Johnny Devlin Profile

aka Johnny Devlin & The Devils
Andrew Schmidt
5 Jun 2013

Johnny Devlin isn’t New Zealand’s Elvis. He is the spawn of Elvis. A fatback echo of the Mississippi born and Tennessee raised game changer and his rock and roll kin.

Devlin is one of hundreds of young, extroverted singers who appeared worldwide in the wake of Presley and his fellow pioneer rockers Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bill Haley.

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Johnny in Chrisps Music, Gisborne, February 1959
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Australian EP, 1959. Credited to Johnny Devlin And Orchestra, it was actually NZ Prestige Records tracks with The Devils
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A mid-1990s bootleg LP sleeve, the superb album consists of early Prestige sides, and was released in the US. It's often mistaken for a legit release and listed as such.
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Johnny Devlin in 2007 having just been inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall Of Fame
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The 1958/59 NZ tour programme
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Hey Little Angel (1961)
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Coca-Cola EP, 1958
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A town hall somewhere in New Zealand, 1958/59
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Johnny's third single after arriving in Australia in 1959 was clearly aimed at attracting a local audience. His new label, Teen, was specifically created for him by Festival Records. Devlin helped it sign up and coming acts, the most successful of which were then transferred to Festival itself. 
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Sea of Heartbreak (1961)
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Groovy in the late 1960s
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Johnny Devlin Sings was the first EP release on the new Australian Festival Records owned Teen label, gathering together earlier Teen Records singles in early 1960.
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With the Fab Four, Melbourne 1964
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Johnny Devlin
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Johnny being interviewed by the NZBS at Wellington Airport in 1959
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Got A Zack In The Back Of Me Pocket (1961)
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Johnny Devlin, post show, 1959
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Johnny Devlin with Christchurch promoter Trevor King, 1959
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Countdown magazine, 29 May 1964
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Johnny Devlin interviewed on The South Tonight (1972)
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Advertising Johnny's Rock'n'Roll shirts
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Johnny Devlin getting made up, pre-show, Gisborne, February, 1959
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Gisborne welcomes Johnny, February 1959
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Johnny Devlin, as A&R manager for RCA, in the Sydney studio of 2UW with The Charades, March 1964
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Johnny Devlin with Governor-General Anand Satyanand in Wellington on 10 February 2008, after becoming a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to entertainment
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Johnny in the 1980s
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Clap Your Hands
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Cabinet Minister Mabel Howard and Johnny Devlin, Christchurch December 1958. Johnny has had his shirt torn off.
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Johnny Devlin and The Devils at Western Springs, January 1959
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Johnny wows the crowd, 1959
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Phil Warren seemed able to get a new single or EP into the stores every two weeks. This EP of ballads was issued in February 1959, a week after the 20 Flight Rock single and a week before the reworked Lawdy Miss Clawdy 45.
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Johnny Devlin with his 1965 version of The Devils in Sydney, in this case they were the briefly renamed Tornadoes from Levin, hired by Devlin as a backing band for the League Club circut
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Johnny Devlin in 2002 with Mark Everton, director of the TV series Give It A Whirl, after being interviewed for the show
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The Devils - this was the band that toured NZ with Johnny in the late 1950s
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Johnny O'Keefe, Paul Wayne, Johnny Devlin, Dig Richards - Medley (on Sing, Sing, Sing)
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A 1964 Wanganui Photo News cover of Johnny and family
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Johnny Devlin interviewed on Top Half (1984)
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Johnny Devlin & the Phantoms, live in Australia, 1964 (opening for The Beatles)
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Johnny Devlin at Gisborne's Sandown Park Motor Hotel in March 1972, with The Crescendos, from left, Sam Taiapa, David Priestly, John Matete, Paddy Lee, Doug Walsh and John Campbell.
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Johnny Devlin signing an autograph in early 1959
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Johnny Devlin
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At the Jive Centre
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An early 1960s teen poster with the then hot Australian male pop stars
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Jeff Bolton and mates meet Johnny Devlin. Bolton was later in the Al Paget Sextet
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Johnny in the early 1970s, by which time he'd reinvented himself as a lounge singer for the Australian club circut. He would also set up Johnny Devlin Enterprises which included the briefly active Kontact label in NZ (he would issue one single on it, a celebration of the 1974 Commonwealth Games).
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Australian publicity shot 1960
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Johnny in New Plymouth, early 1959
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Johnny Devlin and The Devils at Western Springs, Auckland, January 1959 - Devlin, Peter Bazley, Claude Papesch, Keith Graham, and (out of picture) Tony Hopkins
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The 1959 album Johnny which pulled together earlier singles and added a few new tracks. Released on Phil Warren and Bruce Henderson's Prestige label, this was the first pure rock and roll album released in New Zealand (the earlier Johnny Cooper album mixed his rock and roll tracks with other styles).
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Cabinet Minister Mabel Howard meets Johnny Devlin, Christchurch, December 1958
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Johnny with fans
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Labels:

Prestige


HMV


Columbia


Leedon


Teen


Kontact


RCA

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Trivia:

Although most closely associated with Wanganui, Johnny was actually born in Raetihi, moving to Ohakune and then Marton as a youngster before settling in the river town, where he grew up.

After a tour of Australia with his big brother, Johnny's younger sibling Rodney would record a single, a cover of Elvis' My Baby Left Me, for the small Pacific label in 1964. It was not a hit.

In the mid-1960s whilst Johnny Devlin worked as A&R manager for RCA Records Australia, one of his first signings was Max Merritt.

Between 1972 and 1974 Johnny retired from showbiz, working in Australia as a manager for Grace Brothers department store.

In 1959 an American label owner, Burt Schneider, was given a copy of Johnny's song Doreen and recorded it with Pete Ronstadt (Linda's brother) and The Nightbeats. It was released on the tiny US label Zoom and 100 copies were pressed.

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Johnny Devlin's 1959 single Doreen as covered by US rock and roll band Pete Ronstadt and The Nightbeats in September of that year
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