Club member profile: “Gentleman” George Barris

George Barris - Photo by Don Laing
George Barris – Photo by Don Laing

George is a stand-up man who plays a stand-up bass and electric bass.

This month, George Barris is onstage with both Highway and Midnight Ramblers.

“My first professional band was The Bitter End from Wellington. In 1968, I moved to Auckland and joined The Underdogs.” ”

In late 1968 I formed Jigsaw with Underdogs drummer Tony Walton and two friends from Wellington, Chaz Burke-Kennedy on guitar and Glyn Mason on vocals. When Glyn left to join The Rebels we became Fresh Air with Chris Seresin on keyboards.”

“I briefly joined Troubled Mind, then moved back to Wellington and was approached to join Highway.” “I did a stint with Blerta after Highway in the early 70s, and between that and my present tenure with Laura Collins, there have been too many bands and gigs to mention!”

Rob Winch Obituary

Robin Howard Winch, musician.  B 14 August 1952, Nottingham, England;  m Ann (dec), 2 s;  d Wellington, 8 August 2012, aged 59.

Rob Winch and his brother Martin were stalwarts of the New Zealand music scene who came to prominence as members of the fabled 1860 Band, the jazz-influenced rock outfit in Wellington that took its name from the long-defunct Lambton Quay bar they were resident at and where they commanded a large and loyal following in the late 1970s. Tragically, both brothers were to die young from cancer, Martin predeceasing his younger brother by less than 18 months.  In another bitter twist, Rob had lost his beloved wife Ann to cancer last year.

The 1860 Band was something of a revelation on the local music scene.  Most of the members were veterans of the mighty Quincy Conserve, a band that played for many years at the old Downtown Club.  Two of this new band’s line-up were relative newcomers to Wellington, brothers Martin and Rob Winch on guitar and bass respectively.  Who could have known then the lasting impact these two would have on the New Zealand music scene in the decades ahead.

Rob was a rock steady yet wonderfully creative bass player who could, at the drop of a hat, deliver phenomenal and inventive melodic solos, ideally suited to the jazz-rock repertoire of the band.  He was also their main singer.  Not many people were initially aware that he, like his brother Martin, was also a superb guitarist.

Originally from Nottingham, England, Rob arrived in Auckland with his family in 1963.  They soon relocated to Nelson, where Rob was a pupil at Nelson College.  His father had been a Policeman in the UK, and Rob was considering a career in the probation service after finishing school.  Instead, he discovered that he had a talent for music and succumbed to the lure of the guitar and a life on the road as a member of numerous pop and rock bands.

In the early 70’s Rob moved to Wellington, where he became a member of the popular psychedelic folk/rock group Tamburlaine.  By the mid-seventies he was playing in Christchurch with Brigade before returning to Wellington to join the outfit he was to become most closely associated with – the 1860 Band.

When original bass player Dave Pearson left, Rob was recruited and shortly afterwards he suggested that the band hire his brother, Martin, from the recently defunct Auckland band Dr Tree, as guitarist and the rest, as they say, is history.  At their peak, the 1860 Band was undoubtedly the biggest crowd pulling crew in town.  It was with this band that Rob’s compositional talent began to develop, and he wrote the track ‘Von Tempsky’ for the album of that name.  He also shares lead vocals with Geoff Culverwell on the bands biggest selling single, ‘That’s The Kind Of Love I’ve Got For You’.

Rob was bass player for the Rodger Fox Big Band from 1978 to 1981.  He accompanied them on their 1980 tour to Montreux, Switzerland, where their performance was recorded live before continuing to New York, where they cut “New York Tapes”, a most excellent album.  Then in 1981, the band toured to the UK, Montreux (and another live album) and Poland.

Back home, he began to develop and expand his skills to encompass work as a vocalist on numerous recording and television sessions and added the art of percussion to his repertoire.  All this led him quite naturally into the business of jingle writing, and he quickly became the ‘go to’ guy for advertising agencies needing a campaign.  That launched his career as the music creator of countless recording studio, television and film production company projects around the country and abroad.  Undoubtedly, his most recognisable television commercial sound track is the iconic ‘Cruising On The Inter Islander’.

