Max Merritt

Full name:   Maxwell James Merritt
Born:   April 30th, 1941
Hometown:   Christchurch New Zealand
Career began:   1956
First Record:   Get A Haircut ( HMV 1959)
Labels:   HMV, Zodiac, Viking, Parlophone, Polydor, Arista, RCA
First album:   C'mon Let's Go (1960)
Christchurch Farewell Concert:   1962
First Australian Visit:   1963
First Viking Single:   1964
Max's Accident:   1967
Uptight TV Show:   1968
Official Website:   www.maxmerritt.com.au

ROCKONZ
International
Star
2007

ROCKONZ
Special
Award
2007

Max Merritt ...

Max Merritt is a Canterbury singer, songwriter and musician who is renowned as an interpreter of soul music and R&B.  He rose to prominence in New Zealand in the late 1950s and early 1960s before relocating to Australia in the mid-1960s.  Backed by his band The Meteors, he was widely acknowledged as one of the best local performers of his day; his influence did much to popularise those styles in Australia at a time when they were rarely heard on commercial radio.  Max became interested in music at an early age and started taking guitar lessons at twelve.  In the mid-50s he discovered rock'n'roll and fell under the spell of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley.  In 1956, just after leaving school at 15, he formed The Meteors with friends Ross Clancy (sax), Peter Patene (piano), Ian Glass (bass) and Pete Sowden (drums).

  Max Merritt
Max with Johnny Devlin and (right) with Peter Sowden, Billy Karaitiana and Maurice Cook

  They started out as a part-time group, playing at dances and at charity concerts at the local Odeon theatre.  Over the next six years the band played many such shows, raising thousands of dollars for local charities.  During the day Max worked his apprenticeship in his father's bricklaying business.  With the enthusiastic support of his parents and the help of Odeon manager Trevor King, they launched Max in the music business, hiring and setting him up in his own venue at the Railway Hall in Christchurch, which they dubbed "The Teenage Club".  Held every Sunday from 3-10 pm, The Teenage Club was an instant success.  The first and only attraction of its kind in town, it drew hundreds of local teenagers every week and proved hugely popular in a city and at a time when almost all businesses and public venues were closed until late on Sunday afternoon.  By 1959 the Teenage Club had added a regular Wednesday night session, and The Meteors had become the top youth attraction in Christchurch.  
Max Merritt
Max with James Brown, in the studio, and with Wilson Pickett

Max received the ultimate seal of approval in January 1959 when New Zealand's top rocker Johnny Devlin, then at the peak of his meteoric career, played in Christchurch before 3000 fans, after which he went across town especially to meet Max, who was playing at a "Rock 'n' Roll Jamboree" charity concert.  According to New Zealand music historian John Dix, the meeting also made a big impression on Devlin's manager Graham Dent, who enthusiastically sang their praises to Auckland promoter Harry M. Miller.  By 1959 the Teenage Club had added a regular Wednesday night session, and The Meteors had become the top youth attraction in Christchurch.