From his solo debut, yodelling at the Wanganui Opera House in 1951, to superstar rock and roll performer by 1957-58, Johnny Devlin, the "Wanganui Wailer", was New Zealand's pop icon of the 1950s.

Born on May 11, 1938, in Raetihi, Devlin was educated at Marist Brothers and then St Augustine's College, spending his formative years in Whanganui.

His parents and three brothers were all musical and the family performed collectively as The Devlin Family.

After Devlin's parents retired from the entertainment business in 1955, the four Devlin brothers, with friends and cousins as occasional ring-ins, performed as the River City