Billy Kristian

aka Billy Karaitiana

Bass Player Needed: who you gonna call? For over 50 years the answer has simply been “Billy”.

Billy Karaitiana’s long and varied career has taken him from a marae near Christchurch, to nightclubs in Auckland and King’s Cross, to playing jazz-rock in Europe, recording in Hollywood – and back to New Zealand to produce contemporary Māori music.

The Northland Titanics, 2018. From left: Alex Simeti, Billy Kristian, John Donoghue, Dave Gorrie.
Photo credit: John Donoghue
Ryan Monga and Billy Kristian, APRA Silver Scrolls, 1997
Photo credit: Murray Cammick Collection
Max Merritt & The Meteors disembark in Wellington, December 1962. The crossing from Australia was rough, causing Billy Kristian (far right) to throw up through the night. From left are: unidentified, Peter Williams, Peter Sowdon, Max Merritt, promoter Ken Cooper, DJ Des Britten, Peter Williams's brother Barry, and Billy Kristian. 
Photo credit: Ken Cooper collection
The surviving members of Ray Columbus And The Invaders are inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at Vector Arena in 2009. Dinah Lee stands behind Dave Russell, Billy Kristian and Ray Columbus.
Renaissance, 1970, outside the Singapore hotel in which they performed six nights a week. Peter Nelson is third from left, Billy Kristian is beside him, with a beard, and Wally Scott has the walrus moustache. 
Brian Smith at Auckland Art Gallery with Mike Walker, Billy Kristian and Tony Hopkins
Photo credit: Brian Smith Collection
Billy Kristian in Million Dollar Bill in Australia in the mid-70s
Headband: Billy Kristian, Dick Hopp, Ronnie Craig, Jimmy Hill and Tommy Adderley, 27 November 1971. Dominion Post collection, Alexander Turnbull Library EP/1971/5931-F
Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Alley Oop: Mike Walker, keyboards, Trevor Harrison, vocals, Billy Kristian, bass and Jimmy Hill, drums.
Tric and Billy Kristian at the 1992 APRA Silver Scrolls
Billy Kristian (right), Wally Scott and Peter Nelson with B.B. King, 1969
Max Merritt and The Meteors 1960 -  l to r: Ian Glass, Rod Gibson, Bernie Jones, Max Merritt, Billy Karaitiana
Renaissance, the band formed by Peter Nelson to play the clubs and hotels of Asia in 1969. Billy Kristian second from left.
Max Merritt and The Meteors caught during an Australian TV show in 1967 - Billy Kristian, Max, Peter Williams
Max Merritt and The Meteors 1967 - Billy Kristian, Max Merritt, Peter Williams and Bruno Lawrence
Billboard, the Auckland Club Band with Ian Fraser, Geoff Castle, Martin Winch (in hat at back), Billy Kristian (in cap), Beaver, and Brian Smith. This was taken mid-1983.
Meteors bass player Billy Karaitiana (left) with Max Merritt, 1958.
Photo credit: Billy Karaitiana collection
The 1979 single If You Remember Me from Night. Billy is in the bottom image on the right. The musician at the top centre is Nicky Hopkins, legendary session pianist for The Rolling Stones, Beatles and Kinks
Billy Kristian in Palmerston North with The Invaders in 1964
Photo credit: John Yuile collection
The C'mon band in 1968 - Billy Kristian on the left, with Jimmy Hill, Herma Keil, Roger Skinner and Brian Henderson
Night with Billy Kristian second from left, and Chris Thompson third from right
Pacific Eardrum - All Around Us (featuring Billy Kristian)
Billy must have been a little miffed at HMV when this single came out – one would expect a New Zealand label to spell the adopted surname of perhaps its most famous bassist correctly.
Billy at Ronnie Scotts, 1978
Billy Kristian played on literally dozens of recording sessions in Auckland during the 1960s including this 1967 one for a Lew Pryme album which seems never to have found release. The band here included all The Invaders.
Photo credit: Phil Warren collection
The original session sheet for Billy's 1967 solo single Cool Jerk. Recorded at Mascot during recordings for a Keil Isles album, it also featured Herma Keil, Brian Henderson, Roger Skinner, Jimmy Hill and Jimmie Sloggett. Three Keil Isles tracks were also worked on in the session. The notes are from Phil Warren.
Photo credit: Phil Warren collection

Billy Karaitiana began calling himself Kristian from 1963 after a landlady told him she “didn't rent to Maōri(s)”. Then Eldred Stebbing and Ray Columbus seized on the Kristian surname and it stuck. So Max Merritt had a bass player named Billy Karaitiana from 1960-63 who left and played with Ray Columbus but rejoined as Billy Kristian in September 1965.

In 2012 Billy was inducted in to the NZ Music Hall Of Fame with Ray Columbus and Dave Russell.

Billy's son Daryn Karaitiana is also a bass player and has played with Nathan Haines, Tony Hopkins and many others

Chuck Berry is just one of the touring acts Billy has played bass for, in 1996 at Mt Smart Supertop. Also on the bill were Bo Diddley, The Everly Bros and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Billy Kristian was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2009, as a member of Ray Columbus and The Invaders. The Hall of Fame is an initiative of Recorded Music NZ and the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), whose support of AudioCulture enables the site to stream music content.

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