Peter Nelson and the Castaways

    Peter Nelson (Lead Vocalist)
    Len Ormsby (Lead Guitar)
    Doug Petrie (Drums)
    Doug Henderson (Rhythm Guitar)
    Don Clarkson (Bass)
    Peter Gillette (Keyboards)

Peter Nelson and the Castaways originated from Christchurch. Peter's real name was Peter Trebilcock. They appeared on the local TV show "Teen Scene" there before basing themselves in Wellington. With this original line-up they recorded two singles "Baby Can I Take You Home"/"I'll Never Be Blue" and "Down The Road Apiece"/"I'll Go Crazy" in 1965. They were good examples of R&B from that time. Unlike other New Zealand bands of the era the Castaways chose to mine a rich vein of obscure tracks of R&B and mixed them with their own originals.

It was the next single that they were best known for. It was "Down In The Mine"/"So Don't Go". "Down In The Mine" was written by Peter Hindmarsh, who was the bass player for the Wellington band, the Premiers, in the early sixties. Around this time Doug Rowe, from Palmerston North's Saints, replaced Don Clarkson on bass in 1965.

One more single was released, "Goin' Out Of My Mind"/"Skye Boat Song", before the group left for Australia in 1966. Following the groups arrival in Australia, Peter Nelson left them to find fame as a solo artist, heading to the lucrative scene in Hong Kong. Peter was replaced by a new vocalist called Frankie Stevens, brother of Jon Stevens and they changed their name to the Castaways.

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.

Peter Nelson had previously been in another Christchurch group called the Diamonds, along with a number of others from the Castaways. The Diamonds consisted of Ray Messervy on bass, Don Clarkson on guitar, Doug Petrie on drums, David Henderson on guitar, Kay Bassett on vocals as well as Peter on vocals. They released one single in 1963 called "Ventures In Paradise"/"Lucille".

Don Clarkson had also been with Don Clarkson and the Wildcats, another Christchurch group consisting of Bevan Littler on piano, Elton Burgess on bass, Russ Thompson on drums, Don on guitar and vocals and Brian Ringrose, of Invaders and Dave Miller and the Byrds fame, on lead guitar. They also released one single in 1963 called "Pretty Baby"/"Somewhere".

Peter Gillette went on to play with the Chapta, the Footsteps and Moviez.

After the Castaways dissolved, Len Ormsby and Doug Petrie joined up with Peter Gillette on keyboards, Ben Kaika, now from Compulsion, and a girl singer called Toni, in a new group called the Traque.


New Zealand Music