Much loved New Zealand soul and blues singer Rick Bryant has died after a 50 year career in music.
With a musical upbringing that encompasses rhythm and blues, electric blues, acid rock and psychedelic soul, Rick Bryant's lengthy career stands as a testament to the US soul, R&B and gospel singers he admired.
The singer was prominent in many bands over the years, including The Jive Bombers, Rough Justice, The Neighbours, BLERTA, Mammal, and the Jubilation Choir.
Rick Bryant first hit the Wellington live scene in 1968, performing in the Pretty Things-inspired rhythm and blues band Original Sin and Chicago-blues act Gutbucket.
In the early 1970s, singer-saxophonist Bryant formed the more soul-influenced Mammal and Rough Justice, and performed with BLERTA. More was to come in the following decades, including soul, folk-blues and gospel groups.
He took a shine to the spotlight of soul music and toured the country with Mammal, who in January 1973 performed at the Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival and released a single, 'Wait'/'Whisper'.
Following a cannabis conviction in the mid-1970s (the first of many drug-related arrests), Bryant toured heavily with shifting line-ups of Rough Justice, which came to an end in 1979.
Bryant headed north to Auckland's thriving live circuit. In 1980 he teamed up with Sam Ford and Trudi Green in The Neighbours. In mid-1983 they captured a sweaty soul set at The Gluepot in Ponsonby, which was released as Vocal At The Local.
Bryant was back centre-stage later in 1983 with Rick Bryant and The Jive Bombers.
With a full horn section and a mix of originals and classic soul covers by the likes of Bobby Bland, Al Green and James Brown, The Jive Bombers quickly became pub favourites. In 1984 they released a part-studio, part-live album called When I'm With You, recorded at Radio NZ's Wellington studios and at Wellington Town Hall.
In 1985 Bryant shared the mic with Chris Knox and Don McGlashan as part of a collaborative protest against the proposed 1985 All Black tour of South Africa. Under the name Right, Left and Centre, they released 'Don't Go', a protest song, complete with Soweto-influenced guitar, which peaked at No.2 in March 1985 and stayed in the NZ Singles Chart for nine weeks.
The long-lived Windy City Strugglers, who first got together in the late 1960s but parted ways with Bryant in 1975, resumed in the mid-1980s, and headed into the new millennium with quality blues highlighted over six albums. The line-up includes Bryant's long-term musical allies Bill Lake (Gutbucket, Mammal, The Pelicans) and Nick Bollinger (also from Rough Justice). In 2009 they released an anthology, Time Comes Around.
VIDEO: Can't Get Back, performed by Windy City Strugglers, and co-written by Bill Lake and Arthur Baysting, who also died this week.
The Jive Bombers recorded again in 2012 and continue to perform, and Bryant was a current member of the Jubilation gospel choir in Auckland.
Rough Justice reformed for a short tour in 2014. In late 2016, Nick Bollinger's memoir Goneville (Awa Press) featured a lot of material about his time in Rough Justice. The book is dedicated to Rick Bryant.
Rick Bryant died in Auckland on 5 December 2019.
This is a summary of a story by Andrew Schmidt for AudioCulture. Used with permission.