Guitarist Tawhiti dies at 78

BRIDGET JONES
Last updated 12:11 19/09/2012
show band ben tawhiti
STEPHEN FORBES/Western Leader
MUSICAL ICON: Guitar player Ben Tawhiti with his lap steel and his beloved Gibson Les Paul Custom.

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The man dubbed the New Zealand Guitarist of the Millennium died on Saturday aged 78 after a long illness.

Ben Te Ninihi Tawhiti started playing the lap steel guitar when he was about 10 or 11, and by the 1950s and 1960s, his skills were filling the country's dance halls.

From Hawaiian music through to country, jazz and Beatles numbers, the Auckland musician and his bands, Benny Five and the Ben Tawhiti Quartet, earnt themselves a reputation as one of the best live acts around.

Tawhiti had a show on Radio Waatea and well into his 70s moved across to the screen for Maori Television.

He presented Maumahara, a series with a nostalgic feel, where people shared their memories and looked at how things used to be.

Tawhiti's body will be taken to Otawhiwhi Marae, Bowentown for a brief stop and then onto Rangiwaea Island. His tangi will be held on September 20 at 11am.

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