In 2003, Rob once again teamed up with Martin to tour their tribute to Eric Clapton show around the country to sell out houses.  Later that year, he took his family to live in Nashville for several months while he recorded an album of his own compositions, “It’s About Time”.

Stricken by several devastating illnesses in more recent years, the lad never complained and many never knew he’d been gravely ill.  In 2011, having cared for his beloved wife Ann until her untimely death, he again ventured out into the live performance scene and showed that he still had more than most to offer where serious guitar chops were concerned.  Such a player, such authority, such feeling.  Those lucky enough to see and hear him at his last gigs at the Bristol Hotel in Wellington were enthralled at his passionate, inspired guitar solos and soulful singing – Clapton would have saluted him.

Hugely admired by musicians and fans alike for his impeccable musical taste, his creativeness, humble attitude, genuine interest in others and a truly insane sense of humour, Rob had the lovely gift of being able to positively influence the lives of almost all those he came in contact with.  His circle of friends was wide and encompassed not only those from across the creative community here and abroad, but people from all walks of life.

Robin Howard Winch died peacefully in Wellington Hospital from complications following a bone marrow transplant on 8 August 2012, six days short of his sixtieth birthday.  His life was celebrated to the full at his funeral, held in Wellington on 13 August 2012.  He is survived by his mother Molly and his sons Ben and Riley.

Roger Watkins

Steve O’Connor passes away

It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of former club member, Steve O’Connor, earlier this week. He had undergone major surgery last year to remove a large brain tumour but unfortunately succumbed to another tumour which was only discovered a few weeks ago.  Steve joined the club in 2007 and, together with his wife Cheryl, had worked on the club committee before moving back to New Plymouth in 2010.

Steve was a very talented guitarist and could play a wide range of styles but his first love was the blues – having a real appreciation for early Fleetwood Mac material along with the other 60’s Blues Boom players. Being brought up in England in the 60’s, he was also fortunate enough to have seen many of these bands when they were still touring.

Since leaving Wellington, Steve and Cheryl would make regular trips back to the capital and always coincided these trips with a jam night at the Bristol. He loved getting up and playing with the house band. The last time they were down Steve brought his Les Paul and played several of the old Mac songs – and despite still recuperating from surgery at the time – put on a stellar show.  Our sympathy goes out to Cheryl and his two children, Liam and Kerry.

Earl Pollard passes away

It is with great regret that we say farewell to Earl Pollard – a wonderful man, a great drummer and a friend to many. We send condolences to his family. Earl played many a gig at Roomfulla Blues with band leaders Bullfrog Rata and Laura Collins. From all who played music with him, and from all the audiences who enjoyed listening to him, may Earl rest in peace – we’re sure he’s in drummer heaven.


28-29 FEBRUARY 2004

cuba-st-carnivalThe Blues stage is once again taking shape at the same site as the last festival – outside/inside the Hotel Bristol, Cuba Mall.

This year has a fantastic range of bands from country blues through to swing and jazz and across to chicago blues and back again.

Point your browser here regularly for updates and bamd information.

  • SATURDAY 28th
    • 1200: The Bruce Brothers
    • 1500: Capital Blues Extraviganza
    • 1900: The Warratahs
    • 2100: Darren Watson Band
  • SUNDAY 29th
    • 1200: Marg Layton Band
    • 1500:Wayne Mason Band
    • 1700:Shaken Not Stirred



(Capital Times article – 15 August 2001)

The Blues moves people and makes them want to get up and dance and that’s just what blues fans will be doing at Capital Blues Inc.’s 5th birthday.

The club president Trudy Benham says “The thing about blues is that it expresses experiences common to us all. The birthday celebration will be held on August 16 at the Hotel Bristol. We are going to go a little bit special. With a weekly spot at the Bristol, Capital Blues hires mostly local bands but also bands from Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Wanganui and the South Island. Every now and then we treat ourselves to an outside band but mostly we promote local blues. NZ has very few blues clubs. There’s one in Hamilton, and a blues bar in Christchurch. In Wellington, Thursday night blues is here to stay. I don’t know why Thursdays work so well but they do. There’s only one more working day so it kick starts everyone’s weekend”.