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Johnny Devlin

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Full Name:  John Lockett Devlin
Born:  11th May, 1938
Hometown:  Wanganui
Instruments Played:  Vocalist
Career Began:  1958
Groups:  The Devils
Groups:  The Tornadoes
Recording Labels:  Prestige, Teen, CNR, Festival, ATA, Columbia, Bell
First Single:  "Lawdy Miss Clawdy"
Worked/Toured with:  The Beatles
Awards:  Legacy Award (New Zealand Music Awards) 2007
:

  Award presented 2008

Johnny Devlin, New Zealand's first major rock and roll star, had a major effect on the domestic music scene and etched the way for a musical revolution.  Dubbed the "Wanganui Wailer" Johnny Devlin's unveiling performance at Auckland's Jive Centre featured an all-Presley repertoire and, although there was a general buzz in the audience before he commenced, no-one was prepared for what was to follow.  By the time he completed his set, crowds were screaming and everyone else was in awe and disbelief.  It was then that rock and roll took over the charts, minds and culture of young New Zealand.  His first single, Lawdy Miss Clawdy (a version of the Lloyd Price classic sung in an Elvis Presley style) was released in June 1958 and created New Zealand recording history by selling an unbelievable 100,000 copies before it was even played on radio.  It was in fact the first Gold Record ever awarded in New Zealand. One of the first New Zealand rockers to enter the Australian market, Johnny Devlin made his home there after touring the country as part of Lee Gordon's Big Show in 1959.  Backed by his high-energy band The Devils, Johnny's accomplishment in Australia ensured his selection as a support act for The Beatles' only tour of Australia & New Zealand in 1964.  Johnny's success continued across the Tasman and he was probably the first Kiwi Rocker, claimed by the Australian's as their own.  There are many who say Johnny Devlin was, in fact, Australasia's greatest rock and roll performer.

  Johnny Devlin

Christchurch (circa 1959)

Johnny Devlin

Christchurch (circa 1959)

Johnny Devlin

Christchurch with Mable Howard (circa 1959)

Johnny Devlin

Johnny Devlin wows the crowd (circa 1959)

 

Johnny went on to win a gold record for Riding Surfside and Lisa Marie, a double sided instrumental written for the Denvermen, cementing his title of Australasia's King of Rock and Roll.  As well as his reputation for being a "tigerish" performer, Johnny Devlin is also credited with being a successful composer writing hits not only for himself, but also for others such as Good Looking Boy for teenage singing star Patsy Ann Noble.  He gained international recognition for his songwriting with songs for American vocalists Eartha Kitt and Theresa Brewer.  As well as recording a number of single hits in the 50s and 60s, Johnny recorded several notable albums between 1959 and 1980.

  Johnny Devlin

ROCKONZ 2008

Johnny Devlin

ROCKONZ 2008

Johnny Devlin

ROCKONZ 2008

Johnny Devlin

Illawara 2012

 

In 1985, he toured Australia with the "Rock Around the Clock Show".  Other significant achievements were a Macquarie Tune Table Award for having written more successful hit tunes than the Bee Gees in the early 60's and a Bandstand Award for his contribution to fostering New Zealand and Australian talent.  In August 2006 he headlined Pacific Entertainment's Best of the Best tour of New Zealand.  This tour included notable New Zealand artists such as Ray Columbus, Sharon O'Neill, Tom Sharplin, Larry Morris and Shane.  Johnny brought the house down at packed houses in 11 cities across the nation, proving that you are never too old to rock and roll.  Johnny continues to perform throughout New Zealand and Australia with his backing band The Tornadoes.  Johnny and The Tornadoes have recently returned to the recording studios and recorded a number of brand new tracks for Johnny's forthcoming appearances in New Zealand.  Among them are Rock Around the Clock recorded to mark the song's 50th anniversary of topping the charts throughout Australasia and I Was the One, a Johnny Devlin original and dedicated as a tribute to Elvis Presley, Johnny's idol since 1957.  Johnny is still regarded as an icon of the New Zealand entertainment industry and is held in high regard by his peers and contemporaries.  In October 2007 Johnny received a Legacy Award at the New Zealand Music Awards.  He remains a New Zealand citizen and travels across the Tasman and around the world on his New Zealand passport.  His contribution to New Zealand charities in support of Down Syndrome Children is well known and in Wanganui, his home town, Johnny Devlin made a significant contribution towards the formation of the town's War Memorial in the early 60's.