Gerry Merito had one last blast of music from his old mate Sir Howard Morrison on Rotorua's Mataatua Marae yesterday.
At the end of the tangi for the Kiwi singer-guitarist, who died on Monday, Sir Howard led a group in an informal tribute concert.
They performed a heart-felt version of the Pete Seeger '60s classic Where Have All the Flowers Gone? followed by other songs including There'll Be Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover and Hoki Mai.
Sir Howard, recovering from a hip operation, came out of hospital for the tangi, and returned shortly afterwards for more medical attention. He sat in a wheelchair with Merito's casket in front of him, flanked by two of Merito's sons, John and Daniel, as the 250-strong crowd joined in.
Other singers included Kiwi icons such as Eddie Low and Frankie Stevens.
But frail though he was, Sir Howard's golden voice soared above the rest; he was clearly the man in charge as he sang these last songs for Merito, a member of the famous Howard Morrison Quartet.
The quartet of Sir Howard, Merito, Wipere Wharekura and the late Noel Kingi toured the country from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s with their unique blend of good humour and natural harmonies. Merito wrote a number of the quartet's hits, including My Old Man's An All Black and Battle of the Waikato, the latter his Kiwi spin on the 1950s hit The Battle of New Orleans.
Merito was a farm boy from Whakatane, a Tuhoe tribe member, when he hooked up with Howard Morrison from Rotorua, who was a couple of years older than him. There was mutual respect, and a strong bond developed.
Before he returned to hospital yesterday afternoon, Sir Howard talked about his 53-year friendship with Merito; "how do you describe something like that?" he said. "I call it 24-carat gold. We're joined at the hip no more, but we're together in spirit always."