New Zealand Blues Scene


The earliest Blues influences on New Zealand musicians were indirect - not from America but rather from the white British Blues musicians of the 1960's. First the R & B styles of The Animals and The Rolling Stones and later the Blues tinged Rock of groups such as Led Zeppelin.

The first American Blues artist to really make an impact in New Zealand was not until Stevie Ray Vaughan in the early 1990's. Other Blues related genres such as Soul and Gospel almost completely by-passed New Zealand audiences except for a handful of hits from cross-over artists such as Ray Charles.

While New Zealand probably does not have a definitive Blues style it does have many fine Blues artists, some excellent venues and an established following.


Venues

  • Cross Creek Blues Club - The Tin Hut, Tauherenikau.
    The first Wednesday of every month the Cross Creek Blues Club present some of the best musicians from the Wairarapa and Wellington in an evening of Blues and Blues related music.
  • Southern Blues Bar (demolished after recent earthquake) – 198 Madras Street, Christchurch – Ph: +64 3 365-1654.
    A Dedicated Blues Bar in the best US tradition with live music every night of the week until late, excellent sound system, well stocked bar, plenty of Blues memorabilia and a Jam night every Thursday.
  • The Harbourlight - 24 London Street, Lyttleton, Christchurch - Ph: +64 3 328-8615.
    Excellent Jazz, Blues and world music small concert venue. The Harbour Light has mostly touring artists and one off concert type events, and therefore the nights they are open are varied. The Harbour Light usually has entertainment 1 or 2 nights per week. Check out their website for a calendar of events first.
  • The Bristol - 131-133 Cuba Sreet, Wellington – Ph: +64 4 385-1147. Thursday Roomfulla Blues night.
  • Chambers Belgium cafe and Bar - 1151 Arawa Street, Rotorua - Ph +64 7 348-6190
  • Al's Bar - 31 Dundas Street, Christchurch - Ph: +64 3 366-6877.
  • The Penguin Club - Oamaru - the physical address is at the end of the alley way half way along Harbour Street on the left as you head south. If it is open you will see the light. If you are lost stop in at the Criterion Hotel on the corner of Tyne and Harbour Streets and ask John for directions and a pint - Ph: +64 (0)21 373 922 (mobile).
    A popular venue with both local and overseas musicians and a wide range of acts from The Nairobi Trio to Mike Brosnan and Jordan Luck's Rock and Roll Circus.
  • Appleby Blues Bar - Invercargill. Phone Marty Astone for bookings and what's on - Ph: +64 03 434 1402.
  • Becks Southern Ale House - Christchurch. Address; 155 colombo street, Beckenham, Christchurch
    This recently refurbished bar and restaurant features a Wednesday night roots jam starting at 9.00 pm with full support and equipment available for jammers.
    Christchurch band "Sneaky Feet" featuring Harry Harrison, Danny Wison, Robbie Carpenter & Wayne Allen play on Friday nights.

Clubs, Societies and Jam Nights
  • New Zealand Blues Society - Their web site contains an extensive archive of New Zealand Blues music reviews and articles, frequently updated New Zealand & International Blues news and New Zealand Blues artists directory.
  • Wellington Blues Club - Capital Blues - Includes a copy of the BLUZNUZ newsletter and details of the regular Thursday Roomfulla Blues at The Bristol.
  • Bay Of Plenty (BOP) Blues club - Jam/club nights are held on the first Wednesday of every month at Chambers Belgium Café and Bar 1151 Arawa St, Rotorua - phone +64 7 3486190. Musicians of all levels are welcome to ome along and jam - solo artists and bands are welcome. Solo artists may want to group with others to form bands, or just join in.
  • Southbound Blues Trust - Invercargill. Southbound Blues is a trust formed to promote, perform and educate people about Blues music. They meet on the first Wednesday of every month, 7pm at the Appleby Blues Bar in Invercargill. You can watch and listen or, even better, if you’re a blues muso jump on stage and jam. Marty Astone’s in charge of the music - Phone +64 27 270-2570.
  • Hamilton Blues Society - Jam nights are held on the second thursday of every month at Biddy Mulligan's, 742 Victoria Street, Hamilton. From 8pm - No door charge.

Gigs
  • Blueshounz - live at The Royal Hotel in Timaru - Thursdays at 9.00pm and Sundays at 5.00pm.
    Featuring Maurice Sammons; guitar & vocals, Pete Richardson on bass and Kris Shaw on drums.
    You can also catch them on Youtube - Two Stroke'N & Blueshounz play Lumberjack Blues

Festivals & Events
  • Waiheke Winter Blues Festival 2010, 28 & 29th August. - a festival for music lovers with fun in their souls. It will include up to 12 bands playing at 5 venues over 2 days. A festival that’s all about experiencing top blues talent in intimate venues where the beer and wine glugs freely out of the bottle, platters of local fresh food are presented to you at your table and the musicians are so close you could wipe the sweat off their brows!
    Bands include Gary Harvey Band, Los Diablos, Mahia Blackmore, Hammond Gamble, The Darcy Perry Band, Shayne Hurricane Wills and island talent Katy Soljak Band, Kippa, Mojo Risers, and B Squared.
    Beat the winter blues with a world-class line up of talented blues musicians at a fabulous location. For tickets go to www.whatsonwaiheke.co.nz
  • Marchwood Blues Picnic - New Zealand's biggest little festival of Blues music featuring some of Australia's and New Zealand's finest Blues performers.
  • Blues Festival at Omori Estate Winery - 2pm to 8pm on Easter Saturday April 3rd.With Midge Marsden, The Jukes, The Mike Garner Trio, plus guest appearance from US singer/songwriter Laurie Dameron.

