Johnny and the Skyhawk. John Donoghue and Tama Mita performing at the Oaks, Wellington, 1990.
Chapter 4 Part 4
JOHNNY AND THE SKYHAWKS
JOHNNY AND THE SKYHAWKS:
GUITAR, SLIDE AND VOCALS: John Donoghue
LEAD GUITAR: Bruce Speir / Kemp Tuirirangi.
BASS GUITAR: Tama Mita
DRUMS: Maurice Philips
TRUMPET, FLUTE AND HARMONICA: Nigel Patterson.
THE HOONETTES VOCAL GROUP:
Barbara Griffen, Mara Finau, Tauleva Finau.
Johnny and the Skyhawks was the music project that had been on my drawing board for most of the Eighties. It was to be a live platform for my new original material and
to herald the Timberjack's triumphant emergence back into Overground.
It didn't quite work out like that..
I'd been developing the project
over time in partnership with Tama Mita, enigmatic Bassman from Northland's Electric Puha Band. Tom was living in Christchurch and I'd been sending demos of my original material down to him to critique.
On a Wellington visit in 1989 it was his suggestion that we create the Skyhawks out of the remnants of the Mangaweka Blues Band.
This was probably where
it all started to go wrong, for the new band quickly inherited all the indulgent practices of the old one.
Danny Shaw left after a few weeks for logistical reasons and was replaced by Wellington Jazz
Drummer Maurice Phillips.
"Johnny and the Skyhawk's" kicked the year off with a hiss and a roar, one of our first gigs being to a massive crowd at the Portage Resort in the South Island at New Year's
Eve, 1990. Returning to the North Island in early 1990, the Quartet went into residency at the Oaks Tavern in Central Wellington.
Alongside the new original material, Johnny and the Skyhawks also delivered
an eclectic mix of rock and roll, jazz, blues and reggae. It didn't take long for the band to build up a substantual following and become one of Wellington's drawcard acts that summer. Our 1990 gig calender coincided with the Sesqui Celebration of the same
year and we were invited to perform on the giant Wellington Waterfront Stage, opening for Ray Columbus and the Invader's 1990 reunion.
Unfortunately, the band had somehow grown along with it's popularity, and by the time the Sesqui Concert rolled around, Johnny and the Skyhawks had blossomed into a full-blown rock and roll circus, with an added horn
section, (The Southern Cross Horns) a supurb female vocal group, (the Hoonettes) and a large troupe of Dancers. (The George Nichol Group)
As exciting as it all was, (and it certainly was..) the Sesqui
Performance proved to be the swansong for Johnny and the Skyhawks. The circus had become too large, and the core band, with its inherited Managawekaisms, a little too.. er... rock and roll..?
even though Johnny & the Skyhawks had made a memorable impact on the Wellington scene, the experience proved that I was nowhere near as ready as I thought I was to emerge back into overground, or to emerge anywhere, for that matter.
I put the band on ice for a year and formed the working duo "JD Mohawk" with Wellington Drummer Maurice Newport (who later became the Warratah's longest serving drummer) JD Mohawk was a great little combo that worked
steadily around Wellington and beyond until Maurice had to quit because of other obligations. I then made a series of decisions that included disbanding the Skyhawks, leaving my Wellington base at Pacific Sound Studios and heading back to Northland, to embark
apon what would become the most intriguing underground journey of them all..
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