Flaxwood Festival Peter Nelson and The Castaways Bio ...
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Peter Nelson and The Castaways

Peter Nelson and the Castaways originated in Christchurch, where Peter Nelson had previously been in another Christchurch group called The Diamonds.  The Diamonds consisted of Ray Messervy on bass, Don Clarkson on guitar, Doug Petrie on drums, David Henderson on guitar, with Kaye Bassett and Peter Nelson handling the vocals.  They released one single in 1963 which was "Ventures In Paradise"/"Lucille", both sides were instrumentals.  When The Diamonds split up, Peter Nelson and The Castaways with Kaye Bassett was formed, and the new line-up consisted of Peter Nelson and Kaye Bassett (Vocalists), Len Ormsby (Lead Guitar), Don Clarkson (Bass), Doug Henderson (Rhythm Guitar) and Doug Petrie (Drums).  On moving to Wellington in 1965 (at which time Kaye Bassett left), they became known exclusively as Peter Nelson and The Castaways.  Peter Gillette on the VOX continental organ (who had been playing in The Opposition at The Plainsman when the Castaways left Christchurch), was recruited into the band, and he then also moved to Wellington.  Once established in Wellington, Peter Nelson and the Castaways played locally and appeared on the local TV show Teen Scene.  They recorded two singles, "Down the Road A Piece"/"I'll Go Crazy" and "Baby Can I Take You Home"/"I'll Never Be Blue".  By this time the band had substantiated the following line-up: Peter Nelson (Lead Vocalist), Len Ormsby (Lead Guitar), Don Clarkson (Bass), Doug Henderson (Rhythm Guitar), Doug Petrie (Drums), Peter Gillette (Keyboards).  Peter Nelson and the Castaways made a strong reputation for themselves with their quirky choice of their own originals mixed with rhythm and blues.  Their biggest hit was "Down In The Mine" written by Peter Hindmarsh.  Another single was released, "Goin' Out Of My Mind"/"Skye Boat Song", then the group took the plunge and left for Australia in 1966.  Peter Nelson left them soon after to find fame as a solo artist and was replaced by new vocalist Frankie Stevens, after which the band changed it's name to The Castaways.  Peter Nelson moved to Hong Kong where he became a high profile entertainer for many years before returning to Christchurch to be close to family.  There were still two singles to be released as Peter Nelson and the Castaways.  They were "Knock On Wood"/"Old Man Mose" and "At A Time Like This"/"A Little Lovin' Somethin' ", both released in 1967. As the Castaways they released the singles "Any Little Bit"/"Early Morning" in 1967 and "One More Fool"/"Baby What I Mean" and "Angelica"/"Love Is A Hurtin' Thing" for EMI in Australia before returning to New Zealand in 1968.  During their time in Australia, Len Ormsby was replaced by Reno Tehei, Doug Petrie by ex-Twilights drummer Laurie Pryor, and Peter Gillette by Lance Dixon.  More recently Peter Nelson and The Castaways got themselves back together for the ROCKONZ 2007 Concert in the Christchurch Town Hall  Peter Gillette featured on the Hammond Organ (thanks to Kevin Frewer allowing the old girl to come out of retirement).