The Wildcats

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Don Clarkson/Johnny Parker Collections


Don Clarkson and The Wildcats
Alton Burgess (Bass), Dave Martin (Lead Guitar), Russ Thompson (Drums), Don Clarkson (Rhythm Guitar) and Bevan Littler (Piano)


The Wildcats with vocalist Johnny Parker


The Wildcats now including vocalist Johnny Parker and new lead guitarist Brian Ringrose


Photographs were taken circa 1959/60 at St David's Church Hall, Colombo Street, Christchurch where the band used to practice, although their best gigs were at St Nicholas' Church in Barrington Street.  The shirts were made by Don Clarkson's mother.  Don Clarkson and The Wildcats released one single on the Robbins Label in 1963 Pretty Baby // Somewhere as RRSP9 - an early Robbins release taking account of the allocated number of the recording.


A shot of The Wildcats, taken at the Railway Hall in Carlyle Street (The Merritt Family's Christchurch Teenagers' Club).  It shows Russ Thompson on drums, Brian Ringrose on lead guitar, Johnny Parker on vocals, Don Clarkson on rhythm guitar, Alton Burgess on bass and Bevan Littler on piano.  Around that time they were approached by Doc Foster who wanted them to take over The Downbeats name along with the dance that The Downbeats were playing at in the Hibernian Hall in Edgeware Road.  Supposedly, Ray Columbus had "taken over" The Downbeats, and Doc who "owned" The Downbeats name, their unifroms and the dance didn't want Ray to have it - he was "pretty pissed off!"  Eventually it was decided that The Wildcats would take over The Downbeats name, the uniforms and the dance at The Hibernian Hall, although it did not last long as the crowd followed Ray - who had coincidentally offered Brian a job in his band which was by then known as Ray and The Drifters, but was soon to be Ray Columbus and The Invaders.  Brian's replacement was Alan Simpson, and The Wildcats had become The Downbeats.  Brian would latterly move to Auckland with Dave Miller and the Byrds (which had morphed out of The Playboys).  Don Clarkson would go on to join The Diamonds, which soon morphed into Peter Nelson and The Castaways.  The Wildcat/Downbeatswere reunited (if in name alone) at the Spencer Street Revisited Concerts in Christchurch Cathedral 2006


Peter Gillette (Keyboards) and Neville Claughton (Bass/Vocals)

Don Clarkson (Guitar/Vocals) and Johnny Parker (Vocals)