Musical tribute to the 'Mac Daddy' of entertainers

By Edward Gay

Sir Howard Morrison was the 'Mac Daddy' of entertainers, sang Leon Wharekura to an audience of hundreds at Ohinemutu. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today
Sir Howard Morrison was the 'Mac Daddy' of entertainers, sang Leon Wharekura to an audience of hundreds at Ohinemutu. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today

Musicians from around the country took to the stage to pay tribute to Sir Howard Morrison at Ohinemutu tonight.

Morrison family friend Dame Malvina Major sang a moving Danny Boy which drew cheers from the crowd each time she hit the high notes.

She also got a standing ovation from those that had seats.

Hundreds of people have poured onto the marae in the course of the day and hundreds more braved a chilly Rotorua night on the lake-shore to see tonight's concert.

Other musicians included funk-soul group Ardijah and the voice of Tony
Williams who told the crowd: "The years with Sir Howard and the
Quartet were great years".

Mr Williams sang I Can't Stop Loving You and told the crowd: "Tom
Jones taught me this one" as he moved his hips. He was called back for
an encor and sang Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

Leon Wharekura told the crowd of meeting Sir Howard twenty years ago
while sitting in a caravan with Billy T James at a Telethon event.

"He was a great influence to many entertainers and many are coming on tonight to pay their tribute because he led the way," Mr Wharekura said.

Mr Wharekura sang Mack the Knife with his crooner voice before adding his own lyrics: "There was a man from Ohinemutu, who knew how to give songs, and swing them too, he was the Mac Daddy of the entertainers" and "E nga iwi, Te Arawa waka, haere, haere, haere mai".

Other performers tonight included Nesian Mystik, Frankie Stevens and
the Lady Killers.

Kapa haka groups from Sir Howard's tribe Te Arawa will also take the
stage to honour their patron, Sir Howard.

Earlier this morning mourners gathered to pay their last respects to
Sir Howard who is laying is state at the Tamatekapua meeting house.

Mourners included dignitaries from tribes across the country.

Billionaire Owen Glenn spoke briefly of Sir Howard and said he was in
line to become Governor General of New Zealand.

He said Sir Howard's name was on a short list of six when the new
Governor General was being chosen.

"When the Labour Party was still talking to me, I actually pushed to
have Sir Howard on the Governor General list," Mr Glenn told the crowded marae.

He said both parties - Labour and National - chose the Governor General.

"He would have been Governor General but for one person.

"New Zealand's favourite son was never given the opportunity to shine
his light at the top of the tree, for that person, shame on you," Mr
Glenn said. He did not say who that person was.

Mr Glenn said he met Sir Howard when he was organising an anniversary party.

He said he was trying to book Neil Diamond at the time when his
personal assistant recommended Sir Howard.

"Next thing you know, instead of Neil Diamond for a million dollars a
night, we had Sir Howard," Mr Glenn said.

TVNZ front man Neil Waka also spoke of Sir Howard. He said Sir Howard
was an inspiration to him when he was first breaking into
broadcasting.

Mr Waka said he went to Sir Howard for advice when he was organising a
radio telethon in his early days and was worried that a colleague was
moving in on his patch.

Mr Waka said Sir Howard told him: 'It's the same thing as an
entertainer - once you get the mic, you're in charge'. It was so
simple so I kept the mic the whole time," Mr Waka said.

The first rays of sunshine pierced the skies at Ohinemutu late this
afternoon and the evening has been clear.

The rain has persistently fallen for several days, but organisers hope
that the weather will have broken by tomorrow, when Sir Howard is
buried at nearby Mt Ngongotaha.

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