Legacy Award goes to Ray Columbus & The Invaders
Back in the mid-1960s, Ray Columbus and The Invaders were the first-ever winners of the music award now known as the Tui.
Now the trail-blazing rock band's contribution to our nation's popular musical heritage has been recognised with The New Zealand Herald Legacy Award at the 2009 Vodafone NZ Music Awards.
The group has also been inducted in to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.
Formed in Christchurch in 1959 as Ray Columbus and The Drifters, the band moved to Auckland in 1962 changing from Drifters to Invaders in the process. Ray was 20 years old.
Ray Columbus and The Invaders took the Auckland scene by storm and within two years had its first smash hit, 'She's A Mod'. The band's place in New Zealand history was however clearly cemented with 'Till We Kissed', winner of the 1965 Loxene Golden Disc Award, the Tui of the time.
Forty-four years later Ray Columbus and The Invaders have The NZ Herald Legacy Award and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The prestigious award will be presented at the 2009 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards on October 8.
Last year Straitjacket Fits took the Legacy Award while Johnny Devlin was the first-ever recipient in recognition of the contributions made by both to New Zealand music over the decades.
Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards spokesperson Campbell Smith says Ray Columbus and The Invaders was the first local artist to get the Beatlemania treatment in New Zealand.
"Those guys really captured the rapturous dedication of Kiwi fans in the '60s. The fans knew how good they were and they let the band know in no uncertain terms. Ray tells me the band used to flee to the pub to get away because the fans were so young they couldn't get in.
"With Billy Kristian on bass and Dave Russell on lead guitar The Invaders had two of the most copied musicians of the time. Everyone wanted to be like Billy and Dave and with Ray fronting they were really a polished and formidable outfit," Smith says.
During their short career, Ray Columbus and The Invaders headlined five New Zealand tours and three to Australia as well as supporting many notable musicians including The Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison and The Dave Clark Five.
The band kept a hectic schedule touring Australia on the bill of "Starlift '64" with The Searchers, Del Shannon and Peter & Gordon and in "Big Beat '65" performing 52 shows throughout New Zealand Australia.
'Till We Kissed' was number one in New Zealand twice while 'She's a Mod' spent eight weeks in the Australian and seven weeks in the New Zealand Top 40s.
The band line-up changed regularly between 1959 and the early 1960s. The group that made the biggest impact in the studio and on tour through the mid-1960s comprised Ray Columbus (vocals & Mod Nod), Dave Russell (guitar), Wally Scott (guitar), Billy Kristian (bass) and Jimmy Hill (drums).
Ray Columbus and The Invaders made their first recording in 1963 after signing with the Zodiac label with the first several singles doing only moderately well. In early 1964, the band's first album titled 'Every Nite' was released and "She's A Mod" was recorded in May.
But it was back across the Tasman, when Ray Columbus and The Invaders appeared at the 2UW Radio Theatre and Sydney went Mod-Mad with the song going to number one, staying there for eight weeks and getting huge play on New Zealand's Lever Hit Parade. Singles 'Ku-Pow' and the cover of The Beatles' 'I Wanna Be Your Man' were big hits on both sides of the Tasman.
Several moderate successes followed before the band recorded "Till We Kissed" on the album "Original Numbers". Previously recorded by several artists including Gerry and the Pacemakers as "Where Have You Been", "Till We Kissed" was the band's biggest hit selling more than 50,000 copies in 1965.
And of course, the sone was also the first winner of the very first New Zealand music award.
Ray Columbus and the Invaders disbanded in 1965 with Billy Kristian and Jimmy Hill heading back to Australia. Ray Columbus went on to great things as a solo performer and was awarded an OBE for Services to New Zealand in 1974.
Wally Scott died in 1980 and Jimmy Hill in 2000.