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Alvin Stardust

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Born in Muswell Hill, September 27th 1942. My Father and mother were from quite large, very close knit families. Family gatherings were important. Especially for birthdays and Christmas. My Dad�s side of the family, were the ones that liked to go to the pubs that had live music and my Uncle Albert and Aunt Edie had a small stage and microphone in there front room, So that we could all have a singsong. This was one of my first introductions to live music. My Uncle Ron played banjo and taught me a few chords. They loved all the old Cockney songs but also a lot of the American Black Spirituals. Whilst I was a small baby, my Dad got a job as a salesman. It came with a house and a car, but it meant that we had to move up North to a small farming and mining town called Mansfield. That�s the place I grew up.

The house turned out to be a large terraced, three-story building with a coal cellar and basement. Soon my Mum was renting out rooms to the theatre artists that toured the country. Which meant, from when I can remember, I was always surrounded by singers, actors, musicians, dancers, jugglers, comedians and any one else attached to the local Palace theatre. Then came the Saturday matinees at the local ABC cinema. My life was one big whirl of movie stars and theatre. Of course a lot of the big films were musicals. I was bound to get hooked on show business there and then.

My first real thoughts about wanting to sing or act came after I saw Roy Rogers on screen. He was every boy�s idol. He could ride like the wind, shoot dead straight, play guitar, sing great songs, and always the hero and good guy with the prettiest girl in the film on his arm. What more was there to life? Well, maybe Gene Autry, another singing cowboy hero. To this day I love cowboy films and country music.

I made several little appearances on the stage as I grew up. A couple of plays and some pantomime. Then I went to Southwell Minster Collegiate Grammar School as a boarder. It was the best time of my life. I wasn�t very happy at the beginning, being away from home. But the teachers were great and you soon got into an attitude of independence. It was like one fantastic adventure. To us boys, being in the Boy Scouts was like being in the army. We had Steve Pulford as Troop leader and he was the best. We used to win loads of competitions and travel up to the Lake District Mountains for summer camp. I have really good memories of it all. Everyone was a bit scared of the Headmaster, Basil John Rushby-Smith. What a mouthful. Those were the days when, if you misbehaved, you were given the cane and he was the one to meter it out. As we all got older we realized that he was a brilliant Head master and good fun too.

Which brings me to Mr. Officer, the music teacher. His attitude to music seemed to be "If you don�t enjoy it, then something�s wrong". He would stop half way through some classical music lesson if he felt that we were losing interest and bring out a jazz album and play it. Then he�d get us to talk about it. He was the one that deepened my interest in music and made it more understandable. I took piano lessons and learnt notation around that time.

Then one Christmas, my Mum and Dad bought me a guitar. From that moment I became too impatient to spend the time learning more theory of music. I wanted to play straight away. So I bought a guitar tutor by Bert Weedon and learnt enough chords to get me going.

Towards the end of my time at school, I got some funny arthritic back complaint. It put me in sick bay for a while and after I came out, my Mum wanted me to be at home. So I became a "day boy" and traveled by bus to school everyday. I missed the camaraderie of the boarding school. But I joined the Co-op youth club. Which convened at the Co-op Hall behind The Station Inn pub.

There I met a boy called Peter Mee. He had a portable record player and took it to the club so that we had music to dance to. It was the mid-fifties and up until that point I had being playing old 78�s on a big wind-up radiogram at home. Lots of jazz and blues records that I picked up for next to nothing, at auction sales when I went with my Mum. She was a keen collector of bric-a-brac. I remember one day sifting through and seeing a few "more recent" records. Among them was a song called "Mystery train" by a bloke called Elvis Presley. I played it over and over. Then on about my second visit to the youth club, Peter played a song by Buddy Holly. The next day I persuaded my Mum to let me buy it, using some of my "paper round money". That was the day I knew I needed to be in a band. I didn�t even know if I would be able to sing. I also needed an electric guitar, so I managed to get hold of a second hand Hofner guitar pick-up and glued it to my little acoustic. Now I needed and amplifier. On one of our auction trips, I was looking through the old radios, when I noticed that most of them had two holes at the back, with "input" written above them. Somehow I knew that was the answer. Mum bought me a radio for a pittance and that evening I poked the two wires from my pick-up into the "input" holes and secured them with a broken matchstick. Them came the moment of truth. I switched the radio on and waited for it to warm up. Then nervously switched the select switch to "input". Bingo! I ran my finger across the strings and the sound came out of the speaker. It wasn�t a lot louder than the acoustic at first. But as I turned up the volume, it was like magic to my ears. I was more excited than I could remember. I ran down the stairs shouting and insisted that Mum and Dad come and listen. I felt like "a musician" at last.

