Jim Carter on his Spanish semi-acoustic guitar in Wellington during the early 1950s. Photo: AudioCulture.

Nelson’s Jim Carter to enter New Zealand Music Hall of Fame


One of Aotearoa’s most formative musical figures – who happens to be a Nelson resident – will be inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at the 2019 APRA Silver Scroll Awards this October.

Jim Carter, who turned 100 in March this year, will be joined by Ruru Karaitiana and Pixie Williams (both since passed on) in the prestigious honor – as together, they created ‘Blue Smoke’ – New Zealand’s first homegrown pop song in 1949.

This year celebrates the song’s 70th anniversary. It was the first New Zealand song to be wholly written, recorded and manufactured in New Zealand. It was a huge commercial success and was covered by a host of international stars including Dean Martin.

Growing up in Wellington, Jim first picked up the lap-steel guitar in 1936 at the age of 17. He aspired to be a dance band guitarist, so took lessons on rhythm guitar and joined a Wellington band called Gerry Hall and his Orchestra, playing in a church opposite the Basin Reserve.

During the Second World War he was in the army for a year, but tuberculosis kept him away from the action. Instead, he worked as an army chef and often performed at concerts held in military camps such as Trentham.

After the war Carter joined the 2YA Orchestra, which played “pop music of the day”, accompanying a female vocalist broadcasting live-to-air from the station’s Wellington studio.

Then Ruru Karaitiana, who wrote ‘Blue Smoke’, approached Jim to play the lap-steel guitar and lead his band on the recording as he wanted it to have a Hawaiian feel.

But Jim’s contribution to New Zealand’s pop music history didn’t stop at that.

In the same year it was recorded, he played rhythm guitar on Ken Avery’s ‘Paekakariki’, and in the mid-1950s he played on several pivotal recordings by Johnny Cooper – his biggest hit ‘One By One’, his originals ‘Look What You Done (Lonely Blues)’ and ‘Pie-Cart Rock’n’Roll’, and his version of ‘Rock Around the Clock’.

Lap-steel guitar, and music have remained a key part of Jim’s life, including a new recording of ‘Blue Smoke’ he did with Neil Finn for Anzac Day in 2015.

While Karaitiana and Williams have now sadly passed on, their children will be accepting the awards on their behalf.

The APRA Silver Scroll Awards are to be held at Spark Arena in Auckland on Wednesday, October 2.