During the 1960s Peter Posa was the golden boy of New Zealand music, riding high on a wave of popularity, with a slew of hits, including Wheels, The White Rabbit and Guitar Boogie.
Posa released 28 singles, 15 EPs and 23 albums. His most famous and controversial album was “The White Rabbit and Other Tunes For Playboys.” Its striking design featured a lady dressed in a playboy bunny style costume, bent over with her bunny tail pointed towards the camera. In 1964, it was quite the hot topic.
The White Rabbit, Posa’s most famous hit, was recorded in one take and came in at exactly two minutes. It was perfect for radio, making it a multi-platinum selling debut album. It topped the New Zealand and Australian charts in 1964, and made Posa a household name.
The hit was released in Australasia, the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Pacific Islands. Posa toured throughout New Zealand and around the world. He made it to America where he mixed with the big names, like Dean Martin, Chet Atkins, Herb Ellis, Hank Williams and Frank Sinatra.
After becoming home sick he came back from the states when his visa was up.
Nearly 40 years later, the album “White Rabbit: The Very Best of Peter Posa” was reinvented and re-released, in 2012. It made it to the top of the New Zealand album charts for six weeks straight, knocking Justin Bieber out of the top spot.
The golden guitar
Posa was known as the man with the golden guitar and covered many musical genres. He had taught himself how to play, never learning how to read music. He credited this with making him more creative and helping him to come up with his unique and fresh sound.
On the home front, Peter would tour with the Miss New Zealand pageant, providing entertainment alongside names like Eddie Low and John Grenell, to packed town halls.
He was a much loved, home grown star. On the cusp of launching his international career in 1963, Posa was the headline act at the Radiant Hall in Ashburton.
In 1938, the former stables – located near the East Street Countdown today – became the Radiant Hall. For the younger set, it was the place to be seen, and the popular dance and social centre of Ashburton.
Posa in Ashburton
On 19 April 1963, the hall was host to a ‘Radiant Twist Dance’ with Peter Posa and his band in attendance. Photos from the time attest to the musician’s stylish good looks and confidence, with the adoring looks of attendees making it clear that a ‘star’ held the enthral of the audience.
What happened to Peter?
It all came to a screeching halt in the early 1970 when Posa was involved in a bad car accident which injured his neck forcing him to slow down and take it easy. He kept his hand in the music scene, producing other people work in the recording studio.
He did tours with overseas acts in the late ’70s and early 1980s, including Helen Shapiro, Gene Pitney, Hank Snow, Marty Robbins and Slim Whitman. He also produced his own greatest his album in 2012, at the age of 71. He is now retired and lives in Waikato town of Te Awamutu.
Posa garnered many awards, including being made an honorary chief in Fiji, known as King Peter. The White Rabbit album received a B+ review in America’s music industry magazine Billboard. Then in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Posa was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to entertainment.
By Vanessa Coulter
- Peter Posa on stage at the Radiant Hall, Ashburton in 1963.
- Peter Posa chats with fans at the Radiant Hall, 1963.
- Lets do the twist – dancers throw some moves at the Radiant Hall.
- A group of very cool young Ashburton men at the Radiant Hall, 1963.