Saturday, January 23, 2016

Farewell to a lovely man and a born entertainer

Sad to hear today that the immensely likeable Alec Wishart, the co-founder of Hogsnort Rupert, has died.
Alec was the charismatic front man who uttered the famous line “Come on, my lover, give us a kiss” from the band’s nonsensical 1970 hit Pretty Girl, which spent three weeks at No 1 on the New Zealand pop chart.

He remained with the band through multiple incarnations and was reportedly looking forward to a gig later this year when he died yesterday, aged 76.
I first encountered Hogsnort Rupert, then known as Hogsnort Rupert’s Original Flagon Band, in 1968, when the band I was with played at a dance organised by the Wellington Diamond United Football Club.

Hogsnort Rupert, who hadn’t long been formed, played a guest spot that night. They were all working-class English lads, drawn together initially by a love of football.
Their skiffle-inspired music was rough and ready but infectiously energetic and exuberant, much like the guys themselves. Guitarist, singer and songwriter Dave Luther was the serious musician of the band, and its driving force, but it was Alec’s engaging personality that people noticed.

An appearance on TV’s Studio One talent quest led to them being signed by HMV Records. Knowing I was a fan, their producer, the late Peter Dawkins – later to become one of the most influential figures in the Australian music industry – got me to write the sleeve notes for their first album: All Our Own Work! (still available, I noticed recently, on Trade Me).
The original lineup didn’t last long. A couple of the members got religion, after which the band was rebranded as Hogsnort Rupert, with Alec and Dave still forming the core, as they would do for the next 40-plus years. (When I passed up an invitation to join them as bass player, my flatmate and journalism colleague John Newton dusted off his old Hofner bass and became a member of Hogsnort Rupert just in time to play on Pretty Girl, one of the biggest and most enduring New Zealand hits of the era.)

The Hogsnorts had two more Top 10 hits, Aubrey and Aunty Alice, before their recording career subsided. Being essentially a novelty band, their chart history was probably bound to be brief. But they remained popular as a live act, and few New Zealand bands have been regarded with more affection.
That was largely due to Alec, who was one of those performers whose personality took on an extra dimension when he was on stage. But he was an engaging man in private too – witty, amiable and ego-free. All those who knew him will be grieving.


pdm said...

Karl - correct me if I am wrong but I am pretty sure Alec Wishart was working as an electrician in Napier. Not too long ago either.

Unknown said...

As one of the many who knew him, I absolutely grieve.

Justin du Fresne

JC said...

For several years in the 90s I had a contract that required me to overnight in Napier and the Maraenui pub was my place.. The first time I went there I saw the record disc on the wall behind and then the face of mein host serving me and that was it. I went out of my way to stay there and yarn with Alec.

We did the band at the first visit but thereafter it was just meeting an old mate as he had time from his duties.

Like you say, a lovely comfortable guy.


swordfish said...

Ah, takes me right back to the endless Summers of my childhood in early 70s Titahi Bay. Everyone loved Hogsnort Rupert and, in particular, frontman Wishart. For some reason, I always associate him with John Clarke's first appearance on our screens in Buck House. Two blokes with a dry sense of humour making waves in the entertainment business at roughly the same time, I guess.