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‘In the Still of the Night’ remains one of the best known doo-wop songs – written by Fred Parris and the Satins and covered by Boyz II Men and Debbie Gibson. It even figures in films like ‘The Buddy Holly Story’ and ‘Dirty Dancing’.
It also launched a kid called Graeme Neil Bartlett on a 60-year career in the New Zealand music industry.
“I heard a guy called Mark Kahi play ‘In the Still of the Night’ on a 1YA radio programme when I was 13 or 14,” says Graeme. “It was a life-changer, a eureka moment. I decided I had to do it. I had to play that song.”
That was 60 years ago and Graeme is now Gray Bartlett, MBE, the legendary guitarist, country music performer, producer, talent mentor, tour promoter and entrepreneur.
“Before he died I caught up with Mark in a Christchurch resthome. He knew who I was and told him I heard him play that song on the radio. And I explained to him that he was the reason.”
Listen out for ‘In the Still of the Night’ cause it will be bouncing around the Tauranga Citizens Club on 13th Ave and down Cameron Rd early evening on July 10.
The Entertainers Club is bringing Gray Bartlett and his ‘Private Conversations’ tour to town for a 5pm Sunday gig and to promote the album of the same name.
“I am better known for ‘Apache’ than ‘Hank B Marvin’ – it’s weird.” That’s first up on the album and it will be on the menu at the citz’s club. “I will not leave out music that people ask for, regardless of where I play.”
“We kick off with the bright stuff that everyone wants to hear.” So ‘Cavatina’ is a cert for the citz’s club too. ‘The Deer Hunter’ theme’s a favourite. Everywhere. “Then I pull it back with something that’s got a magical feel. ‘Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues’ will do it and then they fill them up with ‘Yellow Rose of Texas’ and duelling guitar stuff.
“We put them through the full gamut of emotions. And we don’t educate, we entertain. We want people to go away with a smile.”
‘We’ being Bartlett and Chet O’Connell, who is widely regarded as one of New Zealand’s finest guitarists. And since the ‘Private Conversations’ tour kicked off 16 gigs ago at the Kamo Cossie Club north of Whangarei they’ve been filling venues. ‘Filling venues’ is a couple of hundred people at a time. “That’s bloody good. And they love it,” says Gray. And then he tries to meet every one of the fans after. “Sometimes that’s tough, but I damned well do try.”
All of them 50-plus with a black-and-white taste in music. “And we give ‘em music they still like to hear.”
Tauranga Citizen’s Club gig has door tickets only, available from 4pm on Sunday, July 10.
As for Gray. Seventy-four years-old and still touring? “Yeah, love it. Love performing, love the music and love meeting the people. Looking forward to Tauranga.”
The Weekend Sun has two tickets to give away to one lucky reader who can tell us the name of Gray Bartlett’s new album?
All entries must be received by Wednesday, July 6.