Story: Popular music

Johnny Devlin jiving with Mabel Howard, 1959

Johnny Devlin jiving with Mabel Howard, 1959

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, Ohakune 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. 

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Alexander Turnbull Library, Lou Clauson Collection
Reference: PAColl-5679-01

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Chris Bourke, 'Popular music - Rock ’n’ roll and the Howard Morrison Quartet', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 October 2021)

Story by Chris Bourke, published 22 Oct 2014