Artists

A selection of just a few of New Zealand’s fine Blues artists:
  • Midge Marsden – The most well known New Zealand Blues artist. Midge’s career spans four decades and during that time he has played thousands of concerts in New Zealand and introduced several generations of New Zealanders to the Blues. He was voted New Zealand Entertainer of the Year in 1990 and his album 'Burning Rain' later went gold. Midge has toured the USA four times and each time he has played with and befriended artists such as ‘Mississippi’ Willie Foster, Bobby Mack, Ronnie Taylor, 'Aussie' Dave Boyle and JulieAnne Banks. He has encouraged all these artists to subsequently tour New Zealand and thus broadened our appreciation of Blues styles and techniques. Midge was a student at the University of Mississippi in 1996 where he graduated with a Diploma in Southern Studies and more recently he has tutored at Waikato Polytechnic in Bluesology. Midge is a fine singer and excellent Blues harp player with an enthusiasm and energy on stage that involves the whole audience every night.


  • Darren Watson – Darren is the “full package” – powerful voice, exciting delivery, superb guitarist in a wide range of Blues styles plus a fine songwriter. Darren lead the very popular Kiwi Blues band Smoke Shop, a band that featured on the NZ charts and toured extensively throughout New Zealand in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
    More recently Darren has recorded two successful albums including 'King Size', which was nominated for Best Roots Album at the 2003 NZ Music Awards and his latest – ‘South Pacific Soul’. This latest album has now been released in the US and showcases Darren’s songwriting talents. It also features a wider range of material including soulful songs that have been favourably compared to Elvis Costello and John Hiatt material.


  • Hammond Gamble – A charismatic singer and electrifying guitarist, Hammond Gamble came to considerable fame in the late 1970’s fronting one of the biggest bands on the New Zealand rock circuit at the time, Street Talk, and later the Hammond Gamble Band.
    He recorded two albums with Street Talk and three under his own name. Probably his best and most widely known recording is the live 1995 album ‘Plugged in and Blue’.
    Hammond is also a very talented songwriter – Joe Cocker recorded his song ‘If You’ve Got Love, Give Me Some’ and he also composed rock classics such as ‘Leaving the Country’ and ‘Should I be Good or Should I be Evil’. In 1992 and 1993 he had a number one hit with a rare non-original, ‘You Make the Whole World Smile’. Gamble has won a number of New Zealand awards including Rock Performer of the Year, Album of the Year, APRA Silver Scroll and Film Soundtrack of the Year. He has been chosen as support in New Zealand for many major acts including Tina Turner, Talking Heads, Fleetwood Mac, Bonnie Raitt and Joe Cocker. Whether he is playing acoustic or electric, raging blues or subtle ballad, Gamble is a performer too riveting to miss!


  • Mike Brosnan - Is a songsmith of the first order, a powerful and emotional singer, and an excellent guitarist. Despite extensive international touring, for much of his early career he remained relatively unknown in the wider world. This lack of wider recognition was in all probability due the music industry's inability to “pigeon hole” his music, containing as it does such diverse influences; from rock to folk, from blues to Celtic to country. A highly accomplished yet understated guitarist, Brosnan plays lines that perfectly support his powerful baritone. And his slide guitar work is also considered a highlight, with many positive comparisons drawn with Ry Cooder’s best work.Mike now lives, performs and records very successfully in Germany and his latest album ‘Beneath Southland Skies’ has been reviewed very favourably both in Europe and New Zealand. Included are the gritty, real-life details of ‘Another Song For The Road’, the dark poetry of ‘Be With You’ and the rocking opening track ‘Letter To A Friend’. This album is his best to date.


  • The Windy City Strugglers - The Strugglers are one of New Zealand's most enduring bands based on the singing, songwriting and guitar playing of Bill Lake, and the immensely soulful vocals of Rick Bryant. Their long-serving band members are Andrew Delahunty on harmonica and mandolin, Geoff Rashbrooke on piano and guitar, Nick Bollinger on double bass, and drummer Steve Cournane. Moving with ease from an acoustic format to a full electric lineup, the Strugglers are equally at home in a folk club, blues bar or concert hall. Though numerous musicians passed through the ranks of the early Strugglers, the group has existed in more or less its current form since Andrew Delahunty and Nick Bollinger joined in the mid-1970s. While Rick and Bill also played in rock groups such as Mammal, the Pelicans and the Jive Bombers, the Strugglers always existed as an entity in its own right, performing whenever busy schedules make it possible. In 1994 the Strugglers released their own self-titled CD, which won Best Folk Album in the New Zealand Music Awards. In 1998 the Strugglers released their second CD, ‘On Top Of The World’, which also became a Music Awards winner. ‘Snow On The Desert Road’ is the new CD from the Windy City Strugglers.While the Strugglers' blues and jug band influences have been documented extensively on their previous albums ‘Snow On The Desert Road’ breaks new ground in consisting entirely of original songs by singers Rick Bryant and Bill Lake (in collaboration with songwriting partner Arthur Baysting). Forty years on The Strugglers are performing more frequently and with more vitality than ever and have just finished a highly successful UK & European tour.


