As a guitarist and promoter Gray Bartlett has been a prominent member of the New Zealand music industry for nearly 60 years.
‘La Playa’ was his biggest hit, a guitar instrumental first released in 1964 by Zodiac that became a perennial seller in Asia.
Bartlett’s work as a guitarist and promoter have taken him around the world as a performer and a businessman. He has produced many recording projects of his own and with others, helped many New Zealand artists reach a wide audience, and seen him champion the local music industry to the public and politicians. For nine years he put himself in the firing line as an Auckland city councillor and he has even been a Parliamentary candidate.
Be it country music or the light classics, Bartlett has played it or promoted it. He has performed since his mid-teens, in the late 1950s, continuing well into the 2000s. In the 1960s, his own recordings cracked the Japanese market; later, he would make forays into China. In the 2000s, he assisted young artists such as Hayley Westenra enter the industry.
Bartlett himself has received many accolades. Most prominent among them is his MBE, awarded in 1987 for services to the arts and music; in 2012 he was awarded a Queen’s Jubilee Medal for charity work. He has been a long-serving patron of many organisations, among them the Variety Artists’ Club, which gave him a Benny award in 2001. For his many years as a patron, the VAC awarded him a President’s Medallion in 2017.