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The Downbeats

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An early iteration of The Downbeats featuring Ray Columbus on vocals  —  The Downbeats were originally known as The Wildcats, until a name-change circa 1962.

Around 1959, Ray Columbus tried putting together his first band "The Dominoes" — he was then 17-years-old.  On drums was his friend Peter Ward, along with Billy Karaitiana (later to be known as Billy Kristian) on bass.  Someone else played guitar, until they found a more competent guitarist in Andy Joines.  They played as a quartet around Christchurch for a while, but it didn't last too long, and shortly afterwards, Billy and Peter left to join Saki and the Jive Five, who were also beginning to play around the Christchurch area, becoming serious opposition for Max Merritt and his Meteors.  Max figured that he had the local scene well under control, and checked the group out.  Soon thereafter, Billy moved into a permanent position with Max and the Meteors.  At that point Peter Ward also left and secured a position with the Downbeats, who were a more traditionally-styled dance band which was headed up by pianist Doc Foster.  Doc, along with guiutarists Tony Athfield and Ross Clancy, had played with The Saints.  On a particular night in 1960, Ray attended an engagement by the band and found that the lead vocalist, Jack Lark, wasn't there.  Ray was given an opportunity to sing and was so successful he remained in that lead vocalist spot.  Ray took the opportunity to introduce more Rock 'n' Roll numbers into the band's set-lists.  When someone left the band, Ray always organised a replacement.  He introduced a bass player named Mac Jamieson, also from the Saints, and previously Bobby Davis and the Dazzlers.  When Doc called it a day and guitarist Tony Athfield left, a 15-year-old schoolboy, Dave Russell was recruited as lead guitarist.  Eventually, on the departure of the last of the old Downbeats - guitarist Ross Clancy, his replacement was by a second guitarist Brian Ringrose.  This new line-up of Ray Columbus (Vocals), Dave Russell and Brian Ringrose (Guitars), Mac Jamieson (Bass) and Peter Ward (Drums) was to become Ray and the Drifters.

 

The Downbeats again featuring Ray Columbus (Vocals)


Pre-Invader "Downbeats" with Dave Russell and Pete Ward

 

 

A later iteration of The Downbeats featuring vocalist Johnny Parker
Doug Petrie, Paul Bradley, Peter Gillette, Arthur Muir, Don Clarkson and Johnny Parker