bands since 1975. They used to play open air Christian gigs at Pigeon Park on Sundays, then switched to playing covers, and later originals, as Taste of Bounty.

After the death of dynamic Hendrix-inspired lead guitarist Roy Fuimaono, the band became Bounty, then New Shuz, playing mainly pubs, but also at Sweetwaters. Elliotte joined Brannigan Kaa’s Brown Street about the same time as Chicago Smokeshop was smoking stages all over New Zealand. The bands went to each other’s gigs, often playing at the Oaks and at Western Park jams.

The 90s found him joining South Side of Bombay, who had been going 6 years and already had a hit single “What’s The Time Mr Wolf”. Elliotte spent 3 years with them, touring New Zealand, Australia and Noumea as a full-time musician. That was quite a cool band, wasn’t it? “Apparently – I was only in it!” Lance Sua told me once that touring with SSOB was what made you as a bass player. “Apparently … [Laughs] Well, I suppose you make less mistakes.”

At jam nights you pick up songs very quickly by ear. You seem to have very good ears. “Apparently!” How did you end up getting involved with the Blues Club? “I started coming along about 4 or 5 years ago just to listen and enjoy the night. I already knew Dougal Spier – he was nice to me. I didn’t know anyone else. Then I started playing music with Dougal. I love the Blues Club. I like to go along no matter who is playing.”

Who do you admire? “I like all the big names but I like watching local guys play. I get more out of that than US players. It’s not like watching a DVD. It’s more immediate.”

New Zealand bass players he likes include Brent Thompson, Max Stowers, Max Hohepa, Ryan Monga, Paul Dyne, and another familiar face at the Blues Club, George Barris.

Elliotte admits that punctuality isn’t his strong point. A couple of times he’s turned up for a gig after the band has started playing. “Everyone knows I’m going to be late, but I’m going to turn up anyway.” I mentioned that at the previous evening’s jam I was tired and ratty, didn’t feel like singing at all, but once I started playing I suddenly found my mojo. “It always happens like that. Sometimes you turn up, you’re so tired … you’ve been on the jackhammer all day [at work], but you start playing and you get a big lift that carries you through. It happens straight away, as soon as you start the first song.”

Bluznuz guest editor (June issue) – Al Witham  – June 2008

Club member profile: “Gentleman” George Barris

George Barris - Photo by Don Laing

George Barris – Photo by Don Laing

George is a stand-up man who plays a stand-up bass and electric bass.

This month, George Barris is onstage with both Highway and Midnight Ramblers.

“My first professional band was The Bitter End from Wellington. In 1968, I moved to Auckland and joined The Underdogs.” ”

In late 1968 I formed Jigsaw with Underdogs drummer Tony Walton and two friends from Wellington, Chaz Burke-Kennedy on guitar and Glyn Mason on vocals. When Glyn left to join The Rebels we became Fresh Air with Chris Seresin on keyboards.”

“I briefly joined Troubled Mind, then moved back to Wellington and was approached to join Highway.” “I did a stint with Blerta after Highway in the early 70s, and between that and my present tenure with Laura Collins, there have been too many bands and gigs to mention!”

Mike Jones RIP

Gallery

Mike Jones was a class act. He sang at the Roomfulla Blues many times. For those who remember, here are some photos from Trudy Benham’s collection. We say, a fond farewell to a great musician!

Roomfulla Blues Christmas photos by Don Laing

 

 

Rob Winch Obituary

Robin Howard Winch, musician.  B 14 August 1952, Nottingham, England;  m Ann (dec), 2 s;  d Wellington, 8 August 2012, aged 59.

Rob Winch and his brother Martin were stalwarts of the New Zealand music scene who came to prominence as members of the fabled 1860 Band, the jazz-influenced rock outfit in Wellington that took its name from the long-defunct Lambton Quay bar they were resident at and where they commanded a large and loyal following in the late 1970s. Tragically, both brothers were to die young from cancer, Martin predeceasing his younger brother by less than 18 months.  In another bitter twist, Rob had lost his beloved wife Ann to cancer last year.

The 1860 Band was something of a revelation on the local music scene.  Most of the members were veterans of the mighty Quincy Conserve, a band that played for many years at the old Downtown Club.  Two of this new band’s line-up were relative newcomers to Wellington, brothers Martin and Rob Winch on guitar and bass respectively.  Who could have known then the lasting impact these two would have on the New Zealand music scene in the decades ahead.

Rob was a rock steady yet wonderfully creative bass player who could, at the drop of a hat, deliver phenomenal and inventive melodic solos, ideally suited to the jazz-rock repertoire of the band.  He was also their main singer.  Not many people were initially aware that he, like his brother Martin, was also a superb guitarist.

Originally from Nottingham, England, Rob arrived in Auckland with his family in 1963.  They soon relocated to Nelson, where Rob was a pupil at Nelson College.  His father had been a Policeman in the UK, and Rob was considering a career in the probation service after finishing school.  Instead, he discovered that he had a talent for music and succumbed to the lure of the guitar and a life on the road as a member of numerous pop and rock bands.