It was about this time that I heard about Radio Luxembourg and. of course my little amplifier/radio was perfect for me to tune in and pick up all the latest news on the Americans playing "Rock and Roll". At the same time there were English Rock and Roll bands starting to appear. It was a fantastic time. I was no longer that bothered about school, but as I had go anyway, I took my guitar along and teamed up with a couple of the boys to form "The Jewry Rhythm Band". My first group! It composed of one acoustic guitar, one semi-electric guitar and a clarinet. Not exactly Rock and Roll, but our hearts were in the right place.

There was talk at the youth club about a group they had, that used guitars. I was intrigued and went to the first dance they played at. A young singer called Johnny was just joining them and he was terrific. He looked and sang a lot like a new English Rock and Roll singer called Cliff Richard. A couple of weeks later they played at the first ever "Wednesday Hop", at The Palais de Dance on Leeming street. I was the big ballroom in the town centre, where up until then, all the big bands had played. Mr. Fitzgerald the manager, had obviously recognized the interest that this new "Rock and Roll" was having and decided to experiment The Wednesday Night Hop was a roaring success.

At that time there were only a handful of small guitar rhythm groups in the whole country. Luckily some of them were around our area. The youth club band had by now called themselves "Johnny Theakstone and The Tremolo�s". I was there every Wednesday. After a few weeks, Mr. Fitzgerald Held weekly half hour "talent spots", where he would invite anyone from in the audience to get up on stage and sing with the band. The Tremolo�s hated that moment. The had all sorts of crackpots jumping up and singing any old rubbish. But in amongst the majority of jokers, a few good singers appeared and later went on to form their own bands. So it wasn�t all bad news. I quickly noticed that The band liked certain artists, like, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry. So I went out and bought a Gene Vincent record and a Chuck Berry song. I spent all week learning them and when Wednesday night came around I went up to the stage. As soon as I mentioned "Blue Jean Bop" and "Johnny B Good", The Tremolo�s were raring to play. I learnt new songs every week after that and soon we became good friends. I used to travel to some of the "gigs" they did and help to carry amplifiers and guitars. I used to go to their rehearsals occasionally. But suddenly, Johnny was taken ill. Apparently he had had an illness as a child, that had left him with a week heart. Within a couple of days he was admitted into Mansfield General Hospital and a few days later he died. We were all devastated. The Tremolo�s just lost heart and began to drift apart. Then, a few weeks after Johnny�s death, there was a knock on my front door. It was Johnny�s Mum and Dad. They had received a letter from the BBC in London, asking if "Shane Fenton and The Beat Boys" could go down to London to do a live radio program called "Saturday Club". It seems that Johnny and the band had made a tape of themselves and sent it addressed to "The BBC, London", with a note inside the package that read. "This is a tape recording of our band. We would like to do a radio audition. If this letter goes to the wrong department, could you please pass it on". Can you imagine these days what would happen to a package like that. Straight in the bin!! Johnny had thought that his sir name was not "American" enough so he changed it to "Fenton". Then he took the name "Shane" from a writer of one of Gene Vincent�s songs.

Johnny�s Mum and Dad asked me if I would talk to the Tremolo�s to see if they would reform the band using the new name and asked if I would be the singer and use the name that Johnny had thought of. Twenty-four hours later, after deciding that "Fentones" was more "American" sounding, "Shane Fenton and The Fentones" was born.

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