Friends and family and the music industry are gathering at Raetihi marae to farewell Kiwi and Whanganui music legend Carl Perkins.

Perkins died on Wednesday after a 15-month battle with bowel cancer.

A member of prominent reggae band Herbs in the 1980s, Perkins was a pioneer of the genre in New Zealand and also went on to success with House of Shem, the band he founded with his sons in Whanganui in the mid-2000s.

Perkins was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in February last year and his son, Te Omeka, said the guitarist and singer kept performing up until March, including at the One Love festival in Tauranga in January.


"He was positive," Te Omeka said. "He was told he had three months but he did 15, so he did well."

Te Omeka said his father was a music "legend".

"He had a big impact on New Zealand music. Some say he's the king of New Zealand reggae."

Perkins was born in Raetihi and grew up with parents who were both singers. He spent many years in Whanganui but was living in Hamilton when he died.

Te Omeka said his father always felt House of Shem represented Whanganui.

"We were known as a Whanganui reggae band when we first started and everyone thinks of us as that."

House of Shem have released three albums of roots and reggae-inspired music together and have performed alongside UB40 and Ziggy Marley.

"A true pioneer and champion of reggae music here in Aotearoa," the Foundation NZ Reggae page posted. "This loss weighs."


Perkins in lying in state at Raetihi marae on Thursday and Friday where his funeral will be held at 11am on Saturday. Te Omeka said people were welcome to attend.

Perkins, who is survived by his wife and five sons, will be buried at Raetihi Lawn Cemetery.