Bill Sevesi

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Bill Sevesi
Birth name Wilfred Jeffs
Born (1923-07-28) 28 July 1923 (age 92)
Genres Polynesian
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Steel guitar
Years active 1950s–present
Labels Viking, Armar

Bill Sevesi, QSM (born Wilfred Jeffs, 28 July 1923), is a musician and master of the steel guitar who helped popularise Hawaiian style music in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Tongan born Sevesi has composed more than 200 songs with over 20 albums to his credit[1] during a career spanning six decades.

He began playing the Hawaiian Steel Guitar in 1936, and in later years his band 'Wilfred Jeffs and the Islanders' became 'Bill Sevesi and the Islanders.' He has performed all over the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Australia and United States.

He has recorded some classic favourites such as Bye Bye Baby Goodbye (1958) as well as recording artists such as Daphne Walker,[2] The Yandall Sisters and Annie Crummer. He has five children: Wayne Jeffs (to Shirley Collins), Tania Jeffs, Brent Jeffs, Colleen Jeffs (to Vika Jeffs) and John Aloi.

Early life[edit]

Bill Sevesi was born in Nuku'alofa, Tonga in 1923 and came to New Zealand at the age of 9. [3] He saw active service during the second world war and in 1944 he was in Italy. When he returned to New Zealand after the war, he resumed his career, performing with his band as Bill Sevesi and His Islanders. They would play at the Orange Ballroom, in Auckland.[4][4]


He first recorded in 1949 with Tex Morton, a country singer.[4] They were credited as The Rough Riders.[3] Other names he and his group "the Islanders" had recorded as were, The Astyro Trio (or a similar name) for Mavis Rivers, The Bluemountain Boys for Luke Simmons who was a Canadian-born hillbilly singer. On Phil Warren's label, he as Will Jess with "Bye Bye Baby Goodbye". This became a big hit in 1959.[3]

Along with fellow Tongan Bill Wolfgramm he was a recording star on the legendary New Zealand Viking Records label.[5]

During his career, Bill Sevesi has recorded and worked with a multitude of artists. Many of whom had recorded for Viking. They include, Sione Aleki, The Samoan Surfriders, George Tumahai, Daphne Walker. His daughter Tania did a recording approximately 1984 (Waikiki Tamure) only on cassette tape, in his makeshift garage/recording studio in Mt Roskill, Auckland.


Sevesi has won numerous awards including the Queens Service Medal in 1995[1][6] for his contribution to music in New Zealand, the Jerry Byrd Lifetime Achievement Award (1998) from the Steel Guitar Players Hall of Fame, Inc in Missouri, the United States[7] and a Lifetime Achievement Award (2006) at the Pacific Music Awards, New Zealand.[8]

In 2009 he was presented with the Nostalgia Award from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand.[9]

Sevesi will be inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame as APRA's 2015 inductee. The presentation will be made at the 2015 APRA Silver Scroll Awards in September 2015.[10]

Selective discography[edit]

Bill Sevesi & His Novelty Five[edit]


  • Morgan Clarke & Bill Sevesi & His Novelty Five - "Christmas Time" / "Go Man Go" - Zodiac Z-1008, 1957[11]

Bill Sevesi & His Islanders[edit]


  • Bill Sevesi & Lin Peyroux - "Lau Noa" - (Bill Sevesi and his Islanders) / "Fariu Mai" - (Lin Peyroux) - Armar AR1002[12]
  • "Legend Of The Coconut Tree" / "Billy And The Pink Eyed Seahorse" - Viking SEV 101, 1981[13]

With other artists[edit]

7" EP[edit]

  • Daphne Walker avec Bill Sevesi et Les Samoan Surfriders - Reka Reka - Tahiti Records[14]
  • Daphne Walker With Bill Sevesi And His Islanders – Island Favourites - Viking – VE 53[15]
  • The Samoan Surf Riders with Bill Sevesi and His Islanders - Goin' Samoan - Viking VE 79[16]


  • The Samoan Surfriders with Bill Sevesi & His Islanders - Alaoha Samoa - Viking Records VP54[17]


  1. ^ a b "New Zealand Events @". Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  2. ^ "Golden Hits ( featuring Bill Sevesi)". Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  3. ^ a b c "BILL SEVESI INTERVIEWED: Light of the Pacific | Elsewhere by Graham Reid". 2011-01-14. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  4. ^ a b c "Bill Sevesi Team – Free listening, videos, concerts, stats and pictures". Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  5. ^ "Buddy Wilson's Musical Memories". 2012-09-15. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  6. ^ "The Queen's Birthday Honours List 1995". DPMC. 1995-06-23. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  7. ^ "Object: Lap steel guitar | Collections Online - Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa". Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "Variety Artists Club of NZ Inc, Nostalgia Award Winners". Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  10. ^ Jenkin, Lydia (7 August 2015). "Bill Sevesi: Man of Steel enters NZ Music Hall of Fame". NZ Herald (NZME). Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  11. ^ "Simongriggdotinfo | Zodiac Records". 1963-12-21. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  12. ^ "The New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound". Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  13. ^ "The New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound". Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  14. ^ "Daphne Walker Avec Bill Sevesi Et Les Samoan Surfriders* - Eddie Lund Presents... Reka-Reka (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  15. ^ "Daphne Walker With Bill Sevesi And His Islanders* - Island Favourites (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  16. ^ "Samoan Surf Riders, The* With Bill Sevesi And His Islanders* - Goin' Samoan (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  17. ^ "The New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound". Retrieved 20 February 2015. 

External links[edit]