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.

IMG_5941You 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

Johnny Devlin was interviewed at Elsewhere here

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