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The Downbeats

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Rob Carpenter / Don Clarkson Collections

 
 

An early iteration of The Downbeats featuring Ray Columbus in the vocal slot  —  
Mac Jamieson (Bass), Peter Ward (Drums), Ross Clancy (Saxophone), Ray Columbus (Vocals), Tony Athfield (Guitar) and Doc Foster (Piano)

On a particular night in 1960, Ray Columbus attended an engagement by The Downbeats and found that the lead vocalist, Jack Lark, wasn't there.  Ray was given an opportunity to sing and was so successful he remained in that lead vocalist spot.  Ray took the opportunity to introduce more Rock 'n' Roll numbers into the band's set-lists.  When someone left the band, Ray always organised a replacement — he had effectively "taken over the band".  He introduced a bass player named Mac Jamieson - also from the Saints, and before that with Bobby Davis and the Dazzlers.  When Doc called it a day and guitarist Tony Athfield left, a 15-year-old schoolboy, Dave Russell was recruited as lead guitarist.  Eventually, on the departure of the last of the old Downbeats (saxophonist Ross Clancy), Brian Ringrose joined as a guitarist.  This new line-up of Ray Columbus (Vocals), Dave Russell and Brian Ringrose (Guitars), Mac Jamieson (Bass) and Peter Ward (Drums) was to become Ray and the Drifters.

 
 

The Downbeats again featuring Ray Columbus (Vocals)


Pre-Invader "Downbeats" with Dave Russell and Pete Ward

 
 

Don Clarkson, who was running The Wildcats was approached by Doc Foster who wanted The Wildcats 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 uniforms and the dance, didn't want Ray to have it all - he was "pretty pissed off!".

 
 

The Downbeats with vocalist Johnny Parker


Russ, Alton, Allan, Don, Bevan and Johnny

 
 

Eventually it was decided that The Wildcats would take over the uniforms and the dance at The Hibernian Hall, although it did not last long as the crowd followed Ray - who had coincidentally offered Wildcat's guitarist Brian Ringrose a job in his new band which was by then Ray Columbus and The Invaders.  Brian's replacement in The Wildcats was Alan Simpson, and The Wildcats were now The New Downbeats.

 
 

A live performance shot of The Downbeats featuring
vocalist Johnny Parker out front


A Downbeats promotional shot


The Wildcats now morphed into The Downbeats with their
distinctive white and red uniforms

 
 

The Downbeats' lineup of the day included Beven Littler (Piano), Alan Simpson (Lead Guitar), Alton Burgess (Bass), Russ Thompson (Drums),
Johnny Parker (Vocals) and Don Clarkson (Rhythm Guitar)

 
 

Undoubtedly the most successful combination of the Downbeats in the rock ear was the line-up which featured Paul Bradley on bass guitar, Doug Petrie on drums, Arthur Muir on rhythm guitar, Don Clarkson on bass, Peter Gillette on keyboards and Johnny Parker on vocals.  Don Clarkson tells us that ... "we did well with this line-up, particularly doing a lot of work in Timaru, although the earlier line-up had also worked down there.  I remember playing the Caroline Bay Sound Shell for the Miss Caroline Bay contest to what was said to be 12,000 people!  If that crowd estimate was correct that's the biggest crowd I ever played to.  We also played the Miss New Zealand contest in the Dunedin Town Hall and I think it was on the same visit we were doing a dance in the back hall of the Dunedin Town Hall when the caretaker turned the power off in the middle of a number because it was midnight, according to him!  I guess he just wasn't too Rock 'n' Roll!"

 
 

The next iteration of The Downbeats - no fancy lapels, but again featuring Johnny Parker
Doug Petrie, Paul Bradley, Peter Gillette, Arthur Muir, Don Clarkson and Johnny Parker


A publicity oriented shot of The Downbeats with copious quantities of eye-candy
Doug Petrie, Arthur Muir, Don Clarkson (top), Johnny Parker (top), Paul Bradley and Peter Gillette

 
 

Unknown venue, but the group sporting their very smart uniforms and Johnny Parker in a suit.
Doug Petrie, Peter Gillette, Arthur Muir, Johnny Parker (top), Don Clarkson and Paul Bradley


No uniforms required at The Christchurch Teenagers' Club - Railway Hall, Carlyle Street
Arthur Muir, Doug Petrie, Don Clarkson, Paul Bradley and Peter Gillette

 
 

What was almost certainly Don Clarkson's last attempt to perpetuate The Downbeats featured a new line-up with Royce Richards on drums, Ron Hunter on lead guitar, Don Clarkson on bass guitar, Peter Gillette on rhythm guitar and Les Inwood on vocals.  The photos were taken at the Methodist Church Hall in Harewood Road (also used for church dances and then known as Daniel's Den).  This version of The Downbeats did not survive very long at all, as they were unable to sustain decent crowds.

 

 

Royce Richards, Ron Hunter, Don Clarkson and Peter Gillette


The Downbeats


Royce Richards, Ron Hunter, Don Clarkson and Peter Gillette

 

 

Ron Hunter, Les Inwood and Peter Gillette


Ron Hunter, Les Inwood and Peter Gillette