The Tumbleweeds

aka Cole Wilson and The Tumbleweeds

The Tumbleweeds were hugely influential on country music in New Zealand, yet the group rarely ventured beyond its home base, Dunedin.

Their 1949 debut on Tanza, ‘Maple On The Hill’ – originally a “hillbilly” hit for USA act Zeke and Wade – became a standard for country performers, especially in the South Island. For decades, at amateur concerts and talent shows, it was almost compulsory for young artists to perform a rendition of the song.

Colin McCrorie's Kalua Islanders, a spinoff group from The Tumbleweeds, led by McCrorie on Hawaiian steel guitar. 
Photo credit: Chris Bourke Collection
Colin McCrorie's Kalua Islanders present the radio show Songs of the Islands, 1956. A spin-off group of the Tumbleweeds, they are, from left: Doug Reeve, Myra Hewitt, Cole Wilson, Nola Hewitt and Colin McCrorie.
Photo credit: Colin McCrorie collection
The Tumbleweeds' variety show of the early 1950s featured the performers in many guises
Photo credit: NZ On Screen
The Tumbleweeds of Dunedin, 1950. From left: Doug Reeve, Cole Wilson, Nola Hewitt, and Colin McCrorie. Myra Hewitt was yet to join the band. 
Photo credit: Colin McCrorie collection
Blackboard of My Heart
Western Song Hits, 1958
Cole Wilson and The Tumbleweeds with their touring wagon 
Photo credit: Paul Lloyd collection
The Tumbleweeds with Tex Morton, Dunedin, October 1949. From left: Bill Ditchfield, Tex Morton, Cole Wilson, Sister Dorrie, Nola Hewitt and Colin McCrorie.
Photo credit: Colin McCrorie Collection
Cole Wilson's double A-side single The Barman They Couldn't Sack b/w The Rise Of Jessie James, on Viking in 1959
Maple On The Hill - The Untold Story of The Tumbleweeds (1988, NZ On Screen)
One of half a dozen 78s issued by Tanza of The Tumbleweeds in 1950
Photo credit: Simon Grigg Collection

‘Maple on the Hill’ is alleged to have sold some 80,000 copies in the 1950s

‘Maple on the Hill’ was written in 1881 by the 18-year-old Gussie Davis, one of the USA's first successful African-American songwriters.


Cole Wilson - vocals, guitar

Bill Ditchfield - double bass

Myra Hewitt - vocals, steel guitar, guitar

Nola Hewitt - vocals, double bass, ukulele, guitar, mandolin

Colin McCrorie - guitar, vocals, lap steel

The Great Variety Show at the Civic, Christchurch, 9 November 1954. On the bill are The Tumbleweeds, comedian Mrs Mop, ventriloquist Watson Raines, Bill Wolfgramm from Wellington - and, in a solo set, the charming Nola Hewitt (from The Tumbleweeds). 



Special guest at the Early Settlers' Hall, Dunedin, 1945: Colin McCrorie and his electric guitar. This is before the formation of The Tumbleweeds

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