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Whanganui lad Johnny Devlin grew up listening to country singers, and country music was his first love, but it was supplanted by rock ‘n’ roll when he heard Bill Haley singing ‘Rock around the clock’ on the Lever hit parade. Devlin was an avid Elvis Presley fan, buying all Presley’s records and studying his sound. He played gigs in Taranaki, Napier, Ōhakune, and Wellington, and ended up topping the bill at the Festival of Jazz in Wellington in 1957.
Devlin’s big break came when he moved to Auckland in 1958 and secured a residency at the Jive Centre. His recording debut, ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, was a New Zealand hit. During his national tour of 1958–59 he was greeted by hordes of young fans wherever he played. Even government minister Mabel Howard got in on the act.