Puha Bandidos Acoustic Streetband, Avarua Market, Rarotonga, 2004. L to R, Dimitri Edmonds, Dave Gorrie, Richard Rua Mason, Al Quinn, John Donoghue.
PUHA BANDIDOS ACOUSTIC STREETBAND
DOBRO AND MANDOLIN: John Donoghue
ACOUSTIC GUITARS: Richard Rua Mason, Dave Gorrie, Ivo Yelovich.
SAX / CLARINET/
PENNY WHISTLE: Chris Peirce.
VIOLIN: Bob Jones.
BASS: Dimitri Edmonds, Adrien Ruka.
RHYTHM STICK: Al Quinn,
Te Reo Hau, Ned Pukeroa, Peter Rihia, RJ Mason, Rick Curry, Paul Godden, Bevan O'Brien.
When I arrived in Whangarei in the spring of 1993, Richard Rua Mason and I immediately formed a duo
to work at Whangarei's Big Fresh Supermarket.
The gig required us to sit up in the ceiling, where we soon discovered
that customers could hear us but not see us. To become visible we took to wearing two giant Mexican Sombreros.
Perched up in the roof looking like a pair of scruffy old crows we named our duo "Heckle and Jeckle."
Local restauranteur Reva Merrideth
heard us performing at the supermarket and booked us to play in her restaurant. When she saw us turning up to play in our sombreros, Reva declared we looked like "..a couple of Bandidos...!"
The name stuck and the act became "The Bandidos" from then on.
We became the resident act at Reva's popular waterfront
restaurant and began picking up weekend work, first around Whangarei and then all around Northland.
for an all-acoustic band in Northland was surprising. Following the 1995 Bulldog's Reunion Tour, we had to start roping in members of the Electric Puha Band armed with various skiffle-type
instruments to help out on the larger Northland festivals and events.
With the two bands merging, this lineup then became known as the "Puha" Bandidos.
At the 1995 Russell Oyster Festival we met Guiseppe DePlonk, a solo performer who specialised in fire-eating, sword-swallowing, knife-throwing and Juggling.
Guiseppe also had a background in Skiffle Music and joined the band as Washboard Player.
We orchestrated Guiseppe's wild circus skills to our live acoustic "Jugband" music. This brought an exciting new visual dimension to the streetband.
Before long our circle of gigs went as far North as Kaitaia and as far South as Auckland, where we performed in several arts festivals and two Queen Street Parades.
Later the same year we flew to Wellington to compete in an episode of TV's "The Gong Show."
Although we won our segment, the performance was not
without incident. Guiseppe inflicted grossly expensive damage with his throwing knives and the band almost burned the TV studio down with the fire-eating act.
By late 1996 the trail of chaos, fire-damage and general destruction was becoming too costly and Richard and I had to
regretfully disband the first streetband.
We reformed the Bandidos into a much tamer Pianoband that included Wellington sax player Chris Peirce from the
Skyhawks. Chris soon established a fanbase of his own and the Pianoband then worked steadily around Northland until the end of the decade.
2001 I moved to the Hokianga and a five-piece Puha Bandidos Acoustic Streetband was reformed for a residency at the Cobblestone Mall, in Kerikeri.
The new lineup featured West Coaster
Allan (Sticky) Quinn, as well as two old soldiers from the Cockroach days, Dimitri (Bear) Edmonds and Dave (Guru) Gorrie.
This band was to make its headquarters in the Bay of Islands
and would prove to be the most stable of all the Puha Bandido lineups.
Once again the Streetband's roving ground increased, this time as far South as Christchurch and as far North
as Rarotonga, where the band mounted a highly successfull two week tour in 2004.
The great Puha adventure was to come to an end when Richard Rua Mason sadly passed away in 2006.
Various lineups of the
Streetband were formed here and there until finally the Puha Bandidos officially called it a day at Kerikeri on 23rd December, 2012.
Richard Rua Mason and myself had also kicked off the "Live at Waitangi" sets together, first performing on the Treaty Grounds as
a duo in 1996. Over the years various lineups helped us out, but by 2006, the year of his passing, Richard and I were back to performing at Waitangi as a duo again.
I continued on briefly with the streetband, but since 2010 have been appearing solo at Waitangi each Waitangi Day performing my Timberjack Donoghue material with occasional featured guests.