Celebrity News

Kiwi country legends Jodi and Brendan reunite

Fate brought them together 40 years ago and now the talented duo are recreating the magic with a new country collaboration

When the Weekly catches up with Kiwi country legends Jodi Vaughan and Brendan Dugan, they are brimming with excitement. Their first duet in 40 years has hit the top of the local album charts and they are eagerly counting down the days to their anniversary tour.

It’s a special milestone for the pair who formed an unbreakable bond after performing side by side for more than half of their lives.

“We’re family,” confesses Jodi. “All of my children are in Australia, so I rely on Brendan and his lovely wife Sandy. Whenever I need to chat, he’s the person I call.”

Jodi and Brendan have the repartee of a married couple. They exchange witty jibes and Jodi cheekily rolls her eyes when she thinks Brendan has been talking too long without letting her get a word in. But it’s obvious they have a deep respect for one another, with Brendan very protective of Jodi.

“We’re like brother and sister,” tells 70-year-old Brendan. “She needs an older brother to take care of her.”

The dynamic duo rose to fame in the early ’80s on variety show That’s Country. It was the height of New Zealand’s love for country music and every week, Jodi and Brendan would perform alongside other legends of the genre including Ray Columbus and Suzanne Lynch. While Brendan was an old hand in the music world at that point – he released his first album at 16 – it was a whirlwind for Jodi.

She’d only been in Aotearoa a few years after moving from Australia with her first husband. She entered The Entertainers talent competition and made it to the finals, where Brendan and his musical partner Gray Bartlett spotted her. They knew she would be the perfect addition to their group.

“We weren’t looking for anyone, but we needed someone bubbly and she was exactly that,” tells Brendan.

Jodi adds, “Fate stepped in and brought them to me.”

It was the start of a magical partnership, and when Jodi and Brendan released their duet album Fairweather Friends in 1982, it raced up the charts and even landed the pair on the cover of the Weekly. Jodi says she still remembers the feeling of seeing the magazine on stands for the first time.

“It was amazing! To make the Woman’s Weekly is something to be proud of,” she enthuses. “I remember being scared that they weren’t going to pick a good photo. But I was rapt.”

It was particularly gratifying for Jodi, who still remembers the comment made by a talent show judge as a teen pursuing a career in music. “One of the women said to me, ‘Jodi, you have a lovely wee voice, but you’re far too short for the cameras, so you won’t ever make it in showbiz.'”

“To make the cover of the Weekly is something to be proud of,” says Jodi.

Jodi and Brendan spent years travelling up and down the country, playing to adoring crowds in venues big and small. They even had the opportunity to travel to Nashville and perform in the home of country music, a memory they both cherish.

By the early 2000s, Jodi grew tired of life on the road and opted for some stability. So, while Jodi found herself an office job, Brendan embarked on a solo career.

Jodi and Brendan’s loyal fans were delighted earlier this year when they reunited to release I’ll Be There for You. The tune has special meaning for them because Jodi wrote it as a tribute to Brendan after the death of his father in 2020.

“Brendan is always the one we go to when we have any kind of problem,” Jodi shares. “He always says something stupid and makes us laugh. So, when he called to say his father had died, I said, ‘Even the strong need a shoulder to lean on.’ And I thought, ‘That’s a song.'”

When asked what he thought of the song, Brendan looks sheepish, before saying, “I wish you wouldn’t have asked me that.

“I’m very unusual with music. If I like a song straight up, it’s not going to stay with me very long. I wasn’t a big fan of the song to start with, but then it grew on me very quickly. Now, I think it’s one of those songs that will still be around in 30 years. Even if we won’t be.”

As they embark on their victory lap tour, Jodi and Brendan are delighted that after all these years, they still get to do what they love most with their best friend at their side.

“After 40 years, people still come out and see us, and that is amazing,” smiles Jodi. “We’re very lucky people remember us and still love us.”

For dates and tickets for Jodi and Brendan’s 40th Anniversary Tour, visit tasmanrecords.flicket.co.nz

Related stories