Johnny Devlin: Matador Baby (1958)

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Johnny Devlin: Matador Baby (1958)

It's widely known that Johnny Devlin was New Zealand's own Elvis Presley -- but unlike Elvis, Devlin wrote his own material.

Certainly he covered the hits of the day -- Hand Jive, Wild One, Bony Maronie and so on. But he also wrote some creditable originals like Hard to Get, High Heeled Shoes, Nervous Wreck and so on -- which all were firmly within the genre of Fifties rock'n'roll as we have come to understand it.

Matador Baby -- with Bob Paris on guitar and Bernie Allen on sax, probably -- is an interesting one: it adopts the whole language of American rock'n'roll ("the hop" which we didn't have in New Zealand) and at times here Devlin is closer to Jerry Lee Lewis than Elvis -- and of course it makes a reference which most people wouldn't get these days, to matador pants which were popular at the time and somewhat daring for their tight cut.

You can hear also how the band were actually jazz players moonlighting in rock'n'roll (the sax break and sort of New Orleans clarinet from Tony Ashby) -- sort of early jazz-rock?

You wish that pianist was let off the leash a bit more.

It might have taken his career in a very different direction -- the pianist is in fact the acclaimed jazz pianist Mike Nock who at the time was in his teens.

For more on-offs or songs with an interesting back-story see From the Vaults

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