Ricky May

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Ricky May
Birth nameRichard Ernest May
Born(1943-11-22)22 November 1943
Onehunga, Auckland, New Zealand
Died1 June 1988(1988-06-01) (aged 44)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Musician
  • entertainer
  • Vocals
  • drums
  • piano
Years active1959–1988
  • La Gloria
  • RCE
  • WEA
  • Festival
  • ABC

Richard Ernest May (22 November 1943 1 June 1988) was a New Zealand-born jazz singer and musician, best known for singing cover versions of numerous pop songs or jazz standards. He moved to Australia in 1962 where he worked mainly in theatre and cabaret and had TV appearances on The Don Lane Show , The Midday Show and Hey Hey It's Saturday , as well as hosting his own show, Ten on the Town (1966).

The Don Lane Show was an Australian talk show television series aired on Nine Network in 1975 until 10 November 1983. Don Lane co-hosted the show with Bert Newton.

<i>Hey Hey Its Saturday</i> television series

Hey Hey It's Saturday was a long-running variety television program on Australian television. It initially ran for 27 years on the Nine Network from 9 October 1971 to 20 November 1999. Its host throughout its entire run was Daryl Somers, who later also became executive producer of the program. The original producer, Gavin Disney, left the program in the 1980s and Somers then jointly formed his own production company, Somers Carroll Productions, with on-screen partner Ernie Carroll, the performer of Somers' puppet sidekick Ossie Ostrich.



May was born as Richard Ernest May in New Zealand in Onehunga, Auckland of Māori descent. [1] His father, Keith May, was a jazz band leader and played alto saxophone. [1] May grew up with siblings and from the age of 15 he performed at Picasso, a café, night club in Auckland. [1] Apart from vocals, May played drums and piano but generally worked as a variety entertainer. He would introduce unconventional vocalisations, improvisation and the spoken-word into performance.

Onehunga Suburb in Auckland Council, New Zealand

Onehunga is a suburb of Auckland in New Zealand and the location of the Port of Onehunga, the city's small port on the Manukau Harbour. It is eight kilometres south of the city centre, close to the volcanic cone of Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill. It was formerly governed by Auckland City Council until the merger of all of Auckland's councils into the 'super city' in 2010.

Auckland Metropolitan area in North Island, New Zealand

Auckland is a city in the North Island of New Zealand. Auckland is the largest urban area in the country, with an urban population of around 1,628,900. It is located in the Auckland Region—the area governed by Auckland Council—which includes outlying rural areas and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, resulting in a total population of 1,695,900. A diverse and multicultural city, Auckland is home to the largest Polynesian population in the world. The Māori-language name for Auckland is Tāmaki or Tāmaki-makau-rau, meaning "Tāmaki with a hundred lovers", in reference to the desirability of its fertile land at the hub of waterways in all directions.

Māori people Indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand

The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Māori originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages some time between 1250 and 1300. Over several centuries in isolation, the Polynesian settlers developed a unique culture, with their own language, a rich mythology, and distinctive crafts and performing arts. Early Māori formed tribal groups based on eastern Polynesian social customs and organisation. Horticulture flourished using plants they introduced; later, a prominent warrior culture emerged.

In 1961 jazz pianist, Ronnie Smith, set up a group to play at the Sorrento Club, Wellington. [1] [2] Smith's group had Tommy Tamati on bass guitar and May joined on drums and backing vocals. [2] May become a regular with the group and sometimes provided lead vocals. [2] Bruno Lawrence, an English-born jazz musician, who was regularly in the audience, often got up to play the drums when May sang lead. [1] [2] The group worked for about a year and toured southern North Island. [2]

Wellington Capital city of New Zealand

Wellington is the capital and second most populous urban area of New Zealand, with 418,500 residents. It is located at the south-western tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Remutaka Range. Wellington is the major population centre of the southern North Island, and is the administrative centre of the Wellington Region, which also includes the Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa. Its latitude is 41°17′S, making it the world's southernmost capital of a sovereign state. Wellington features a temperate maritime climate, and is the world's windiest city by average wind speed.

Bruno Lawrence New Zealand actor and musician

Bruno Lawrence was a British and New Zealand musician and actor.

At the end of 1961 May returned to Auckland and signed with Harry M. Miller's La Gloria label, which released his debut single in 1961, a cover version of Chubby Checker hit "Let's Twist Again". He followed with "I Could Have Danced All Night" in 1962. During that year he relocated to Sydney and primarily worked in cabaret. He recorded compositions of Nat King Cole and appeared on Australian TV shows The Don Lane Show , Farnham and Byrne (co-hosted by John Farnham and Debra Byrne), and regular appearances on The Midday Show .

Harry Maurice Miller was a New Zealand Australian promoter, publicist and media agent.

Chubby Checker American singer

Chubby Checker is an American rock 'n roll singer and dancer. He is widely known for popularising many dance styles including the twist dance style, with his 1960 hit cover of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters' R&B hit "The Twist" and the Pony with hit "Pony Time". In September 2008, "The Twist" topped Billboard's list of the most popular singles to have appeared in the Hot 100 since its debut in 1958, an honor it maintained for an August 2013 update of the list. He also popularized the "Limbo Rock" and its trademark limbo dance, as well as various dance styles such as The Fly.

