WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
While researching the songs, the team at Blue Smoke Records spoke to Murdoch Riley, who was Radio Section Head, responsible for TANZA recordings at Radio Corp at the time Ruru Karaitiana and Pixie Williams were making history. Murdoch revealed the plating department discovered an issue with the early masters and stampers. Chemicals were used in the pressing process, and after each pressing the masters and stampers were washed clean in 'unfiltered' tap water, before being stored for the next pressing should demand require it.
No-one realised lime was present in the water which corroded the stored masters. As a result many early masters were ruined and lost after their first pressing.
Radio Corp did not want the artists and composers to know of this mistake so they kept it quiet.
This mistake not only cost Ruru royalty payments, which he relied on, but potentially more hits with Ain't it a Shame and Windy City. Recorded and released in 1949, both were popular on radio and Murdoch confirmed these two songs were among those masters ruined. He also recalled receiving requests from stores for more records after the first pressing sold out, and requests from radio stations for copies to air, given the number of requests they were getting from listeners. But, without the master, Radio Corp was unable to fulfill these requests. Murdoch recalled many visits from Ruru seeking royalty payments for the songs, admitting it got to a point Ruru was refused entry, and eventually gave up 'harassing them for payment'.
Ruru's son confirmed this made sense as he remembered his father telling him of his frustration that he didn't receive royalties when he knew how popular the songs were at the time, putting it down to Radio Corporation withholding payment.
In 1957, after leaving TANZA to start his own record company, Murdoch arranged with several artists to re-record some of their TANZA hits that had been lost. Sadly, Ain't it a Shame and Windy City were not among them.
Photo: John Shears, Radio Corp Technician
'I did not re-record any of the early titles for TANZA. It had been one of my great regrets while at Radio Corporation that I had not been able to re-issue Pixie's early titles. As there was considerable demand from shops for their re-issue.
It is a shame that Ruru was unable to obtain further royalties from the sale of his recordings, but that is what happened.'