Kim Willoughby Profile

Victoria Girling-Butcher
26 May 2020

Kim Willoughby was 18 years old and working in a blood lab when her flatmates asked her to be the singer in their band The Gurlz. By saying “yes” to their proposal, a successful career in music, dance, acting and entertainment unfurled. While best known for her work with When the Cat’s Away in the late 1980s, she has worked with the country’s most celebrated entertainers and musicians.

Growing up in an ungentrified, diverse Ponsonby through the 1970s, she attended Ponsonby Primary and shared the classroom with a literal “melting pot” of pupils. Her earliest musical education was the waiata and poi she learnt from her teachers.

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Kim Willoughby and Bunny Walters in TV Guide.
Watch: When the Cat's Away on tour (1987)
Kim Willoughby, 1990s.
Kim Willoughby.
Watch: When The Cat's Away - Asian Paradise (2001)
Ian Morris, Kim Willoughby and Mark Roach, Apra Silver Scroll, 1999.
Beaver and Kim Willoughby, 1980s. 
Kim Willoughby.
The Gurlz, the early 1980s. From left: Carol Varney, Debbie Chin, Greig Blanchett, Kim Willoughby.
Kim Willoughby with Golden Kiwis, an occasional band featuring musicians with long CVs. The backline is (L-R): Ian Morris, Tony Waine, Harry Lyon, Rikki Morris, and Ricky Ball.
Kim Willoughby photographed for the Live in Paradise tour, 2001
Photo credit: Anthony O'Dwyer
Kim Willoughby, Summer Fun Fiesta, Napier, 2007.
Kim Willoughby: singing remains her greatest pleasure.
When The Cat's Away's tour group on the Asian Paradise tour, 2001: George Gorga (front of house sound), Robbie Barclay (production manager), Dave McIvor (crew), Marty Reynolds (lighting), Tony Flett (stage), Paul Lopez (crew), Colin Burrell (monitors), Rick Brown (stage), Ian Magan (promoter) and sprawled across the band, Chris Tate (sound). In front: Sharon O'Neill, Debbie Harwood, Kim Willoughby, Margaret Urlich and Annie Crummer.
Photo credit: Photo by Mark Roach
Watch: The Gurlz - Out of Bounds (1982)
Watch: Netherworld Dancing Toys - For Today - with Kim Willoughby and Annie Crummer on backing vocals (1985)
Kim Willoughby in the Kuhtze band, a DB-sponsored act which released an EP in 1986. Other members included were Tony Waine and Andy Dickson of the Narcs, Paul Dunningham of Mi-Sex, Greg Clarke of Citizen Band, and Simon Alexander of Chrome Safari. 
Kim Willoughby and Sonny Day.
Kim Willoughby - Look Around Again / Have You Ever Seen the Rain (CBS 1990)
Kim Willoughby on the cover of Hattie's Live Music Guide, May 1992.
Kim Willoughby with Hello Sailor – Dave McArtney at left, Graham Brazier and Harry Lyon.
Kim Willoughby and Moana Maniapoto, APRA Silver Scroll awards, Auckland Town Hall, 2000
An early When The Cat's Away publicity shot: Dianne Swann, Debbie Harwood, Kim Willoughby (front), Margaret Urlich and Annie Crummer.
Photo credit: Paul Ellis
Matthew Hunter and Kim Willoughby in Queen City Rocker, 1986.
Kim Willoughby with the Tuxedo Swing Orchestra.
Four Benny award winners and other friends celebrate Eddie Low's 70th birthday, Cambridge, 2015. From left: Gray Bartlett, Brendan Dugan, Dennis Marsh, Eddie Low, Kim Willoughby, and Tom Sharplin; at right are three of Rusty Greaves's 14 children: Michelle, Kevin and Lex.
Photo credit: Gray Bartlett collection
When The Cat's Away, 2001: Debbie Harwood, Kim Willoughby, Annie Crummer and Margaret Urlich
Photo credit: Photo by Anthony O'Dwyer
Watch: Kim Willoughby in Queen City Rocker (1986)
The Gurlz were a popular live band in Auckland in the early 1980s, releasing an Ian Morris and Paul Streekstra produced EP on Harlequin's Ze Disc label in 1982. From left: Carol Varney (drums), Kim Willoughby (vocals), Greig Blanchett (guitar), Debbie Chin (bass), Shelley Pratt (keyboards/vocals).
Photo credit: Roy Emerson
Kim Willoughby in torch-singer mode. 2000s.
Kim Willoughby, Debbie Harwood, Rikki Morris, Annie Crummer, Regent Hotel, 1990.
Photo credit: Debbie Harwood Collection

Kim Willoughby and Ian Morris's daughters Julia and Maude perform and record as the duo Lexxa, releasing the album Toxic Love in 2019.