The Tremellos

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Jeff Stribling Collection


Toni Williams and The Tremellos - lineup 1958-1960
Toni Williams (Vocals/Guitar), Johhny Stowers (Piano), Noel Peterson (Drums), Nga Williams (Bass Guitar) and Graham Page (Lead Guitar)

Toni Williams learned to play the guitar the hard way while spending 13 months on his back in the Wilson Home for crippled children, recovering from a football injury.  Back at school in 1956, he decided to form a skiffle group, recruiting brothers Graham and Trevor Page on lead guitar and electric wash-board respectively, and Ray Thurlow on tea-chest bass.  Although skitfle seems not to have been a huge movement here, there were a couple of teen out?ts around Auckland who were devotees: The Scorpions and The Meteors are still fondly remembered by some fans.  Williams and his pals found regular, unpaid engagements on the school socials circuit, as well as performing at housewarming parties - from whence came their name, The Housewarmers.  Appearances at many talent quests, all the rage in those days, served to whet their appetite for the life of entertainers, but after a couple of years their sound was dated and only Williams and Graham Page were still enthusiastic enough to want to stay in the game.  In 1958, the pair decided to form a proper band to play the rocking music of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley.  Toni's uncle, Nga Williams, joined as bass guitarist and Noel Peterson became the drummer.  Johnny Stowers was soon recruited to play piano - a major boost for the lads as he was a seasoned musician, even at that young age, and he could also read music.  The band got its name from the ampli?er they used, a Concorde Tremello model.


Toni Williams and The Tremellos - subsequent lineup, circa 1960
Dick Nea (Bass Guitar), Robert Walton (Piano), Herbie Stowers (Drums),
Toko Pompey (Saxophone), Graham Page (Lead Guitar) and Toni Williams (Vocals/Guitar)


The Tremellos' first proper gig was a regular Friday night booking at The Gandhi Hall in Victoria Street, filling the late night spot.  In those days, the most popular regular dances were held at The Trades Hall (later called The Jive Centre), The Maori Community Hall, The Orange Hall and The Gandhi Hall. It seems to have been the custom for dancegoers to move from venue to venue in the course of an evening, so The Tremellos' gig started at midnight and finished at 4:00am.  They were by all accounts a rocking good band.  For some of The Tremellos, enough was enough already.   Noel Peterson left and was replaced by Johnny Stowers' brother Herbie.  Nga left and was replaced by Dick Neil, then Johnny Stowers decided to go and was replaced by Robert Walton.  Back in Auckland, the gigging and recording continued.  The band was still popular, but by now Toni Williams was being groomed as a solo attraction and his name was changed to Antoni Williams.  During their last months together, they clocked up an impressive list of support gigs with the likes of American stars Bobby Rydell, Connie Francis, Jimmie Rogers, The Everly Brothers, Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette, Gene McDaniels, Johnny Ray, Linda Scott and many others.  In 1963, they called it quits as the scene was rapidly changing and some of the guys had families, and regular jobs, so they began to look more attractive than life on the road and no royalties from the records they were making.  Williams was established as a solo act and, after appearing in the New Zealand Operatic Society production of Porgy and Bess alongside Inia Te Wiata, moved to the lucrative club circuit in Australia for the next 12 years.  He came home in 1975, and worked from his home base, which was now Christchurch, until his death in 2016.