The Sixties in New Zealand saw the end of the ‘6 O’clock swill’, and the introduction of late night licensing. This less regulated environment created a demand for musical entertainment, and the Manawatu region was no exception to this trend.
A small dedicated group of musicians gathered at Newbury Hall in April 1966 to establish what was originally known as the Manawatu Musicians and Entertainer’s Club.
The Club became an Incorporated Society on 8th October 1968. Two of the fifteen members who signed the application for incorporation are still active in the Club today – namely Errol Christiansen and Bill Pink. Two signatories gave their occupation as Airman, RNZAF Ohakea.
Initially the Club had no fixed abode and so ‘blows’ were held at various venues such as the Sorrento Coffee Lounge in Broadway Ave, Syd Wood’s Newbury residence, and in member’s homes. Soon the Club had a financial membership of about 40 and had a 15 piece swing orchestra which rehearsed regularly at the ‘Officers Club’ in Linton Street.
The first club-room was a building in Taonui Street scheduled for demolition (hence rent free) complete with bar, bandstand and turntable.
The club’s first annual Jazz Festival was held in 1968 over Labour Weekend. The festival began with an afternoon concert in the Opera House, featuring the Club’s 18 piece Big Band under the leadership of Wally Barton, followed by groups from Wanganui, Taihape, Hawke’s Bay, Raetihi, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Wellington. David Mahoney from 2ZA acted as Compere, and an evening dance at Ballroom Astoria provided the finale. These annual Festivals would continue, extending to six days and featuring both national and International guests.
At Labour weekend in 2016 the Manawatu Jazz Club will celebrate its 50th Anniversary, and the Club will welcome former members and interested parties to join in the festivities.