Graham Reid | | 1 min read
But Merv Thomas can say that.
And so much more about his crowded life …
Merv Thomas grew up in Timaru and, from age 10, in Whanganui where his cornet-playing father (“a brilliant player”) led the local brass band and trained young players. As with his father – who died just before Merv turned 21 – the young Thomas picked up tunes by ear from the radio and records “even though I never actually deliberately listened to them,” he told Chris Bourke in a 2007 interview.
“Somehow they just went in there [his memory] and it always fascinated me, so I was always keen to play any request that people came up with. To see if I could see how it went. Even though I had never played it.”
He began playing in a brass band: “Dad took us to band practice every week and that was it. But then evolution came about by an act of God.”
But he soon drifted away from banding towards local dance bands. He played trombone for popular foxtrots and waltzes, often alongside Māori musicians from Rātana Pā.
Dixieland jazz came into his orbit courtesy of a fellow he met while working as an apprentice electrician. He went to his house because he wanted to meet the man’s striking, blonde daughter.
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