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Wellington’s 60’s scene: Gutbucket

Last edited: 16.02.16 | Comment? | By

‘Gutbucket’ were the second of three 1960s bands to feature iconic Wellington Soul-man Rick Bryant…













Original line-up was:
BERNARD SCHMIDT – lead guitar/vocals
LAWRENCE COOPER – bottleneck guitar/vocals
STEVE HEMMENS – bass guitar

New Plymouth may seem an unlikely sort of a place for a blues band to spring from. It may seem an unlikely place for anything to spring from unless it is oil or dairy produce. But over the years, that city has given us Bari and The Breakaways (and thus Midge, of whom more later), Lew Pryme (sorry), Bruce Lynch, Wayne Mason, Desna Sisarich and Barry Saunders, to name but a few. To this list we must now add Gutbucket.

They started life in New Plymouth as The Revised Edition back in 1968, the line-up being Steve, Mike, Owen Christensen (who went to Auckland and joined The Challenge) and John Fahy (who died in a motorbike crash and is buried next to Bari Gordon in New Plymouth’s Awanui cemetery.)

When Steve and Mike moved to Wellington in late 1968, they formed Gut- bucket more or less for their own enjoyment rather than for public appreciation. Part of the reason for this apparent lack of desire to appear in public was the fact that Bernie was still living in New Plymouth, and anyone who would come all the way down to do a gig for an hour or two and then drive back is crazy. However, as the word spread and they were bombarded with offers to play at one or the other of Wellington’s two blues clubs, they persuaded Bernie to take the plunge. Obligingly, he plunged.

Their music was the blues, but it was different from the sort of blues their contemporaries were playing. This worried some people. But those hip to where these guys were comin’ from knew, man, they knew, that they were witnessing the emergence of a form of jazz blues not dissimilar to that practised by The Graham Bond Organisation or early Jethro Tull.

Gutbucket were firm believers in the gentle art of persuasion rather than the blitzkrieg approach when it Came to winning over new followers. Blues was a minority interest anyway, and they figured that the best way to keep an audience interested was not to play for more than an hour at any one gig. This arrangement had the added benefit of allowing them frequent changes in repertoire; it also meant that this repertoire needn’t be bigger than necessary, leaving them time to pursue other interests.

Gutbucket can be heard on the ODE ‘In A Blue Vein’ compilation album, but they also released a single for the independent Tree label in June 1969. Wild About You, the A side, was written by their occasional singer Rick Bryant. The flip is Spanish Blues, and together these two songs total just over seven minutes of this unique style of blues music from one of the best blues bands of their day.

It must be said that by its very nature, blues lends itself to the pastime commonly known as jamming. This is great fun for participants, but it can be confusing and tedious in the extreme for onlookers. So it happened that quite often you would see Gutbucket performing with Rick Bryant out front hollerin’, and Bill Lake huffing and puffing on an assortment of mouth- organs. Then the next night you might go and watch Original Sin, or Mammal, or Capel Hopkins perform, and see the mighty sweating and vein-popping Rick in tandem with the wailing Bill fronting any of them. This was Rick and Bill jamming with everyone, a situation quite acceptable to all concerned.

Gutbucket can be fondly remembered for their pioneering efforts in the blues scene. Eventually, most of the members ended up playing together in other groups around the country before going their own ways. Ain’t it just the truth.

Wild About You/Spanish Blues Tree 7

Grateful acknowledgment to Roger Watkins for allowing us to use this material from his book When rock got rolling : the Wellington scene, 1958-1970.

Posted in: GeneralRoger WatkinsThe Wellington Music Scene: 1960sWhen Rock Got Rolling

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