Taranaki friends remember She's a Mod singer, Ray Columbus

Three friends gather around a table covered with photos and yellowing newspaper cuttings to reminisce about a bygone era and their friend Ray Columbus.

Columbus, who died on Tuesday, used to come to Taranaki quite often during the 1960s and 70s to sing at dances and cabarets. And when he did, local band Kount Five Plus Two always played with him.

They've had a number of people call them since he died, Kount Five member Terry Hignett said.

"People remember him coming to Taranaki."

Like in 1971 when Columbus played to about 7110 people who crowded the streets of New Plymouth for a Mardi Gras.

Hignett, 70, and band members, John Paki Paki, 70, and Martin Jordan, 68, got together on Thursday to remember Columbus.

They worked with the She's A Mod singer from 1966 until the late 1970s, Terry Hignett said.

"We became his group of choice." And any time Columbus was working in Taranaki or within a 200 mile radius he would ask the band to work with him, he said.

"He was a man's man. No airs. No graces. He got in and did the job. He became very good friends with us. He was good to work with."

Columbus would let them know what he would be singing in advance and send them tapes so they could rehearse, he said.

"No one would go home disappointed. He could read the crowd. He was just the consummate entertainer." 

Jordan said Columbus was very professional and easy to work with. 

"He set high standards. He had certain beliefs he put across to us. He wanted a strong beginning to a set and a strong ending and he said the middle would take care of itself." 

Paki Paki said Columbus had hits and was famous, but he would communicate with people by doing cabarets.

"He did that well. And he would mix with people afterwards."

The three friends worked with all of the top Kiwi singers of the era, but it was Columbus who came to Taranaki the most, Hignett said, "because he was the best".

 - Stuff