Dixie Chicken - Episode Five

Television, 1987 (Full Length Episode)

This TVNZ light entertainment series takes its name from a Little Feat song but the music on offer is predominantly country. The set is barn-like but “yee ha” trappings never overshadow the performances (although big hats are in plentiful supply). Actor and musician Andy Anderson is a genial host (getting confessional at one point about his days on the “lunatic sauce”) and there are two numbers from Beaver. Bluesman Sonny Day channels Willie Nelson; the other soloists are Gray Bartlett, Brendan Beleski and Australian singer Annette Moorcroft.

Sir Howard Morrison - Time of My Life

Television, 1995 (Full Length)

Ol’ Brown Eyes celebrates 40 years in showbiz with this variety concert, alongside some of his mates including Ray Columbus and Bunny Walters. The show is mostly live entertainment, punctuated by a few nostalgic field stories where Sir Howard acknowledges his upbringing and Māoritanga. The show ends with the Morrison whānau performing, followed by the hymn that gave Sir Howard a number one hit in 1982: ‘How Great Thou Art’.  This TV special was dedicated to Sir Howard’s mother Kahu, who was an outstanding singer in her own right.

Royal Variety Performance Show 1981

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

This live TV spectacular documents an 18 October 1981 Royal Variety performance in front of the touring Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh. Performers in St James Theatre included Ray Columbus (in That's Country mode), Sir Howard Morrison and John Rowles. Dance is represented by Limbs and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, while McPhail and Gadsby and Billy T James deliver pre-PC gags. There’s a show stopping all-singing all-dancing finale, and what seems like the entire roster of NZ showbiz of the time lines up to greet the Queen, including Lynn of Tawa.

The Secret Life of John Rowles

Television, 2008 (Full Length)

The meteoric career of one of NZ’s greatest entertainers is examined in this documentary. John Rowles went from a Kawerau childhood to stardom in London at 21; but, after headlining in Hawaii and Las Vegas, he saw it all slip away. Those roofing ads and near bankruptcy followed, but Rowles has retained his self belief and that voice. A stellar cast of interviewees analyse his strengths and weaknesses, including Sir Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Neil Finn and late promoter Phil Warren. Amongst the star cameos, John’s sister Cheryl Moana explains the downside of his best-known local hit.

That's Country - 20 March 1982

Television, 1982 (Excerpts)

Hosted by one-time mod Ray Columbus, That's Country was one of the highest rating shows of the early 80s. This 1982 episode features veteran Kiwi country performers (John Hore, Patsy Riggir) and trans-Tasman pop star Dinah Lee. The opening ensemble number features Canadian singer Glory-Anne Carriere and US duo the Gypsy Mountain Pickers, along with Australian Jade Hurley (who still bills himself as the King of Country Rock). Check out the rhinestone cowboys and girls as they belt out the theme song, then settle in for solo performances. Yee-ha!

Series

That's Country

Television, 1980–1984

Punk rock was breaking and musical styles changing, but in New Zealand country music was appointment viewing at 7pm on Saturday. That's Country ran from 1980 to 1984. Hosted by one-time pop singer Ray Columbus, the show featured both local and international talent including Suzanne Prentice, Patsy Riggir, Emmylou Harris and George Hamilton IV. An American offer to buy the show and install a US presenter were resisted. Instead the show was sold to a Nashville cable TV network, in a New Zealand first; That's Country soon had an audience of 30 million in the States.