Monday, July 16, 2018

Shane Fenton (Alvin Stardust) (1942 -2014)

Bernard William Jewry was born in North London in 1942. His stage debut was in a production of Babes in the Wood at the age of four. He formed The Jewry Rhythm Band, with a couple of school mates and played skiffle. The best local electric guitar band at the youth club was Johnny Theakstone and The Beat Boys and Bernard that used guitars became. When the group took the residency at the Mansfield Palais, they changed their name to Johnny Theakstone and The Tremolo’s and the line up was Johnny Theakstone (vocals), occasionally Bernard Jewry, Gerry Wilcox (guitar), Mick Hay (rhythm guitar), future Hollies drummer Bobby Elliott, and a bassist remembered only as Bonny. The manager of the dance hall soon recognised the the popularity of Rock 'n Roll and to encourage local group he help weekly half hour talent spots. Bernard was determined to succeed as a singer and each week learned a new song to perform. Not only was he popular with the crowd but he became good friends with the band, and frequently joined them for mid week rehearsals.

In the late 50s, Johnny decided he needed a more American sounding name. He liked the sound of “Shane" from Albert Shane who had the written material for Gene Vincent, and "Fenton" came from a local printers he passed on the way home from a gig. Johnny Theakston & the Tremolos became Shane Fenton. The Fentones name didn’t come till a little later, but when it did, Shane Fenton and the Fentones became very popular in the Nottinghamshire area and beyond. Now professional, they send a demo tape recording to the BBC Light Programme (forerunner of Radio 1) and the response was positive with the invition to audition for the Corporation. Just two days before, 17-year old Johnny Theakston was taken seriously ill with rheumatic fever and sadly died suddenly. Theakstone's mother asked them to continue to use the name Shane Fenton and the Fentones as a tribute to her son. Bernard Jewry became Shane Fenton and the group secured a recording contract with EMI in 1961, "I'm a Moody Guy," was the debut single and released went to number 19 in the UK charts.

In 1962, Shane Fenton & the Fentones were invited to join a Larry Parnes' package tour, sharing the bill with Billy Fury & the Tornadoes. Despite proving to be a popular addition subsequent singles failed to make commercial success. Then in 1962 "Cindy's Birthday" returned the band to the charts.

After Cindy’s birthday fortunes dwindled and in 1963 the group split up. At first Shane Fenton tried a solo career but to no avail so he thought he would try his hand at management and took on, The Hollies. In 1964 Shane married Iris Violet Caldwell (Rory Storm’s sister) and for a time they appeared as a singing duo, playing the cabaret clubs of northern England. Iris had previous romantic associations with George Harrison and Paul McCartney and it is claimed she was the inspiration for, Love me do, She loves you and I saw her standing there.

Although Shane and Iris split they had a son Adam who is now an established artist/producer and DJ. Shane carried on working as a solo artist and won a new recording contract in 1972. His management was keen to re-launch the rocker but thought it best to reinvent him. Alvin Stardust appeared for the first time on the British scene in November, 1973.

Stage perfect in his tight leather cat suit and carefully quaffed hair, Alvin Stardust wore leather gloves with a diamond ring on the outside when he smolderingly sang, "My Coo-Ca-Choo. " Pete Shelley wrote “My Coo Ca Choo" and wanted someone special to sing the song.

He was looking for a rock singer like Gene Vincent with menace who would present the antithesis of trendy Glam Rock. The scowling Alvin, clad in S& M attire was perfect and together he they produced five more hit singles competing against in the charts with Marc Bolan, Rod Stewart, Gary Glitter and all the other sparklies. In 1981 Alvin was back again with another hit Pretend and after soon after Alvin teamed up with Mike Batt, (mastermind of the The Wombles). He recorded Batt’s I Feel Like Buddy Holly in 1984 and had a minor hit.

Inevitably the hits dried up and Alvin took to the stage and appeared in musicals including the title role in Phantom Of The Opera and most recently the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Alvin continued to do concerts and is a firm favourite at retro shows. He remained a tireless worker for charity and died aged 72 after a short illness in 2014.

Worth a listen:
Shane Fenton
I'm A Moody Guy (1961)
Cindy’s birthday (1961)

Alvin Stardust
My Coo-Ca-Choo (1973)
Pretend (1981)

Gene Vincent
Be Bop a Lula

Billy Fury
Halfway to paradise (1961)

The Tornadoes
Telstar (1962)

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