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THE SAINTS  —  Original Saints - Ross Clancy (Tenor Sax), Neale McGrath (Drums), Tony Athfield (Lead Guitar), Gary Jones (Vocals) and John "Doc" Foster (Piano)

Circa 1958, local Christchurch Boys' High lads Gary Jones and Neale McGrath, who was looking to form a rock group, met and agreed to start looking for appropriate musicians to join them.   Lead guitarist Tony Athfield and pianist John "Doc" Foster were their first finds.  Gary provided the vocals and Neale the drumming, with practice happening at Neale's parents home, they quickly became a well rehearsed group, and settled on the name, "The Saints".  As was common in the day, they performed mostly in Church Halls, but also at private functions, their first ever public performance was at the Gaiety Dance Olivier's Road Hall.  Teenage dances became popular in Christchurch and were always well attended.  By 1959, Max Merritt and the Meteors had established themselves at the Christchurch Teenagers' Club, and The Saints managed to get into a slot at this dance as well as the Boatsheds Hall in Akaroa, as they became more and more popular.  Ross Clancy had been playing sax with Max Merritt and the Meteors since 1956, and on leaving at the end of 1958 joined the Saints in 1959, completing the soundscape of the group.  Ray Columbus was younger at that stage and used to turn up to a lot of Saints rehearsals.  Local entrepreneur and promoter Bart Ball put together a "Rock 'n' Roll Jamboree" and invited eight Christchurch bands to compete a Friday and Saturday night at the St James Theatre in Tuam Street.  This was a continuous Rock 'n' Roll show, and guest artists also performed, these included Danny McGirr, Julie Campbell, Michael Croft and Max Merritt and the Meteors.  Competitors in the contest, sponsored by Coca Cola - with a first prize of £100 and North Island tour, were judged by audience voting.  They were - Johnny Rivas and the Golden Rockets, Peter McMullan with Pat Neho, Bobby Davis and The Dazzlers, The Viscounts, The Rhythm Rockers, Danny McGirr's Harlequin Skiffle Group, The Dices, and the Saints, with each group performing four songs.  The Saints chose, "Guitar Boogie", "Rockin' Robin", "Hoots Mon" and "Giddy Up A Ding Dong".  The Saints won with a 38 point lead over the Harlequin Skiffle Group.  The tour was supposedly with "Rock 'n' Roll Promotions" (in fact fact Bart Ball), but it never eventuated.  Shortly thereafter Mac Jamieson (late of Bobby Davis and the Dazzlers) joined The Saints, and they did a couple of successful rock concerts for Bart Ball, before Bart offered to manage the group.  This was agreed and under Bart they performed at various functions and locations around Canterbury.  A teenage dance venue was organised at the Hibernian Hall in Barbadoes Street and the Saints played there, alternating with Max Merritt and the Meteors, who were also running a dance at the Carlyle Street Hall.  Occasionally The Saints used Maree and Pam Courtney as backing singers.  Judy Bailey was another earlier singer.

 

Original Saints now with Mac Jamieson on bass

 

Although popular, Bart Ball decided to split the group up and Doc Foster, Ross Clancy and Tony Athfield moved to the Downbeats.  This left Gary Jones and Neale McGrath to form yet another version of the Saints.  Rongo Nehoneho (also known as Pat Neho) joined on lead guitar, and the line-up (seen below) became - Gary Jones (Vocals), Neale McGrath (Drums), Brian Wing (Bass Guitar), Paul Sintes (Rhythm Guitar), Pat Neho (Lead Guitar), Stuart Murray (Piano), Stu Parsons (Baritone Sax), Will Schneider (Tenor Sax) and Rod Gibson (Tenor Sax).  Pat Neho had been working with Peter McMullan, and Will Schneider had just left Max Merritt and the Meteors.  Rod Gibson was to join Max Merritt after the Saints broke up.  This iteration of the Saints continued at dances at the Hibernian Hall as well as other venues, including Saturday mornings for the Coca Cola Bottlers Club held at the Civic Theatre with compare Harold Keen.  When they broke up, Gary Jones and Neale McGrath went on to do other things. Pat Neho rejoined Peter McMullan in a group called Peter Lewis and the Trisonic Beat.

 

The Saints (Version 2) - saxes and rhythm yet to come

 

Circa 1962, Pat Neho put together a new group using members of some of the groups that had been around Christchurch during the late 50's.  Despite having no real right to do so, he used the name of The Saints, and the line-up was - Peter McMullan (Vocals), Phil Garland (Guitar, Vocals), Bernie Jones (Drums), Pat Neho (Lead Guitar), Ross Clancy (Tenor Sax), Brian Wing (Bass Guitar) and Stuart Murray (Piano).  Vocalist Peter McMullan had previously recorded five singles during 1959 and 1960 as Peter Lewis and the Trisonic Beat, a group which consisted of Peter on vocals, Pat Neho on guitar, Johnny Philpott on drums and Ray Kamo on bass guitar.  Phil Garland was a rocker and Bernie Jones was playing drums in the 1959 line-up of Max Merritt and the Meteors.  Ross, Brian and Stuart had all previously been members of the original Saints.  During 1962, a young Christchurch singer, Diane Jacobs, was just starting to make a name for herself, and The Saints provided backing for her on a number of occasions.  Diane later changed her name and went on to become the very successful soloist, Dinah Lee.  When Peter McMullan left the group he was replaced by "Super" Cyril Edwards, and when this iteration of The Saints disbanded in 1962, Phil Garland formed the Playboys with Diane joining him and singing in the new band for a short time.  The Saints only ever released one recording under that name and it was "Psycho"/"Scotland Yard" - on the Robbins label in 1962.

 

The "New" Saints with Diane Jacobs