Ray Columbus: More than just a mod video

Ray Columbus' contributions to Kiwi entertainment go well beyond laying claim to NZ's first international number one single.
Courtesy of AudioCulture.co.nz.

Ray Columbus' contributions to Kiwi entertainment go well beyond laying claim to NZ's first international number one single.

Pioneering Kiwi rocker Ray Columbus has died aged 74.

While best known for his 1964 hit She's A Mod with Ray Columbus & The Invaders, Columbus' contributions to Kiwi entertainment go well beyond laying claim to New Zealand's first international number one single.

SCREEN STAR

Legendary New Zealand musician Ray Columbus at his former Matakana home north of Auckland.
PETER MEECHAM

Legendary New Zealand musician Ray Columbus at his former Matakana home north of Auckland.

A staple on New Zealand television for decades, Columbus made his first TV appearance in 1961, performing solo on the light entertainment showcase Time Out For Talent.

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The following year he was offered his own musical variety show, Club Columbus - he was 19 at the time.

Later appearances - both as host and performer - included the NZBC's premier 60s music show C'mon, which went live to air, Sing, Happen Inn and That's Country, which he also co-created and eventually helped sell to a US cable network.

Columbus even popped up on the big screen, cameoing with The Invaders on the 1964 Kiwi thriller Runaway Killers, which also starred Barry Crump, Kiri Te Kanawa and 60s Bond girl Nadja Regin.

And he may well have been a part of New Zealand's first ever rock video, thanks to The Invaders having an Australian performance of She's A Mod filmed and shipped home - the first time footage of a band performing was used for promotional purposes in this country.

MUSICAL CONTEMPORARY

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Columbus toured New Zealand and Australia with The Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, The Hollies, Herman's Hermits and many other popular artists. When touring New Zealand with the Stones and Orbison in 1965, the Invaders performed as The Big O's backing band in addition to taking the stage as Ray Columbus & The Invaders.

Columbus also toured the US with The Turtles and The Animals. During time spent in California from 1966 to 1968 he was offered auditions for both The Monkees and The Byrds, but turned both opportunities down.

MENTOR AND MANAGER

A successful music manager, most notably with late 90s Kiwi rock band Zed, Columbus played mentor to a number of local Kiwi artists, including Suzanne Lynch (and her sister Judy Hindman in 60s pop duo The Chicks), Tina Cross and Auckland pop-rock band The Rumour.

"A lot of people did really well in this business and it was singularly due to Ray's advice," said Lynch. "He took care of a lot of people's careers and a lot of well-known artists have a lot to thank him for."

AWARD-WINNER

Columbus seems to have won every major award going in the New Zealand entertainment world, including Entertainer of the Year, the Benny Award, the Apra Silver Scroll (twice), Top Entertainer on TV and Promoter/Manager of the Year.

With his band The Invaders he also received The Legacy Award at the 2009 New Zealand Music Awards.

CULTURAL ICON

As well as the song itself, Columbus will always be remembered for the signature dance move he created for The Invaders performances of She's A Mod - the 'Mod's Nod'.

Columbus was the first pop star in the British Commonwealth to receive an OBE and starred in no less than three Royal Command Performance Concerts over the years.

He was also the MC and headliner at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch.

OTHER MUSICAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Columbus' second album with the Invaders, Original Numbers, was the first New Zealand album consisting of entirely self-written songs.

Despite the success of She's A Mod, his greatest chart success was the song Till We Kissed, which sold more than 50,000 copies in 1965 alone.

 - Stuff

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