NZ music legend Ray Columbus dies
In a career spanning four decades, Columbus won dozens of awards including the Silver Scroll twice and an OBE for services to entertainment. He also became one of the earliest stars of New Zealand television with his own show Club Columbus and work on Happen Inn and C’mon. “You hear the voice come down from up high from the director, saying ‘Someone put some lacquer on that idiot’s hair’…’cause I was shaking it all over!” Columbus once recalled. Thank you TV.”
Columbus had been suffering from poor health ever since a heart attack in 2004. “He was a complete gentleman and never stopped being a gentleman,” says Ellis. Columbus shot to fame in the early ’60s when his band Ray Columbus & the Invaders covered The Senators’ ‘She’s a Mod’. “And TV gave me a chance to exploit that. New Zealand music legend Ray Columbus has died at the age of 74. “I’m a vaudevillian basically, a modern day vaudevillian,” said Columbus. Columbus went on to work in event management and promotion. In 2009 he and his Invaders band members were inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame. He also managed Christchurch band Zed. Columbus & the Invaders followed up that success a year later with ‘Til We Kissed’, and had other hits including ‘People Are People’, ‘Willie & The Hand Jive’, ‘Travelling Singing Man’, ‘Happy In A Sad Kinda Way’, ‘Yoyo’, ‘Now You Shake’ and ‘Hold Me’. But it wasn’t just as a musician that Columbus enjoyed success. Celebrated music mogul Paul Ellis describes Columbus as a “trailblazer”. Columbus toured in concert with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, Roy Orbison, Shirley Bassey, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Ben E King and Robin Gibb. “It’s like Elvis has died.”
Not everyone appreciated the iconic ‘Mod’s Nod’ dance that went with his original hit – least of all the director of the song’s music video. The song became the first New Zealand record to top the Australian charts and made Columbus a household name. In 2002 he toured with the Long Way To The Top – the history of Australian Rock N Roll show, which saw him perform to over 220,000 people in 20 arena concerts throughout Australia. Whether it was performing or presenting, Columbus loved the limelight and New Zealand loved him right back. But the public loved it.