In the early 70’s Rob moved to Wellington, where he became a member of the popular psychedelic folk/rock group Tamburlaine.  By the mid-seventies he was playing in Christchurch with Brigade before returning to Wellington to join the outfit he was to become most closely associated with – the 1860 Band.

When original bass player Dave Pearson left, Rob was recruited and shortly afterwards he suggested that the band hire his brother, Martin, from the recently defunct Auckland band Dr Tree, as guitarist and the rest, as they say, is history.  At their peak, the 1860 Band was undoubtedly the biggest crowd pulling crew in town.  It was with this band that Rob’s compositional talent began to develop, and he wrote the track ‘Von Tempsky’ for the album of that name.  He also shares lead vocals with Geoff Culverwell on the bands biggest selling single, ‘That’s The Kind Of Love I’ve Got For You’.

Rob was bass player for the Rodger Fox Big Band from 1978 to 1981.  He accompanied them on their 1980 tour to Montreux, Switzerland, where their performance was recorded live before continuing to New York, where they cut “New York Tapes”, a most excellent album.  Then in 1981, the band toured to the UK, Montreux (and another live album) and Poland.

Back home, he began to develop and expand his skills to encompass work as a vocalist on numerous recording and television sessions and added the art of percussion to his repertoire.  All this led him quite naturally into the business of jingle writing, and he quickly became the ‘go to’ guy for advertising agencies needing a campaign.  That launched his career as the music creator of countless recording studio, television and film production company projects around the country and abroad.  Undoubtedly, his most recognisable television commercial sound track is the iconic ‘Cruising On The Inter Islander’.

In 2003, Rob once again teamed up with Martin to tour their tribute to Eric Clapton show around the country to sell out houses.  Later that year, he took his family to live in Nashville for several months while he recorded an album of his own compositions, “It’s About Time”.

Stricken by several devastating illnesses in more recent years, the lad never complained and many never knew he’d been gravely ill.  In 2011, having cared for his beloved wife Ann until her untimely death, he again ventured out into the live performance scene and showed that he still had more than most to offer where serious guitar chops were concerned.  Such a player, such authority, such feeling.  Those lucky enough to see and hear him at his last gigs at the Bristol Hotel in Wellington were enthralled at his passionate, inspired guitar solos and soulful singing – Clapton would have saluted him.

Hugely admired by musicians and fans alike for his impeccable musical taste, his creativeness, humble attitude, genuine interest in others and a truly insane sense of humour, Rob had the lovely gift of being able to positively influence the lives of almost all those he came in contact with.  His circle of friends was wide and encompassed not only those from across the creative community here and abroad, but people from all walks of life.

Robin Howard Winch died peacefully in Wellington Hospital from complications following a bone marrow transplant on 8 August 2012, six days short of his sixtieth birthday.  His life was celebrated to the full at his funeral, held in Wellington on 13 August 2012.  He is survived by his mother Molly and his sons Ben and Riley.

Roger Watkins

ROOMFULLA BLUES History

ROOMFULLA BLUES has a long history and it’s getting longer! Some of those people involved in shaping the club from behind the scenes have also kindly contributed their stories.

The year Pip Payne got the blues club off the ground in Wellington was quite a year for music all around. An ad in the Wellington Evening Post shows that the first ever Roomfulla Blues show was at The Venue, Thursday 6 June 1996!

In November 1997 the first BluzNuz newsletter for the Roomfulla Blues gig, sponsored by the Lion’s Club at Bill Direen’s, announced the following acts:

  • Kokomo Blues CD release party
  • Bullfrog Rata
  • Billy TK Junior
  • Darren Watson

December

  • Capital Blues Xmas Party with Kayte and the Barflies and Neil Billington Band
  • John Hammond and Duke Robillard @ the James Cabaret
  • Roomfulla Blues jam set

Next followed a series of events; Zebos hosting Kokomo Blues, Summer City Jazz and Blues Series (Darren Watson & the Overnight Sensations, the Ronnie Taylor band, Roomfulla Blues house band Dougal Speir, Dave Murphy, Neil Billington and Marg Layton), Byron Bay Festival, Hamilton Blues Club, a Sunday 2-3 Radio Active Blues Show, and a Radio Access Blues Show.

Other gigs featured and advertised by the BluzNuz around the same time were:

  • Ben Harper @ the Town Hall
  • The Velox Bros at Bill Direens
  • Neville Bros- MFC
  • Tony Joe White- James Cabaret
  • Marg, Bill lake, Andrew, Chris @ Kapiti Live
  • BB King
  • Amazing Rhythm Aces
  • Julian Dixon and Matt Hay
  • Shayn Wills
  • The Behemoths (Darren Bob Smith, Richard Te One, Darren Hancock)
  • Pip Payne
  • Dave Murphy
  • The Pauas

As we said- it was a great time for music!!!!