Lets Twist Again 1961 single by Chubby Checker

"Let's Twist Again" is a song written by Kal Mann and Dave Appell, and released as a single by Chubby Checker. One of the biggest hit singles of 1961, it reached No.8 on the U.S. Billboard pop chart in August of that year and subsequently reached No.2 in the U.K. in February 1962. The song refers to the Twist dance craze and Checker's 1960 single "The Twist", a two-time U.S. No.1 single.

In 1966 May released another single, "This Little Boy's Gone Rockin'", via RCA (Bluebird Records). [3] [4] From March of that year he hosted the Sydney teen pop music TV series, Ten on the Town, on TEN-10. [5] It ran in direct competition with Bandstand on TCN-9 and Col Joye on ATN-7. [6] Walter Learning of The Canberra Times compared the three shows, which "vie for the younger audience" and found that "Bandstand must win hands down" as Col Joye "has no life" and May's show, "suffers from over effort on the part of all concerned." [6]

Bluebird Records American record label

Bluebird Records was a record label known for its low-cost releases, primarily of blues and jazz in the 1930s and 1940s. It was founded in 1932 as a lower-priced RCA Victor subsidiary label. Bluebird concentrated on producing and selling music inexpensively. It created what came to be known as the "Bluebird sound", which influenced rhythm and blues and early rock and roll.

TEN is Network 10's Sydney flagship station. It was originally owned and operated by United Telecasters Sydney Limited (UTSL), and began transmission on 5 April 1965 with the highlight of the opening night being the variety special TV Spells Magic.

Colin Frederick Jacobsen AM, better known by his stage name Col Joye, is an Australian pioneer rock singer-songwriter, musician and entrepreneur,, with a career spanning some sixty years. Joye was the first Australian rock and roll singer to have a number one record Australia-wide and experienced a string of chart successes in the early Australian rock and roll scene, that was emerging from the USA and the United Kingdom.

He issued no further recordings until 1973: a double album, with the Julian Lee Orchestra, Fats Enough, on ABC records. In 1974 ABC decided to release a second double album, Just Foolin' Around – A Tribute to Louis Armstrong. In 1983 the first half of this album was re-released on CD, as A Tribute to the Greats. 1981 saw the J&B release an album, Ricky May, while ABC records issued a compilation, The Best of Ricky May on CD. He issued a duet single with Jonathan Coleman, "Built for Comfort (I Ain't Built for Speed)"/"Off the Record", as the Big Boys in 1983. In 1986 RCA released a Christmas album, It's the Christmas Man. Beyond this he concentrated on live cabaret performances and television work. He later appeared regularly on Hey Hey It's Saturday .

Jonathan Coleman (presenter) Australian broadcaster

Jonathan Harry Coleman is an Australian television presenter, radio announcer, writer, performer of comedy and advertorial spokesperson, he started his media career in Australia in the late 1970s, but has also worked in his native United Kingdom.

In 1988 May received the Benny Award from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand, the highest honour available to a New Zealand variety entertainer. [7]


On 1 June 1988 Ricky May had a fatal heart attack at the Regent Hotel, Sydney, after getting a standing ovation on the opening night of a new cabaret show. [8] He was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital. [8] He was 44 years of age. [9] His wife, Colleen Ann May, died on 17 August 2017, aged 75. [9] [10]




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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Lady Caroline (29 July 2013). "Ricky May". Awesome Entertainment Magazine. Archived from the original on 9 July 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Sergent, Bruce. "Ricky May". New Zealand Music of the 60's, 70's and a bit of 80's. Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  3. "Ricky May – Entertainer one in a million"
  4. 1 2 "Record Labels – Bluebird", Singles/ Cat. #101643 /Date:1965/ Artist:/Ricky May with Latin Quarter Discotheque Combo under direction of Jimmy Sloggett / Title(s):"This Little Boy's Gone Rockin'" (Darin-Curtis) "Spanish Harlem" (Leiber-Stoller), Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975, MILESAGO
  5. Ten on the Town, 10 Network / x30m-e / 1965-66 black and white/Producer/Director: Kevin Ryder/Teen themed pop music show hosted by Mike Walsh and then for season two Ricky May.
  6. 1 2 Learning, Walter (25 March 1966). "Television: A 'pill' worth sugarcoating". The Canberra Times . 40 (11, 425). p. 15. Retrieved 3 April 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  7. "Variety Artists Club of NZ Benny Award Recipients". Archived from the original on 16 October 2013.
  8. 1 2 "Ricky May; Australian Jazz Singer". Los Angeles Times . 3 June 1988. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2018. Ricky May, 44, a leading Australian jazz singer. The New Zealand-born performer was stricken with what appeared to be a heart attack Wednesday minutes after being given a standing ovation at the opening night of his new show at the Regent Hotel in Sydney. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital
  9. 1 2 Love, Colin W (21 June 1995). "Legal Notices: Estate of Richard Ernest May". The Sydney Morning Herald . p. 40. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  10. "The Ryerson Index". Ryerson Index Inc . Retrieved 8 December 2017.. Note: User must add 'May' into the Surname search parameter and 'Colleen' into the Any Given Name(s) parameter.