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First published February 2010

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Johnny Devlin Sessions - 1958

I have attached an article from a long defunct magazine called the Record Monthly dated October 1 1958 which covers the early Devlin recordings.  Devlin’s first recording “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold” was recorded by Merv Thomas in April 1958 at the Jive Centre.  The musicians were: Tony Ashby Tenor sax, Don Turner piano, Bernie Hanson bass, Jim Allison guitar, Bruce Davidson drums.  Phil Warren then took over Devlin’s recording contract for his Prestige label.  He engaged me notate Devlin’s compositions and to arrange and direct a series of recording sessions at, what was then the Green & Hall studios in the Pacific buildings in Wellesley Street.  These studios had previously been owned by the Stebbing brothers.

Phil Stebbing used to handle the sound for the Auckland Town Hall in those times and Phil Warren engaged him to engineer this series of recordings.

At that time I was running a rehearsal band, the 57A big band.  I engaged Tony Ashby and Morry Challinor to play sax and bass, Don Branch on drums – all players out of the big band.  A group of us musicians lived at 57A Symonds Street.  One of us, Val Leemon, had a piano – a rare possession for any individual in those times – and Mike Nock used to come in and practice on Val’s piano so he was a natural choice to use as the pianist on the sessions.  Phil Warren had working for him at Prestige a young guy who played guitar, Bob Paris, and he suggested I use him as the guitar player on the session.

We recorded the following tracks –

I Got A Rocket in My Pocket
You’re Gone Bay
Slipping Around
Straight Skirt
6.5 Hand Jive
Play Rough
Wild One
Real Wild Child
The Watch
My True Love
Crazy Crazy Baby
Bonie Moronie
Le Roy
A Chance
Swimming Suite
How Would Ya Be
I’m Grateful
Matador Baby
Believe Me

Devlin was gaining in success and it was decided that he would go on the road.  Phil asked if I would lead the band but, as I had just got married and landed probably the best paying gig in Auckland at that time with Arthur Skelton’s band at the Peter Pan, I believe that the Bob Paris band had followed the Frank Gibson Band into the Jive Centre around that time and was reluctant to tour.  Bob had two saxes in this band – Bill Faires and Brian Smith.  They were obviously not prepared to tour I declined and none of the other guys from the recording session were interested either so a touring band was formed.  Contrary to the legends portrayed in some of the books on early rock and roll in Auckland Bob Paris and I never played together outside of these early Devlin sessions until we did a tour with Helen Shapiro many years later.  The touring band for Devlin, called the “Devils” was Claude Papesch on ten sax and piano, Peter Bazley on guitar, Keith Graham on bass and Tony Hopkins on drums.  I think that this is the original band that went to Australia with Devlin.

The attached article has some rather bad photographs of the sessions that I did plus a listing of some of the sides we recorded.

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