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 Ramblers.
In a few short years Devlin's solo musical career moved from a few performances at talent quests, youth clubs, high schools and charity concerts, to fully professional rock-star status with national tours and several recording contracts. He played mostly Elvis Presley numbers.
His performances and music ushered in a new era in fan and crowd hysteria, with female fans vying throughout the country to see who could snatch a souvenir from part of his shirt following his acts. He performed with his band, The Devils, and they played up to their name, on stage anyway.
Devlin had all the pop star's antics down to a fine art, including body movements, greasy hair, clothes and the lingo that became his trademark and his shirt was ripped off his back on many occasions.
This was something he and his management encouraged, to the point of actually loosening the stitching on his shirt so that it fell apart easily, rather than being torn off.
His debut recording was the Presley song, Lawdy Miss Clawdy, which launched him as New Zealand's first superstar when it was released in June 1958.
Later releases between November 1958 and May 1959 reaped total sales in excess of 200,000, confirming that Devlin had captured the imagination of the entire country.
Sponsored by Kerridge-Odeon and Coca Cola he made a national tour performing at picture theatres throughout the country. His performances of Slipping Around, Jailhouse Rock, Peggy Sue and Teddy Bear had audiences absolutely riveted.
A new phenomenon, labelled by some as the "Devil's Antics", saw his coat and shirt on the ground, shoes off, guitar flung away and microphone torn apart with Devlin jumping on the piano and sending fans into a frenzy.
Like many performers today, the novelty of being mobbed and screamed at wore thin and, in May 1959, he slipped out of New Zealand and crossed the Tasman where he was moderately successful, returning home occasionally for well-received visits.
The musical phenomenon that was Johnny Devlin had more or less drawn to a close.
There was still a lot of interest in Johnny Devlin in his home town. The Wanganui Chronicle reported in some detail on his marriage to 18-year old model Carol Dixon in Sydney on March 13, 1961.
The overline was "The parents of New Zealand rock 'n roll singer Johnny Devlin travelled from Wanganui to attend their son's wedding in Sydney yesterday". The report quoted Devlin saying that he was far more nervous than he ever had been on the stage. Years later, The Chronicle published a feature on Devlin in 1998 with the headline, "Johnny Devlin, the rocker from Wanganui, still rollin' ".
He was still playing live in Australia and had been inducted into a rock'n'roll hall of fame there. He was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2007. In the 2008 New Year Honours, Devlin was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to entertainment.
Libby Sharpe is senior curator at Whanganui Regional Museum.