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Ray Columbus  OBE

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Full name:  Raymond John Columbus
Born:  4th November, 1942
Died:  29th November, 2016
Hometown:  Christchurch, New Zealand
Career began:  1958
Recording Labels:  Zodiac, Impact, Family
Awards:  Loxene Golden Disc Aawrd 1965
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: Website:  www.sergent.com.au/columbusinv.html

  Award presented 2007

Ray Columbus and the Invaders, one of the 1960's New Zealand's legendary Rock 'n' Roll bands, were the first New Zealand act to top the Australian charts.

Ray Columbus, a local Christchurch boy, perplexed the Brothers at Xavier College with his arrival at school with traces of lipstick on his face, from his prize winning tap dancing competition days.  Ray, being a born entrepreneur, soon worked out that he had a good chance of winning the school talent quest and quickly wowed the boys with his renditions of the latest rock numbers.  In 1959 he formed his first band "The Dominoes" with his friends Peter Ward (Drums) and Bill Karaitiana (Bass), initially with an unknown guitarist, who was soon to be replaced by the more competent Andy Joines.  They worked hard at getting weddings and other local Christchurch gigs, until Pete and Bill took of to join Saki and The Jive Five — a group which challenged Max Merritt's then supremacy in the old town.  Max soon checked this group out and offered Bill Karaitiana a jobs in his Meteors, which Bill readily accepted.  Meanwhile Pete had decided to move on to the drum seat of The Downbeats.  Ray got his first break when he was asked to fill in for The Downbeats lead singer, at the local Spencer Street Dance.  He soon became the permanent fixture and eventually the band became known as Ray and the Drifters.  Ray was forever looking for new music and new sounds and took advantage of the music coming into Christchurch through the Deep Freeze Servicemen who came into town looking for Rock 'n' Roll music — and the ladies to dance it with — a combination to be found at a local nitespot known as The Plainsman.  In 1962 Ray was offered his own TV show "Club Columbus" and after taking advice from Howard Morrison, Ray took the plunge and moved with his group to the vasteness of the biggest smoke, and the exciting work available in Auckland, renaming them "Ray Columbus and the Invaders".  Indeed, Ray and the boys certainly did take Auckland by storm!

  Ray Columbus

Brian Ringrose, Max Merritt and Ray Columbus

Ray Columbus

Dion Murphy and Ray Columbus

Ray Columbus

Ray Columbus + The Invaders

Ray Columbus

Ray Columbus with The Stones

 

Ray was a natural extrovert, this along with his original style and flamboyance, plus the band in their smart suits, cool gear, the technical brilliance of Dave Russell and Wally Scott, gave them an edge over local competition.  They soon had a large Auckland following.  Their first single "Money Lover", had Ray's original lyrics and music from lead guitarist Dave Russell.  The Invaders first two attempts at recording didn't hit the right note with the public and in November 1963 they moved to Sydney searching for stardom.  Their first gig was at Surf City, Sydney's top teenage venue.  Ray then appeared on the TV programs "Bandstand" and "Sing Sing Sing".  After this Ray Columbus and the Invaders did hit the right note and the audiences liked it.  Buoyed up by great crowds and good performances they returned to New Zealand in February 1964, secure in their high Australian profile.  In June that year, they released "She's A Mod" in New Zealand where it received a cool reception.  The song had previously been a hit in the U.K. for "The Senators" (a group which featured future Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham), and was written by that group's lead singer.  Ray and the Invaders returned to Sydney and there "She's A Mod" went on to No.1 position on the charts nationally in Australia.  Recorded in Sydney, and written by the group themselves, the follow-up single, "Yo-Yo" failed to reach the charts in Australia, but made Number One back home in New Zealand.  In July 1965, Ray Columbus and the Invaders cover of Gerry and The Pacemakers "Till We Kissed", reached the Top Ten in Sydney, and became their biggest hit yet in New Zealand.  It won a Loxene Golden Disc Award for 1965, and was released in the United States as "I've Been Waiting".  Due to unsuccessful attempts to break into the United States market, caused by the US Consulate refusing them work permits, Jimmy Hill and Billy Kristian (Karaitiana) decided to leave the Invaders and join Max Merritt and the Meteors.  Ray Columbus then decided to take on a solo career, and in July 1966, Ray and his American wife shifted to California and for two years and he performed as Ray Columbus and The Arc Collection.  Ray then returned to New Zealand and began his own record label and publishing company.  In 1974 he was awarded an OBE for his services to the New Zealand entertainment business.  Ray Columbus and The Invaders reformed for a farewell tour in 1994, with guitarist Dave Russell, Jimmy Hill and Brian Ringrose (both of whom are now deceased).  Brian was taking the place of Wally Scott who passed away in 1980. ....

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Christchurch Cathedral 2006

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ROCKONZ 2007

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Award time with Garry Moore

 

In September 2006, Ray took part in the Spencer Street Revival at Christchurch Cathedral as part of the Christchurch Cathedral 150 year Jubilee Celebrations along with local Christchurch musicians and entertainers from those heady 1960 Rock 'n' Roll days.  The following year he was back to perform at the 2007 ROCKONZ Festival which was held in the Christchurch Town Hall, and to receive an International Star's Award from Christchurch Mayor, Garry Moore.