Peter Gillette

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    With Peter Nelson and The Casaways. Award presented 2007   Award presented 2009

Peter Gillette Collection


Peter Gillette - on the Hammond Organ with Peter Nelson and The Castaways (Caroline Bay Soundshell, Timaru

Simon Peter Gillette was born in England on June 06th, 1944 and died peacefully in Christchurch on Friday May 17th, 2024.  His musical background was centred around keyboards, however he spent some time in groups on rhythm guitar.  Whilst active in several groups over the years, his main bands have been - The Silhouettes, The Venturers, The Downbeats, The Opposition, Peter Nelson + The Castaways, Traque, The Chapta, The Footsteps, Freedom, The Moviez, Chasing Paper, Larry + Peter, Lyn + Peter and Ready-Steady-Go.


The Opposition

The Downbeats

Peter Nelson and The Castaways

The Traque



The Footsteps


Ready, Steady, Go!


Peter's musical career started with with a 4 week fill-in for Malcolm Jones and The Silhouettes.  This was followed closely by a stint at Surf City with "The Venturers" - which included George Drayton (Bass), Ted Meares (Guitar) and Jim Whitfield (Drums).  A change in bass player (Peter Hansen replaced George Drayton) saw the group move on to The Plainsman.  The Downbeats which featured Arthur Muir (Guitar), Don Clarkson (Guitar), Doug Petrie (Drums) and Paul Bradley (Bass) was the next port of call for the up-and-coming keyboardist.  A long succession of bands followed!  He toured with Lulu, and has been involved in many, many recordings.



Peter joined Peter Nelson and The Castaways in Wellington playing nightclubs and making recordings, before moving on to Sydney for a few years where the group featured on all major TV networks, and were regulars on Bandstand, It's All Happening, as well as Billy Thorpes TV Show.  Peter Nelson + The Castaways were resident at he The Hawaiian Eye NiteClub, The Whisky A Go Go, The P.A. Club, and negotiated a sucessful recording contract with EMI  Peter played at the Smiggins Hole Ski Resort near Thredbo, NSW for 4 months with Dave Kennedy and Peter Skerrett, after which he returned to Sydney for one month playing hotels etc.  November 1968 saw the start of a four month tour of Vietnam.  Based at the Da Nang Hotel, the group (which again included Dave Kennedy) performed 14 shows a week with frequent trips on C130 Hercules aircraft.  He again went back to Sydney to team up with Lenny Ormsby (ex Castaways) in a group called Traque - a two year residency at the Hawaiian Eye's Cheetah Room followed.


PN + The Castaways - EMI Promo Wellington 1968


Castaway Peter Gillette on the Vox Continental Organ

PN + The Castaways - EMI Australia Promo 1966


Christchurch, New Zealand was the next destination to join Chapta from 1971-73 on the Mojos/Ballins Hotels circuit.  Several south and north island tours backing major NZ artists resulted, with the highlight being a nationwide tour with Lulu.  Peter then joined Neville Barrie's Footsteps with Neville on guitar and John Clark on drums, and spent 5 years playing hotels, clubs, private functions (7-8 jobs per week !) and heaps of radio and TV commercials.  Freedom was formed with Doug Petrie and Lyall Barron and that group appeared at The Bush Inn before the next venture Moviez (with Pat, Leon and Jimmy Kearns plus Kerry Church) continued at The Bush Inn before a move to the Adam's Apple group (with Dave Kennedy, Jay Peters, Kerry Church and Paul Matthews).  Reality kicked in briefly (for 3 months) and Peter took over the music department of Sedley Wells in Riccarton, Christchurch, before again being caught by the music bug and forming a trio with Leon and Jimmy Kearns.  Chasing Paper with Brian "Barnie" Smith, Larry McKay, and drummer Peter Casserley, was the next focus.  Three separate two-year residencies were to follow with Allan Morrison at Cokers Hotel (in parallel with a Monday and Sunday stint at Henry Africa's) and The Star And Garter Hotel, before the "Larry and Peter" duo finally surfaced at the Star and Garter.  Allan and Peter then did two years at the Sequoia Restaurant.


Peter accepts the award from Mayor Bob Parker

Peter accepts the award

Peter Gillette - Star!

Murray "Muzza" Inglis with Peter Gillette


1991 ushered in a period of cabaret-style combos and venues, which included Ready-Steady-Go at Twiggers (Lyn and Peter, Peter Nelson, Tracey Gardyne, Brian Smith), and Lyn and Peter at the Sequoia and Hoon Hay 88 Restaurants.  1976-86 was consumed with the ultra-successful That's Country TV Series of which Peter was one of only two musicians who performed in EVERY show - over 200 programmes were sold to Cable TV Networks in the USA, making That's Country one of the greatest NZTV productions ever.  Recently Peter has been running the Peter Gillette Keyboard School Of Music which has involved teaching at intermediate and secondary schools, and he is just loving it.  At the ROCKONZ Awards Dinner 2009, Peter was presented with a prestigious New Zealand Star Award for his work in the entertainment business.


—  Footsteps era

—  with Timaru's Hottentots (on Univox)


At Twiggers "Ready-Steady-Go"

At Twiggers "Ready-Steady-Go"

British Cabaret


The "That's Country" Backing Band


Peter Gillette with the Prophet 5 Remote KeyTar

The "Touch of Country Troopers" - June '96


Peter Gillette and Kenny Williams

The Happy Half Hour Show

Peter Gillette and Neville Barrie



Christchurch Cathedral 2006



Peter was famous for his spirited performances behind the Hammond Organ. Here he is seen in his inimitable mode during the "Spencer Street Revisited" concerts in Christchurch Cathedral in 2006.