Ray Columbus remembered as a 'hero and mate' by proteges Sharplin and Lynch
Ray Columbus was a hero to many aspiring Kiwi rock stars, including Tom Sharplin - a music legend himself.
Tributes to Columbus - an artist who gigged with the Rolling Stones and mentored young musicians throughout his decades active - have been flowing after his death was announced on Tuesday afternoon.
Sharplin remembers he had a poster of Columbus up on his wall, and that seeing him play with the Stones in the late '50s made him realise music was the career for him.
"Back then I could never have dreamed that one day we'd be mates," he reminisced on Tuesday.
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The pair finally met in the early '70s, backstage at an Invaders gig.
"My first impression was that he was just the loveliest guy, and so willing to help make sure young artists starting out were comfortable," Sharplin said.
"He always praised you when you needed it ... And when you get praised by one of your heroes, that's such an immense boost."
They stayed mates throughout the decades, their relationship always centred around music.
"Not a lot of rock'n'roll singers survived the era like me and Ray did - we'll always have that bond," Sharplin said.
The last time Sharplin visited Columbus was with his wife, almost a year ago. The legend was lagging then, health-wise, but Sharplin said that his sense of humour and energy never failed to uplift visitors.
He said that while many entertainers lived a long time, their performance fire had often been extinguished long before they passed away.
"That wasn't the case with Ray - he'd always make your day with his energy, right until the end."
Sharplin reckoned that vigour alone was likely what kept the terminally ill star going so long.
He fondly remembered Columbus' strong morals - he was anti-drugs and always up for a charity gig - and "no bullshit attitude".
"Our business is full of that, no doubt, but Ray never played that game. He didn't need to."
Sharplin said that he was off to put on an old 78 record of Columbus', "to play the whole thing, probably twice".
"Happiness in a Sad Kind of Way was the title of of his songs, and that sort of sums up how I feel," he said.
"He was suffering a lot, going downhill - so in a way it's good he's gone.
"But a real sad day, none the less."
Columbus protege and music icon in her own right Suzanne Lynch remembers the man as "a father figure and big brother above all".
She started her career in the industry at just 15 performing on stage with Columbus, as a member of The Chicks.
He managed her career as a solo artist through the '70s, they stayed in touch when Lynch toured the world with Cat Stevens, and eventually Colombus managed her son's band Zed, too.
"He was a mentor to me, and so many other New Zealand artists - he just loved the New Zealand music business so much," she said.
"We all knew you could always ring Ray and he'd be more than willing to help you out."
She praised his skills as a manager and his ability to "always have something to say about you that was positive".
"I used to say how fabulous that was, because it meant I didn't have to ever say anything about myself - Ray would always do it for me."
What made him a good friend, on the other hand, was his willingness to dispense advice and "have you on his team".
"If you were in his inner circle it was sacrosanct," she said.
Their friendship continued right up to his death, with Lynch paying regular visits to Columbus and his wife Linda. She had meant to "go up again tomorrow", and said she was still coming to grips with the fact she wouldn't see him again.
"The thing was he was always cheerful - always trying to be cheerfull - upbeat and ready for action."
Columbus was still able to "bust out the Mod's Nod" - his signature dance - right up to the end, she said.
"But I'm sort of glad that it's all over for him, because I knew it was very hard. I am greatly relieved he's out of that stressful pain".
She said that it did seem unfair Colombus, a rock star with an unusually health lifestyle, was "the one who got sick".
"He was probably the only one who didn't drink too much, didn't take drugs, and didn't do anything he shouldn't do".
Lynch said that he never discussed death with her - "we would only talk about life".
She said she had been "prepared" for Columbus' death, but would "have to take a leaf out of Ray's book and think about living now."