Re-entry as The Satellites celebrate 50th

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Fifty years after The Satellites struck their first note, the band will reunite.

Touted as the Waikato's longest-running rock 'n' roll band, The Satellites were well known in the 1960s during their decade-long reign over the region's dance halls.

The Satellites became synonymous with The Starlight Ballroom in Hamilton, playing gigs there regularly for years.

The band, who still belt out hits from the 1950s and 60s, were formed in 1957 by siblings Ken and Dawn Wadsworth and friend Paul Fisher.

Based in Elstow, near Te Aroha, the teenage trio began performing guest spots for Ken Wadsworth's parents' band at weddings and kitchen evenings, playing saxophone and piano and with Fisher singing.

A drummer joined the group and on September 17, 1957, the quartet had their first gig at the Kiwi Fertiliser Works social in Morrinsville.


"We got 10 shillings each and we thought we were made," Wadsworth, now 68, said.

The foursome began playing regularly at country halls in the region and by the early 1960s, with a guitarist and some new faces, they were in hot demand.

"From that we got recognised by the promoters who used to send Ray Columbus and Ray Woolf down for the guest spots so we were backing them."

During 1960 and 1962 the band went full-time and made several records, both covers and originals.

"The big cover was Wild One by Bobby Rydell in 1960," Wadsworth said.

The number one hit led radio's The Lever Hit Parade - then the New Zealand music charts - for several weeks and at the end of its reign, The Satellites' version was played, giving the band even more recognition.

Another cover was Breaking Up Is Hard To Do and the band's reputation soared, leading to it backing other artists such as Sir Howard Morrison.

Then in 1967, with more new faces including drummer Morrie Holmes - who died in 1990 - Trevor Akoorie on lead guitar, Sonny Murray on bass guitar, and even a trumpet player, The Satellites was asked to back four famous faces for a seven-week concert tour of New Zealand.

Jamaica's Millie Small, with her hit My Boy Lollipop, headlined the act with the UK's Eden Kane and opera singer David Whitfield, and New Zealand's Maria Dallas also performed.

The band was offered gigs in Australia but the decision was made to stay in New Zealand where it continued to play.

The current line-up includes the original trio Ken Wadsworth on saxophone, Dawn Finch on piano, Akoorie on lead guitar, Johnny McIntosh on drums, Wayne Wright, on bass guitar and Fisher, vocals.

Wadsworth said the October 13 reunion at the Waikato Convention Centre in Claudelands was set to be a great night of rock 'n' roll with Hamilton swing band Woody Woodhouse making a guest appearance.

For details or to book tickets visit or write to The Satellites Reunion, PO Box 214, Tauranga.

Waikato Times