Ray Columbus & The Invaders were the first New Zealand group to break big with the Beat Boom. They scored a massive Australasian hit in 1964 with “She’s A Mod”, a song which, along with Ray’s associated “Mod’s Nod” dance, remains one of mainstream New Zealand’s fondest and most enduring memories of the 60’s.
Although Ray was the star and would go on to become an established New Zealand entertainer, it’s the instrumental prowess of the backing band The Invaders that gives this stuff real guts. Just listen to the instrumental “Cat’s Eyes” to see what we mean! This CD compiles 30 of their best tracks taken from singles, EPs, and albums.
Ray Columbus tried putting together his first band around 1959 when he was aged 17. On drums was his friend Peter Ward, along with Billy Karaitiana (also known as Billy Kristian) on bass. Someone else played guitar, until they found a more competent guitarist in Andy Joines. As a quartet they tried playing to anyone who would listen around the Christchurch area.
They didn’t last long as a group and shortly afterwards, Billy and Peter left to join Saki and the Jive Five. They began playing around Christchurch and became stiff opposition for Max Merritt and the Meteors, who had the local scene well to their liking. Max checked them out and soon after Billy moved into a permanent position with Max Merritt and the Meteors. At that point Peter Ward left and secured a position with the Downbeats.
This new line-up of Ray Columbus (Vocals), Dave Russell and Brian Ringrose (Guitars), Mac Jamieson (Bass) and Peter Ward (Drums) renamed themselves Ray and the Drifters. They began to make a name for themselves around Christchurch by late 1961. They performed mainly instrumental tunes with Columbus providing the vocals when necessary. The clubs in Christchurch at that time played host to numerous American servicemen stationed at Operation Deep Freeze. Their style and music interests had a major influence on Ray and his group.
In February 1962, because they were very popular in their hometown, they received a boost in their career by appearances on TV in a local Christchurch production called “Club Columbus”. The four programmes were screened nationally, bringing greater exposure to a wider audience. Thanks to these TV performances they were invited to do a months work in Auckland. Lead guitarist Brian Ringrose was still at school so could not go. He was replaced by Wally Scott. Mac Jamieson also left and his place was taken by bassist Puni Solomon. This is the line-up that left for Auckland, changing their name on the way to Ray Columbus and the Invaders.
Today, Ray Columbus and his Invaders are remembered as an iconic chapter in 60s music history. Carrying that distinct sound and breaking the mould with “She’s A Mod” in particular, the groups is remembered with nostalgia in the hearts of many fans of that era. Rest in peace.