Rim D Paul's swung full circle. At 17, he was singing with his father's band, Tai Paul and the Pohutu Boys, at Tama (Tamatekapua meeting house) dances. Now transpose the numbers and, at 71, he's launching his first solo album.

This too will be in Ohinemutu, at Te O Marama hall on Wednesday.

Rim's style's changed tack since his rock 'n roll and showband days. His album's in te reo, carrying the title Waiata-Wairua-Waiora, translating into song, spirit and well-being. Carl Doy's his accompanist with the National Maori Choir backing him on five of the 10 tracks. It was Rim who formed the choir for New Zealand's 1990 sesquicentennial celebrations, reviving it last year specifically for New Plymouth's WOMAD festival, at the bidding of Toi Maori Aotearoa, the organisation charged with promoting Maori artists.

Pressed what this latest career highlight in a musical career full of highlights means to him, Rim initially shrugs it off as "just another gig", but then comes clean. "Actually it's momentous because it's my first Maori album.


"I just hope it's appreciated."

Why the heck shouldn't it be? Here we have a man whose been one of the pivotal figures of this country's entertainment industry for more than half a century and yet another internationally recognised performer Rotorua's entitled to embrace as our own. Sure, he's been away a lot and presently lives at Little Waihi, but it's here he was born and bred and where he cut his musical teeth.

Don't be fooled into thinking his entree into the musical scene was easy because, in the 1950s, his father had the most popular band in, well, virtually anywhere.

As a sixth former at the then Rotorua High and Grammar, Rim had to audition - and was convinced he'd fluffed it.

"I sang My Prayer. They were looking for a vocalist with more of the Elvis, Conway Twitty sound but I scraped in."

At the end of the band's 1959 summer season, Rim took himself to Auckland. By day, he worked at the Challenge Phosphate works, and at night he sang around Otahuhu's nightspots with the group he formed. The Teenage Rebels were named, in part, after the era's pin-up boy James Dean "and my mate and I used to question authority so teenage rebel seemed to fit".

Next stop Wellington where, at a talent quest, he was invited to join one of the bands in the Hi Five company's stable. Within six months, they were in Surfers, playing in five-star restaurants.

At the height of the swinging 60s, they played London's Pigalle theatre restaurant. "It was a full-on production, show girls in feathers, the works, with a South Pacific theme. I was singing Bali Hai and a bit of Maori stuff."


The Maori boys caught the eye of Sammy Davis Jr, playing at the nearby Palladium.

"He came backstage wanting to know about our foot routine. We gave him the chorography."

It was through their friendship with Davis (they socialised regularly) that the band was earmarked for Las Vegas but Rim never made it. In Spain, he and the Hi Fives manager fell out. "I came home, missing out on major gigs on the Playboy circuit."

After a spell in Auckland, where he featured in the film Runaway, it was on to Sydney and the Quin Tikis showband - "a breeding ground for a lot of Maori bands and talent".

In 1966, Rim was back in Rotorua for another movie appearance, Don't Let It Get You, starring old mate Howard ("Howie") Morrison. "I had to sing on Toot 'n Whistle chugging around Kuirau Park."

With the late Sir Howard, he performed on the Miss New Zealand circuit then "went country" for other national tours. It was back to Sydney's hotel circuit before going solo, and his biggest career challenge.

"I was performing with Rosemary Clooney at Chequers, Aussie's number one night club, she took ill, suddenly I was the star turn making what had been a 20 minute performance into an hour-long show. I got a standing ovation ... yeah, I guess I am pretty proud of that."

Over the following years, he performed throughout Australia, in Singapore and with "Howie" at events such as the opening of Hawaii's Sheraton Hotel.

The Maori Choir followed.

He admits after the new century dawned he "ran out of steam", retreating to the Little Waihi home of his school days.

Re-forming the choir (36 of its 80 members are from Rotorua) has, he says, given him a new lease of musical life, hence his solo album about which he's disarmingly low key.

"If it gets to fly then I'll get excited."

Rim D Paul
Born: Rotorua, 1941

Education: Whaka Native School, Te Aute College (sponsored by a Ngarimu Scholarship), Rotorua High & Grammar for 6th form

Family: Wife Linda "an Aussie born in Shanghai to a Russian mother and Scottish father", son Kristian, four moko (grandchildren)

Interests: Whanau, golf playing off a 10 handicap ("it's been lower than that"), signing and recording "I'm now too busy to go fishing"

On his name: Rim for Rimini "an old Maori name not after the Italian place, D for Dennis".

Personal philosophy: "Life's a work in progress."