Widely heralded as New Zealand’s greatest guitarist, Peter Posa passed away at Waikato Hospital on Sunday, February 3, aged 77.
A bestselling recording musician more than five decades earlier, Posa made a stunning comeback in 2013, claiming the Highest Selling Album award at the NZ Music Awards.
That presentation recognised the success of ‘White Rabbit: The Very Best Of Peter Posa’. Named for his single greatest hit, the career-spanning retrospective album debuted at number 1 on the NZ Album chart. By then, a stroke meant he was no longer able to play guitar with anything like his former agility, but nonetheless retained a strong love for the instrument and music.
Posa’s famous ‘White Rabbit’ album was released in 1963 – three years before the start of the first official local music chart. Shooting to fame in the 1960s he released almost 30 singles, and more than 20 albums – renowned in NZ for his associations with the Hollywood A-lister likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Chet Atkins.
Tragically a car crash in 1970 left him plagued with chronic headaches and kept Posa from recording and touring for some years, a neck injury adding to an ongoing battle with depression and alcohol in denying him the international legacy he might well otherwise have achieved.
“From 1962 to 1965 I toured continuously here, Australia and the Pacific Islands … I was young and thought I could conquer the world. It was crazy to even attempt it,” he said.
Peter Posa’s lifelong dedication to music was recognised in 2008 when he was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Published Feb/March 1998 as part of ‘Out Out Out On The Beach’, written by Dominic Blaazer.
‘The Best Of Peter Posa: The Album’
Yes, New Zealand’s original guitar hero, Mr. Peter Posa has, at last, had a CD compilation of his work released by BMG, which should be in your local record shop very soon. It’s been a long road as Peter first tried to release a compilation seven years ago with little interest. In the end his perseverance won through and we can now all have ‘The Best Of Peter Posa: the album’.
“This time, someone approached me and I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Comprising 24 tracks, the album includes the classic Posa originals, a pair of medleys and some standards as well. Peter and his wife Margaret themselves were responsible for the track listing. An unenviable task according to Peter.
“It was a very big job. We had to leave a lot out but still satisfy the public demand, while keeping it lively and bouncy at the same time.”
Gonk! The booklet is very tastefully done, outlining Peter’s history from Henderson schooldays to present, and the collection of photographs and sleeve art are a genuine collectors’ thrill. Peter with extremely sharp shoes, Peter with Dean Martin, Peter in Noumea, Peter with a young lady wearing a rabbit suit – phew!
The cuts all sound excellent thanks to some modern mastering attention and afford the listener a real journey around the world without leaving the comfort of one’s armchair. It’s all covered, from Isa Lei to the Scottish and Irish medleys, via Nashville, The French Song, Vieni Vieni – and the Yugoslav national dance Kola as a nod towards Peter’s roots. Due to a car accident in 1970, Peter is unfortunately now unable to perform because of constant neck pain, but he still plays around the house. So there you go guitarists, go and learn a real tune.