In the mid 1960s, Ritchie Venus began his career playing in bands in Christchurch, Zealand, most notably in Green Ginger, who made two television appearances, in one of which they performed “Listen, World”, which has remained in Venus’s repertoire to this day. Among the musicians he worked with were Malcom Lane (of Serenity), Steve Apirana (of Butler), and Kevin Bayley (of Taylor). After nearly a decade of playing in local bands, Ritchie began his solo career doing guest spots with a Rock’n’Roll revival band in 1974. About 18 months later, he appeared in "Wolfman Jack's Howlin' Disco", impressing the Wolfman with his performance as Elvis. That same year he did his first television performance as Elvis on a telethon.
The following year, Ritchie played Pharaoh in the Christchurch Operatic Society's production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat". Howard McNaughton, reviewing the show in the "Press", described his performance as "excellent".
In 1978, Ritchie set a new record on the "Opportunity Knocks" applause meter, leading to further television appearances, including "Star Zone" and all of TVNZ’s subsequent Telethons. During the 1979 one, he performed during one of the network links. Regrettably, TVNZ has not kept any of his television performances, and all that remains of those from the 1970s are poor-quality kinescopes of a few from 1978 and 1979.
Venus started doing Elvis impersonations because he discovered it could get him on television, but after a while he found nobody would let him do anything else, so he stopped doing it for a while to concentrate on his own music. Nevertheless, the Elvis connection was to give him credibility problems in the next decade. In 1982, his first record was released on the Flying Nun label, and Ritchie's band toured the South Island as the backing group and opening act for Johnny Devlin, New Zealand’s greatest star of the 1950s, and subsequently a major star and record producer in Australia. Devlin was sufficiently impressed to produce a recording for them. The following year, Ritchie toured the South Island with the Troggs, and in 1984 a further South Island tour took place, this time with Ritchie in the cast of Robert Young's production of "Godspell".
More performances and records followed, including two L.P.s - "Rebel Blood" and "You Can't Fight It."
In 1988, Ritchie took his act to America with Steve McCabe, where they performed in stage and radio shows in Boston, Berkeley and San Francisco (where Ritchie was welcomed by the Mayor, Art Agnos), and Ritchie had his records released by Rough Trade.
In the 1990s, Ritchie branched out into motion pictures as well, appearing in "Heavenly Creatures", "The Frighteners", “Snakeskin”, and “The Ballad of Ritchie Venus”, a documentary about him made by Nathan Pohio for television, but which was shown in cinemas instead. Music-wise, he performed regularly at the Wunderbar, a bar in Lyttelton. During this period, his band recorded for the Italian Omom label, appearing on two of their compilations – “That’s New, Pussycat” and “American Graffiti Revisited”.
In 1998, Ritchie released "Rocking To the Grave", a cassette containing six songs (since released on vinyl by Unwucht in Germany), and since then has released several albums and appeared on numerous compilations, including EMI’s “Christchurch the Music” and Unwucht’s “K10”.
His film-making efforts have recently attracted some acclaim, with a screening of some of them at the Christchurch Art Gallery in 2010. One of them, “Vigilante Fury 111” is believed to be the first narrative film about the earthquake of September 4th of that year. In it, he incorporated the true story of two men who conned him out of his savings as he approached retirement age.
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