Whanganui boy Johnny Devlin was New Zealand’s first rock ‘n’ roll star, attracting legions of screaming fans at concerts around New Zealand and Australia. With the reputation of one of New Zealand's best drummers, Tony Hopkins was recruited to join Johnny's band the Devils before their first tour of the North Island.
Johnny had recorded “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” in rather poor quality in June 1958. His second recorded version with the Devils in February 1959 outsold this two to one, reaching total sales of more than 100,000 and making it the first gold record by a New Zealander. It was perhaps not surprising then that from late 1958 and into 1959, Johnny Devlin and the Devils’ concerts formed a series of near-riots. During the crush after one show, Devlin’s sleeves were ripped off the shirt he was wearing. The resulting news reports, “Girls Fight Over Singer’s Shirt”, encouraged further trophy-seekers.
By contrast, Tony’s shirt, displayed here, was made, rather than destroyed, by a fan from Whanganui. She made five shirts, one for each member of the band including Devlin, and these accompanied the band around New Zealand, and to Australia, where they opened for the Everly Brothers in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart. After many years away from New Zealand, playing with American musicians including Fabian, Tony returned to find his mother had been wearing this shirt – probably the only surviving one of the five – while gardening.
Read more about wearing the colour black in the New Zealand Fashion Museum publication Black: The history of black in fashion, society and culture in New Zealand.