88 | Sir Howard Morrison - Greatest Kiwi of All Time 2023

88 | Sir Howard Morrison - Greatest Kiwi of All Time 2023

Greatest Kiwi Of All Time: No. 88 - Sir Howard Morrison (No change)

Television.  A relatively new concept in the 1960s.  With it came Coronation Street, Lassie and I Love Lucy.  But what we really wanted was to see our own faces and hear our own voices on New Zealand TV.  The era of the entertainer was born, and none were as entertaining as Sir Howard Morrison.

By the time TV arrived in Aotearoa, Howard was already a household name.  Born in Rotorua and of Te Arawa and Irish descent, Morrison performed regularly throughout the 50s in concert parties and show bands.  He quickly gained a reputation as a brilliant performer and after returning to New Zealand following a concert party tour to Aussie, he formed a group with brother Laurie, cousin John and Gerry Merito.  They called the group, the Howard Morrison Quartet.

After playing Auckland venues, they were signed to a recording contract and would produce a sling of hit singles.  The Quartet would settle on its lineup at around this time, with Wi Wharekura and Noel Kingi joining the band.  This combo would be the one to cement the Quartet’s place in kiwi entertainment history.

Parody songs were a major feature of Howard Morrison’s act.  “My Old Man’s A Dustman” would become “My Old Man’s An All Black”.  “The Battle of New Orleans” became “The Battle of Waikato”.  New Zealand.  Australia.  The UK and US.  The Quartet would tour almost continuously.  

In 1960, the Howard Morrison Quartet would appear on the first official television broadcast in New Zealand.

In 1964, Howard Morrison went solo.  He toured with the Miss New Zealand pageant.  He appeared in movies, including 1965’s “Don’t Let It Get You”.  He toured throughout Asia and the Americas, performing with Sammy Davis Jr. and Glen Campbell.  He was awarded New Zealand Entertainer of the Year.

He would host our very first TV talent show, New Faces.

Morrison would give prominence to issues of underachievement in young Maori and would visit schools to help improve student performance.

In 1982, Sir Howard would perform at a concert in Hamilton.  The resulting live album was a huge success and the single Whakaria Mai spent five weeks at number one.  Three similar live albums would be released to similar success through the 80s.  He was named New Zealand Entertainer of the Decade.  The following year he would sing at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Auckland.

Sir Howard spent his spare time raising money and awareness for various charities.  In 2009 he passed away in his sleep.

Temuera Morrison said after the passing of his famous uncle that “he was a Totara tree in the world of entertainment”.  Tem, we couldn’t agree more.

Sir Howard Morrison.  Legendary Kiwi entertainer.  And one of Today FM’s Greatest Kiwis of All Time.