Time to say adios amigos

By Sandy Myhre


After a decade of live performances throughout Northland and further afield, the popular acoustic street band, the Puha Bandidos, are calling it a day.

The band was formed in the current line-up in 2002, although they began playing together in different formats in 1977.

They were, and still are, one of few purely acoustic street bands in the country, guitarist Dave Gorrie saying the decision to play without electrics was as much for the singularity of sound as of pragmatic purpose.

"It means we don't have to carry heaps of heavy sound gear and amplifiers around," he said.

Group members include Dave and long-time friend and accomplished guitarist John 'JD' Donoghue, who as Timberjack Donoghue was one of New Zealand's musical 'names' in the 1970s.

He released two albums, The Spirit of Pelorus Jack, which won the New Zealand Album of the Year award, and the self-styled Donoghue, and his single Dahli Mohammed/Song For Vanda was a finalist in the 1972 Loxene Golden Disc Awards.

He was a full-time guitarist with legendary Kiwi band Human Instinct for two years and was a founding member of the iconic Waratahs, among other Kiwi bands. He now lives on the Hokianga.

The Puha Bandidos were founded in 1995 by Donoghue and Richard Mason (Whangarei, who died suddenly in 2006), best remembered as the writer of the No 1 Kiwi hit Sweet Music in Te Hapua, with Dave Gorrie on guitar, rhythm stick exponent Allan 'Sticky' Quinn and tea chest bass player Dimitri 'Bear' Edmonds.

In addition to acoustic guitars, their other instruments of choice to fit the traditional street band sound includes the dobro, played by John Donoghue, considered one of New Zealand's best exponents of the instrument.

Invented in America in the 1930s, it produces a banjo-like sound through metal strings played over a metal plate. Donoghue also played the mandolin, while Dimitri Edmonds played his original home-made tea chest bass.

During their decade of performing the Puha Bandidos invited guest musicians to join them on stage but always retained the essential bluegrass/folk/rock fusion that the acoustic genre demands.

For five successive years they played at the Kauri Cliffs' New Year's Eve celebrations and at the same venue for the renewal of the marriage vows of golfer Michael Campbell and his wife, Julie.

Dave recalled two memorable bookings outside Northland.

"In 2004, we did a 10-day tour to Rarotonga and in the same year we performed at the Good Bastards Festival at QE11 Park in Christchurch. Those events would have to be right up there," he said.

There will be life after the bandidos for Dave and JD, who will continue playing as a duo on occasions, while JD teaches at the guitar faculty at the Kerikeri School of Music and is writing and recording original numbers with Wellington's Wayne Mason, who penned Nature, voted the top of the Top 100 New Zealand Songs of All Time in 2001.

Until a similar band comes along, the Puha Bandidos will remain in memory as quintessentially unique in their fresh approach to the ancient art of live acoustic music.

Their final performance was at the Kerikeri farmers' market on the Sunday before Christmas.

- Northland Age

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