  • The Remarkable Beat Roosters - was formed in the mid 1990s by members of Midge Marsden's band, Sid Limbert (bass), Freddy Limbert (drums) and Brian Harley (guitar) and became New Zealand's most powerful R 'n' B trio and rapidly gained a loyal cult following New Zealand-wide. Their only recording has become a collectors' item. ‘Live n Loose’ was recorded in Sid's home studio in 1996. It is a cross section of their regular set material but the standout is Sid's original slow blues ‘Blues Still Blue’ an evocative memory of the first time he visited Mississippi. The Remarkable Beat Roosters opened for BB King's Auckland concert in the early 1990's. BB was so impressed he called them up on stage at the end of the show. This was also a reunion with BB's long time drummer Caleb Emphryas who had taken Sid and Freddy fishing in Mississippi some years before. All the band members are still actively playing. Freddy Limbert has teamed up with Simen ‘bluekeys’ Taylor to form a World class blues duo, Sid toured New Zealand with son Freddy, Simen and Darren Watson in 2005 and Brian Harley is still a national treasure – one of New Zealand's finest guitarists.


  • Handsome Giants - Comprises three of New Zealand's foremost exponents of Blues and R & B - Freddy Limbert on drums, Simen 'Bluekeys' Taylor on piano and vocals and Shane 'Hurricane' Wills on guitar, harp and vocals. Most of their material is original - composed by Simen and Shayn. They are renown for their dynamic live performances with players swapping instruments mid-song, drum solos and plenty of full tilt boogie. They released an excellent Live DVD in 2006 and will shortly release their first album. Gigs by any of these three very experienced musicians are well worth catching but together as Handsome Giants they are not to be missed.


  • Lynne Campbell - Lynne grew up playing festivals and impromptu jams with fellow Te Awamutu natives Tim and Neil Finn of Crowded House and Split Enz fame. Heavily influenced by the Finn brothers, Lynne honed her playing and composing skills against the colorful and competitive backdrop of New Zealand's vibrant music scene, and landed the enviable spot as popular R&B artist Midge Marsden's lead guitar player. With Midge, she recorded on EPIC/SONY and achieved gold record status with their Burning Rain album. Lynne toured the world with Marsden and headlined such prestigious venues in the States as Antone's in Austin and Tipitina's in New Orleans. In her years with The Midge Marsden band Lynne earned recognition as one of Australia/New Zealand's top guitarist and has been favorably compared to Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan by the music press. While touring the U.S., Lynne Campbell spent time deep in the Mississippi delta studying and playing with such blues legends as B.B. King and Muddy Water's sideman Willie Foster. She recorded with Foster and returned to New Zealand with him in tow on a successful concert tour of her native country. With Marsden, or fronting her own band, Lynne has toured with or opened shows for Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Delbert McLinton, The Black Crowes, Nils Lofgren, Jeff Healy, and countless others. Now in the U.S. establishing herself as a solo artist, Lynne is playing gigs, both as a solo acoustic act, or fronting the three piece Lynne Campbell Band with Jonathan Grooms and Gary Perfect. Everywhere Lynne has played, she has been enthusiastically received by U.S. audiences and called a guitar player's guitarist by the press. Lynne has released her first solo effort titled ‘Dressed In White’ and it is quickly gaining popularity. In the meantime, she plays clubs and festivals showcasing her guitar skills and introducing her own style of Kiwi Blues/Rockin' music to America.


  • Marg Layton - is one of New Zealand’s foremost blues performers. Born in New Zealand’s Deep South, Marg began her musical career in the folk music café scene of the late 1960s, first in Christchurch, then in other parts of the country. Throughout the seventies and eighties she performed at every major folk venue, mixing traditional and contemporary folk songs with a growing interest in blues and gospel. During this period she opened concerts for such international touring artists as Country Joe McDonald, Don McLean, Odetta and Tom Paxton. A visit to the United States in 1980 led to a meeting with The Grand Old Lady of the Blues, Alberta Hunter. The recently rediscovered 1920s blues legend provided new inspiration and led to a greater emphasis on the blues in Marg’s repertoire. Since then she has taken the music of her blues heroes and heroines the length and breadth of New Zealand, and appears regularly at major arts and music festivals.

  • Contact Us with details of your favourite New Zealand Blues venues, jam nights, gigs, festivals and artists and we'll add them to this page.









The Southern Blues Bar in Christchurch





Midge Marsden





Darren Watson





Hammond Gamble





Mike Brosnan





The Windy City Strugglers





The Remarkable Beat Roosters with BB King





Handsome Giants





Lynne Campbell





Marg Layton






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