The club’s weekly CD raffle was started and there was an NZBS contest for the best guitarist. The prize was a trip to Hamilton’s Bourbon St Blues Festival plus a Dobro guitar, 2nd prize was a Marshall amp!

The Queen’s Birthday Blues Bash featured Hammond Gamble and Kokomo Blues, and Midge Marsden and Bullfrog Rata were playing at Vincent’s, Newtown,
with the Amazing Rhythm Aces, at James Cabaret.

To continue at the Roomfulla Blues were the bands

  • The Windy City Strugglers
  • Tin Pan Alley
  • Velox Bros
  • Bullfrog and the Alligators
  • The Behemoths
  • Whitireia Blues Experience

At other gigs in town at the time

  • Laura Collins and Dave Murphy
  • Winnie Winston (banjo Peddle steel–) Richard Klein
  • Grassroots Jill Brassell and Lisa Beech

Steve O’Connor passes away

It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of former club member, Steve O’Connor, earlier this week. He had undergone major surgery last year to remove a large brain tumour but unfortunately succumbed to another tumour which was only discovered a few weeks ago.  Steve joined the club in 2007 and, together with his wife Cheryl, had worked on the club committee before moving back to New Plymouth in 2010.

Steve was a very talented guitarist and could play a wide range of styles but his first love was the blues – having a real appreciation for early Fleetwood Mac material along with the other 60’s Blues Boom players. Being brought up in England in the 60’s, he was also fortunate enough to have seen many of these bands when they were still touring.

Since leaving Wellington, Steve and Cheryl would make regular trips back to the capital and always coincided these trips with a jam night at the Bristol. He loved getting up and playing with the house band. The last time they were down Steve brought his Les Paul and played several of the old Mac songs – and despite still recuperating from surgery at the time – put on a stellar show.  Our sympathy goes out to Cheryl and his two children, Liam and Kerry.

 

 

 

THE HISTORY OF CAPITAL BLUES – Recollections from DOUGAL SPEIR

Recollections from DOUGAL SPEIR

It was about September 1995 and we were playing at Cactus Jacks, an establishment long since disappeared from the Wellington music venue scene when we were introduced to this bubbly fellow with what sounded to me like a “Sowf Lundin” accent. His idea was to first play at an afternoon concert we had arranged in a couple of weeks time and second to start up a sort of a jam night at any local venue that might accommodate on an early week night. After a couple more brackets and a few drinks it sounded like a good idea so Pip Payne, Dave Head and I made it our mission to search out a suitable venue. Ironically the venue we were able to talk into letting us carry out Pips’ idea was called “The Venue” which was situated in Manners Street above the Dukes Arcade (a site infamous for the patronage of the establishment that used to reside there).

Pip Payne was the real mover and shaker of the three of us whereas Dave and I saw it as an opportunity for another night out and a chance to enjoy ourselves under the banner of “Band”. As I recall the venue owner Tex (it just gets better doesn’t it!) agreed to let us have our musical way on a Tuesday night and he would throw a couple of drinks at the musicians (in our case this turned out to be taken literally at a much later date) and so the Blues Club was born. We provided a scant array of backline gear such as drums, bass and guitar amps and a bit of a sound system helped by the fact that we were playing there a lot and didn’t have to move the gear much. Musicians were invited through word of mouth to come and have a play either on their own or with friends (yes musicians have friends, I think). This proved to be a reasonably popular night by all accounts. There never really was a forecast of longevity at “The Venue” and for one reason or another it was decided to look elsewhere for another venue.

The exact time escapes me but I would think it was around mid 1996 when Bill Direens was brought in as the next club venue and it would take place on a Thursday Night. During this time the club attracted a lot of top class musicians who gave their time for free and really made the night a memorable gig for not only the punters but also other musicians. It also became necessary for a management structure to take shape. Other stuff started becoming apparent as well, such as a sound person, booking agent type of person and it was obvious that eventually people’s good will would cease and some form of monetary reward would be sought hence the move to the Hotel Bristol.

A lot of people have put a lot of time and effort into the club and a lot of musicians have played for a lot less than they would expect to get normally and it has been this kind of effort that has kept the club going. Unfortunately all three of the venues mentioned in this little blurb (apart from the Bristol) have bitten the dust and that’s sad as it means there are three less live music venues to visit and enjoy the particular type of artist that can be seen at the Bristol every Thursday night. I have not mentioned specific people as it would double the size of this blurb. Suffice to say that from small beginnings the club has survived over ten years in a sometimes ambivalent market and with the support of club members, committee members, the Hotel Bristol and Joe public. I reckon there is no reason it can’t survive another ten years.
Cheers
Dougal Speir

Earl Pollard passes away

It is with great regret that we say farewell to Earl Pollard – a wonderful man, a great drummer and a friend to many. We send condolences to his family. Earl played many a gig at Roomfulla Blues with band leaders Bullfrog Rata and Laura Collins. From all who played music with him, and from all the audiences who enjoyed listening to him, may Earl rest in peace – we’re sure he’s in drummer heaven.