PIXIE WILLIAMS, the singer who gave voice to the Kiwi classic Blue Smoke, has ‘‘drifted by into the deep blue sky’’.
She died aged 85 last Friday at Fergusson Rest Home and Hospital in Upper Hutt, after suffering from dementia, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Pikiteora Maude Emily Gertrude Edith Williams was born on July 12, 1928, in Mohaka, northern Hawke’s Bay. Her parents died young and, in 1945, she shifted to Wellington and into the YWCA Hostel in Oriental Parade.
There, her beautiful voice came to the attention of 28th Maori Battalion veteran Ruru Karaitiana, who was looking for a singer to bring his song Blue Smoke to life.
Karaitiana composed the song while on a troop ship in 1940. It was popular at troop concerts long before it was recorded by Pixie Williams and the Ruru Karaitiana Quintette at the Radio Corporation’s Columbus Recording Studio in 262 Wakefield St in 1949.
Blue Smoke, sung by Williams, was the first record wholly processed and recorded in New Zealand. It was a huge hit, topping the charts for six weeks and selling 50,000 copies. Dean Martin was one of several international artists who covered it.
Williams’ love of hockey almost scotched the recording programme, as one weekend she preferred her weekly hockey game to a recording ses-
Blue Smoke, the first record wholly made in New Zealand. sion. Teenage crew member John Shears was sent to find her, and recalled yesterday how delighted he was to cajole her back to the studio.
In the summer of 1951, Williams headed south to Dunedin, where she met Irishman Paddy Costello. It was love at first sight. Her promising singing career soon took second fiddle to raising their four children.
Daughter Amelia and friend Julie Powell recently put out a Pixie Williams CD collection comprising 13 songs. Powell runs the Big Bad Wolf Charcuterie in 262 Wakefield St, the same building in which Blue Smoke was recorded. In pride of place on the wall is the original imprint of the 78rpm vinyl Blue Smoke record.
A funeral service for Williams will be held at St Joseph’s Church Upper Hutt at 1pm today. She will be buried beside her husband in Dunedin.