Luckily for the passengers on that flight, the musicians were fairly clued up when it came to assigning the explosive ingredients to separate pieces of luggage. That was not the case when the cannon misfired during rehearsals and it was resigned to sitting unused while Drut performed.
Just how their agent Lew Pryme landed them a spot on CHTV3’s Popco is long forgotten, but there is some thought it had something to do with Drut’s propensity for blowing things up and/or the late withdrawal of another band and almost certainly nothing to do with the fact the band’s name was “turd” spelled backwards.
That Popco presentation of Bad Company’s ‘Can’t Get Enough’ is all that exists to remember Drut. Decked out in the regalia that guitarist Keith Prictor would refer to as “Drutting gear” – caveman fur and Ugg boots, crash helmets, overalls and an elf costume – they were all about putting on a show.
Their repertoire, by the likes of The Guess Who, David Bowie, The Edgar Winter Group and The Doobie Brothers, brought them success in February 1974 when they finished runners-up to Dragon at the Auckland Festival’s Rock Marathon. When Split Ends were booked as a floorshow at a Drut gig, the band was blown away but the audience started shouting for Drut’s return midway through.
Drut’s live shows owed a lot to bass player John Walmsley’s pyrotechnic know-how. His father was an amateur chemist and while at Henderson High School, Walmsley had been a lab assistant for a freewheeling chemistry teacher.
During a stint with The Hi-Revving Tongues in the late 1960s, Walmsley had employed what he learned to make them one of New Zealand’s most exciting draw cards. By the time he formed Drut in the early 1970s, the emphasis was no longer on the music but on having fun.
There was the occasional mishap with the cannon, dry ice, or Smoke Machine.
There was the occasional mishap when a miscalculation of the cannon charge resulted in sparks flying into the audience or a homemade smoke machine sent the crowd into coughing fits. Sometimes they would pour too much dry ice into the water-filled toilet on stage or the cannon would blow a hole in an unsuspecting venue operator’s ceiling.
During rehearsal for Popco filming, the plastic ball that shot out of the cannon bounced off all sorts of equipment and the set and was deemed too dangerous. It would be discharged later at the hotel. Incredibly, Cliff Andrews’ flaming guitar was declared safe despite being connected to a gas bottle in his hip pocket. The gas flowed through a tube inside his overalls to a tap on the end of the headstock. To ignite it he used a cigarette lighter!
Smoke bombs were made by packing flash powder inside a tin can with a double-happy wick. During the Rock Marathon show at St Matthew’s, one of the bombs blew Drut singer Dave Gorrie off his feet. Thinking it was part of the act, Walmsley nudged the prostrate singer over the edge of the stage.
Having departed the Hi-Revving Tongues not long before they folded, Walmsley returned from Australia and hooked up with Gorrie in Kaleidoscope. When that band wound up, Walmsley and Gorrie got together with drummer Mal Finlayson and guitarist Peter Traille, both out of The Silhouettes, and guitarist Cliff Andrews from Whangarei’s Cliff & The Clan.
There was the usual back and forth during rehearsals over what to call the new unit. When Gorrie returned from a soak at the Parakai Hot Pools with the suggestion Drut – just because of what it was backwards – they were all in agreement. The name … stuck. Nicknames came quickly too. Gorrie’s habit of wearing beads, kaftans and white trousers saw Traille brand him “Guru”. Traille became “the Troll”. By the time of Popco, Keith Prictor had replaced Traille.
Incredibly, Cliff Andrews’ gas-fuelled flaming guitar was declared safe ...
Drut caught the attention of agent Lew Pryme at Fullers Entertainment Bureau and he soon had them working three or four nights a week in venues such as the Mardi Gras Club in Federal Street, the Waitemata Rugby Club, Auckland’s Yugoslav Club and the air force mess halls at Hobsonville and Whenuapai. Pryme would occasionally use the band to back the likes of Ray Woolf, John Hanlon and Angela Ayers.
Gorrie left after Drut’s appearances at the Auckland Easter Show in 1975 and was replaced by ex-Green And Yellow singer Rex Smith. Walmsley soon followed and was replaced by Brian Fergusson, but Drut didn’t last too much longer.
All of the band members continued in the covers scene; Gorrie moved to the far north and enjoyed a long association with John Donoghue. Keith Prictor married Pauline Yandall and was The Yandall Sisters’ musical director for many years, touring the Pacific and parts of the United States with them. He passed away in November 2017. Brian Fergusson died in 2007.
A link to Drut's incendiary performance on the Popco Christmas special of 1974 is below.
Dave Gorrie - vocals
John Walmsley - bass
Peter Traille - guitar
Mal Finlayson - drums
Cliff Andrews - guitar
Keith Prictor - guitar
Rex Smith - vocals
Brian Fergusson - bass