|Max Cryer and his amazing pants, alongside Dinah Lee and Millie Small, from Playdate mag, 1966|
Chris Bourke has a great interview over on his Bluesmoke blog with 60s Kiwi popstar Dinah Lee. The original interview is from 1986, and was published in defunct fashion mag Cha Cha, one of the influential titles from the publishing house of M Cammick.
Dig that pic of Dinah with Max Cryer, and Millie Small, singer of ska hit My Boy Lollipop. That's the kiwi/ska connection right there, y'all. Dinah played shows alongside Millie.
Chris Bourke: Where did you get your material from? ‘Reet Petite’ and so on …
Dinah Lee: That was an old Jackie Wilson song, but I found it on some album by … I can’t remember, it was so long ago … it was some girl singer doing it.
‘Don’t You Know Yockomo’ was an early R&B hit as well, by New Orleans’ singer Huey Smith. Were you listening to those R&B records in the early 60s?
Oh yeah – into all that, cos it was sort of the Motown thing, and even before that there were your black singers like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke and even Little Richard. There were lots of little coffee clubs in Auckland that people used to go to hear this music. Places like the Beatle Inn, the Shiralee, the Top Twenty … there was a jazz venue near Queen Street there, the Montmartre – I used to go in there and sing pop with a jazz band. Just piano, with slap bass and drums, and I’d sing, oh, Dusty Springfield stuff. So I had all that grounding.
I used to do ‘Yockomo’, ‘Reet Petite’, all those numbers, with Max Merritt and the Meteors and the Invaders even before I recorded them. We did shows all around New Zealand in the 60s with, like, Peter Posa, Lou and Simon – all these people. I don’t know if you hear of them any more … Bill and Boyd, the Howard Morrison Quartet, of course. All those people, all the time. And then I did my own shows, and shows with PJ Proby and Little Millie. [Millie Small pictured above with Dinah Lee and Max Cryer, from Playdate magazine, 1966.]
She had ‘My Boy Lollipop’ – ‘Blue Beat’ is like an early reggae song too …
Yeah, Jamaican ska.
Where did you pick that up?
The record company [Viking] got that one for me and we just did it as we felt it should be done. Funnily enough in Australia reggae is quite big now, yet this was in the 60s when reggae wasn’t known. It’s quite unusual isn’t ‘it, how we got into reggae. I don’t know who produced that one; I’m just trying to remember … (shakes head). No, it’s just so long ago.
There’s a reggae group here called the All Nighters, and a couple of years ago they did a big show up at the Tivoli and they wanted me to do ‘Blue Beat’ with them. It was great. They all loved it, because they said, “Well, you’re one of the original reggae people we know of.” You know, I never really got into reggae after that..."