b. 30 April 1941, Christchurch, New Zealand. The Meteors formed in New Zealand in 1956, with Merritt joined by Ross Clancy (saxophone), Ian Glass (bass), Peter Patene (piano) and Pete Snowden (drums). Merritt was influenced by black R&B and soul records imported by American Naval personnel stationed in New Zealand, which subsequently meant the Meteors were foremost in presenting this new music to New Zealand audiences on album and via several hit singles. The line-up for their 1960 debut album featured Merritt, Glass, Rod Gibson (saxophone), Bernie Jones (drums) and Billy Kristian (piano). Several line-up changes followed, with Merritt and Kristian (who had switched to bass) remaining the two constants. Outgrowing their local market, the band visited Australia in late 1964, but soon relocated permanently. They released five singles, none of which sold well, but the high standard of musicianship within the band made it a popular live act, often winning praise from fellow musicians.
A more permanent line-up took shape in 1967 with Merritt joined by Stewie Speer (b. 26 June 1928, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, d. 16 September 1986, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; drums), Bob Bertles (saxophone) and John ‘Yuk’ Harrison (bass). A road accident the same June left Merritt with one eye and Speer permanently injured, which proved a difficult setback for the band to overcome. They had an Australian hit single with a cover version of Jerry Butler’s ‘Western Union Man’ in late 1969. The accompanying album also sold well and the band departed for the UK in October 1970. After management problems that produced a state of limbo, they managed to ensconce themselves in the pub rock scene. By 1975, the group had signed with Arista Records and gained success with the single ‘Slippin’ Away’, and two albums, A Little Easier and Out Of The Blue. Merritt spent much of 1978 in the USA, but despite a couple of more album releases, his career faded. Speer died of a heart attack in 1986, while Merritt retired to Los Angeles, where he found employment as a film set carpenter, although he continued to tour occasionally in Australia. A new line-up of the Meteors was put together in 2002 to complete the Australian Heart & Soul Of Rock & Roll tour.