Premiers from left: Barry Millage, Peter Hindmarsh, Neil Harrap, Mike Shakleton, Andy Shakleton & Ken Cooper.

    Neil Harrap (Lead Guitar)
    Mike Shackleton (Guitar)
    Peter Hindmarsh (Bass Guitar)
    Barry Millage (Piano)
    Ken Cooper (Bongos)
    Andy Shackleton (Drums)

The Premiers were a rock and roll group from Wellington, whose beginnings were back in 1958 as the Swamp Dwellers. They changed to the Premiers and enjoyed a successful career in the Wellington area up until 1963. Neil Harrap was a highly accomplished lead guitarist for the band.

In 1961 they provided backing for Teddy Bennett's first single and again in 1962, backing for Lou Parun's second single, but the band wasn't happy being a backing group and they recognised that if they were going to further their careers, the band needed to relocate to Auckland. This they did in 1963, but Neil decided not to go. Instead he joined the Measles in a residency at Wellington's Sorrento Coffee Lounge, and worked as a session guitarist with studio band, the Blockbusters, before heading off to live in the USA in 1965.

The rest of the Premiers headed to Auckland with a new lead guitarist, Jimmy Elliot in tow. Jimmy had been in a skiffle group formed back in 1957 called the Kool Kats, formed by Roger Skinner. The Premiers took up a residency at the Top 20 Club, where they worked a very grueling schedule, but still found themselves doing backing work when they backed Alex Neill from the Corvairs on a couple of his singles in 1963 and 1964.

It occurred again when Johnny England, who had been an original member of the Librettos, left them early in the piece and went on to release a single under the name, Johnny England and the Titans. The Titans were actually the Premiers in disguise. The single was "Jezebel"/"Linda Lu", released in 1965.

One of the highlights for bass player Peter Hindmarsh was that he wrote the song "Down In The Mine", successfully recorded by Peter Nelson and the Castaways and it became their best known song.

The Premiers only managed to release half a single during their time. This is quite surprising, considering the group had some very proficient musicians in its ranks. The release was "Top Twenty Theme" on the Red Rooster label in 1964. The other side of the single was a song called "Every Time" by "Ribs" Parkinson.

The group had folded by the end of 1965, with Jimmy Elliot taking Chris Young's place on keyboards with the Dallas Four, while Andy Shackleton joined the original version of Ray Woolf's Avengers in 1967. Peter Hindmarsh worked on several sessions for the Viking label, supporting a number of solo acts. He eventually relocated to his home in Christchurch.

The Premiers can also be found on the following compilations:-


New Zealand Music