A year before Johnny Devlin rocked Greymouth on his barnstorming 1958 tour, his mentor the Maori Cowboy had already passed through town. In October 1957 Johnny Cooper topped the bill of a variety show that also featured the Wildcats (“a terrific Elvis Presley act”), Michael Croft (a one-man Platters?), a female accordionist and an Al Jolson imitator. Plus, there’s more: Tom Fagin with his Silver Trumpet (surely a relative of the promoter, Harry Fagin). By then Cooper was two years on from covering ‘Rock Around the Clock’, and had just recorded his original ‘Pie Cart Rock’n’Roll’.
This wonderful image has recently been posted on the National Library of New Zealand’s site, and it shows how rock’n’roll was making in-roads before Devlin, but still needed to be part of a general variety show to draw a good crowd. Before the days of television, though, they were confident of doing a season of three nights at Greymouth’s Regent Theatre (where I saw the Warratahs in 1994).
The poster can be viewed in a much larger size at the National Library’s website. The original is held in the Alexander Turnbull Library’s Ephemera collection at Eph-E-CABOT-Variety-1957-01.