1962: Clipper Cowbridge

1963: The Swiss Invasion

1965: Marilyn Kaye

1969: The Fold

1970: Yorgi

1971: Devon Shire

1972: Sandee Saunders

1976: Rockfinger

1978: The Spooky Bunch

1979: Decoupage

1981: Bleep

1984: Tiger Love

1985: Laryssa Foxxx

1986: Smasher of Things

1987: Suthrn Cuzn

1989: ~pianogirl~

1990: Razorflesh

1995: Breaker Bear

1996: Action Plus

1998: J Lounge

2001: Eesk

2004: Lazarus Project

Devon Shire: Clubbo’s Enchanted Prince (1971)

Devon Shire's Once Had I a Castle Keep (Clubbo Records)

IN DAYS OF YORE — also known as the early ’70s — singer/songwriter Devon Shire spun fey tales of romance, fantasy, and chivalry. Despite his less-than-mystical background, the mock-Tudor minstrel seduced millions, scoring a series of huge hits for Clubbo.

Devon’s earnest voice and gossamer guitar may seem dated today. Still, listening to “Azure Lady Nightingale” (from 1971’s Once Had I a Castle Keep), it’s not hard to imagine the wistful damsels and lost lads who once believed wholeheartedly in Devon’s misty, magical world.


Azure Lady Nightingale

“Azure Lady Nightingale” lyrics and credits


“From whence flows the magic that is Devon Shire? Some say the troubadour descended from the wild Scottish Highlands bearing his oaken lute of 1000 secret songs. Others claim that Devon hails from a forgotten Welsh village whose thatched-roof cottages are ringed by eerie druid dolmens and forbidden hedges. In truth, can any soul say with surety what land gave forth this master musician and his mystical, magical songs?”

From liner notes for The Lady & the Lute, 1970

Actually, we can say: The singer/songwriter known as Devon Shire was born Chris Parmagiano in Sayreville, New Jersey, in 1948. He was Clubbo’s best-selling artist at a time when pop culture balanced on the cusp between late-’60s psychedelia and the spacey spirituality of the ’70s.

How many young girls with faraway eyes have thrilled to Devon’s gently strummed tales of itinerant minstrels and fair maidens? No soul can say with surety — but according to industry figures, his 1970 debut, The Lady & the Lute, sold over two million copies, a remarkable tally for a new artist of the day. Once Had I a Castle Keep (1971) and Moon, Moon on Misty Moor (1972) did nearly as well, while 1973’s live album, A Most Magical Show, broke the triple-platinum barrier.

Nowadays it’s easy to poke fun at Devon Shire’s dragons-and-flagons pretensions. But Devon’s aching melodies and high, fragile voice have a disarming tendency to sneak up and punch you in the heart just as you’re starting to smirk.

There’s more than a little truth in these words from the calligraphy-on-parchment cover letter that accompanied press copies of Once Had I a Castle Keep:

“Is there a spirit of earth or air immune to the otherworldly beauty of ‘Azure Lady Nightingale’ or ‘O Westerly Wind’? If such there be, woe betide his sad, sere soul.”

Today Parmagiano is the first to chuckle at such mock-Tudor phraseology. “Holy shit!” he sputters as he rereads the document for the first time in four decades. “Did we actually say that?”

1971 press photo of singer/songwriter Devon Shire (Clubbo Records)

Parmagiano smiles as he recounts the genesis of Devon Shire: “I started using that fake accent when I was at MCC [Middlesex County College] in Edison, New Jersey. I found out pretty quick that girls really responded to it. Plus I was a lot better looking in those days — plenty of hair, pale skin, no gut. Anyway, I was majoring in English and reading things like Beowulf and Le Morte D’Arthur, and it all sort of came together. The songs, the language, the whole Devon persona.”

So was it all a crock?

“Not at all!” Parmagiano exclaims. “I mean, yeah, it was a total fake. But the idea of music having the power to transport you someplace more beautiful and better — well, I really believed in that. We all did back then.” He laughs. “On good days, I still do.”

“Just as none can say from whence flows Devon’s magic, so can no man say whither it wander in years yet to be.”

From liner notes for A Most Magical Show, 1973

Devon Shire’s placid music belied a tempestuous relationship with Clubbo. “Can I say what I really thought about [Clubbo founder] Bo Bogerman?” he asks.

Assured that he may speak freely, Parmagiano continues: “The man was a greedy little pigfucker. He treated everyone around him like shit. He signed me to a $5000 deal and refused to budge from it, even after I became his best-selling artist. When I was on the Most Magical tour, I had to call up twice a day, begging for fifty bucks here, a hundred bucks there. I remember thinking, ‘Here I am, celebrating the idea of being naïve and childlike, but what does that get you? Nixon. Watergate. Shitty little record deals.’ Anyway, by the time Clubbo released the live album — against my wishes, I might add — I’d already decided to give up music and apply for law school.”

Parmagiano excelled in his second career as well. He eventually became a leading music lawyer with the firm Grattan, Parmagiano, and Day, and later through his own Big Cheese Productions. Greater LA Basin magazine recently profiled him as one of the industry’s “Ten Deadliest Dealmakers.” Parmigiano’s leisure pursuits include yachting and watercolor painting, often simultaneously, and the TMJ Foundation recently honored him for his charitable work combating temporomandibular jaw disorder.