Bernard William Jewry was born in the Muswell Hill district of London on September 27th 1942 , to parents William & Margaret. His father and mother were from quite large, very close knit families. Family gatherings were important. Especially for birthdays and Christmas. His dad’s side of the family, were the ones that liked to go to the pubs that had live music and his Uncle Albert and Aunt Edie had a small stage and microphone in their front room, So the whole family used to join in a good old singsong. This was one of Bernard’s first introductions to live music. His uncle Ron played banjo and taught him a few chords. They loved all the old Cockney songs but also a lot of the American Black Spirituals.
At the age of two, his father got a job as a salesman. It came with a house and a car, but it meant the family had to move up north to a small farming and mining town called Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. The house turned out to be a large terraced, three-story building with a coal cellar and basement. This was located not far from the local theatre.
Alvin recalls “Mum used to take in the acts appearing at the local Mansfield Palace Theatre, Music Hall was still thriving at that time and we were never short of guests. There was a different show on at the theatre every week, and I was brought up in a show-business atmosphere and surrounded by some of Britain's biggest stars. So it was inevitable that some of the glamour should rub off on to a young, impressionable boy like me.”
Then came the Saturday matinees at the local ABC cinema. His life was one big whirl of movie stars and theatre. Of course a lot of the big films were musicals. Being brought up surrounded by artists and musicians it's was not surprising that, although only a toddler, he took an avid interest in music and stage work,and was bound to get hooked on show business there and then. Bernard’s first real thoughts about wanting to sing or act came after he 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 Alvin still loves cowboy films and country music.
At four he made his first vocal stage appearance in "Babes In The Wood". “I didn’t have much of a part , I just stood on the stage with the rest of the children, but from that moment on I became intensely star-struck, and even then decided that the stage was for me.”
Bernard attended the local St Peter’s School in Mansfield. “When I started school,
I used to rush home, creep through the stage door, and sit up in the gallery watching
shows in rehearsals. I was completely overawed by the whole thing, hooked on the
business even then. So you can imagine my delight, when at the age of nine, I landed
my very first straight acting role in the Carl Jenner Mobile Theatre’s presentation
of "No Room At The Inn", playing a character called ‘Robbie’. Actually, I was selected
for the role because I was the only boy in the area who could speak in a Cockney
dialect. But it was a start.”
One year later he left home to attend The Southwell Minster Collegiate Grammar School as a boarder. He recalls It was the best time of his life. He 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. He joined the Scouts and recalls
“To the 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 for my twelfth birthday, 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.”
After sustaining a bad back injury following a game of Rugby, he spent months in the school sick bay, and was well on the way to recovery when his parents decided it was time to relinquished his ‘boarder’ status and become a day boy and travelled by bus to the 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. Then 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.
In 1958 Bernard boarded a bus from Mansfield to Doncaster with his cherished guitar to see Buddy Holly and was allowed in to meet his idol. He sings “Peggy Sue” accompanied by Buddy & The Crickets in the dressing room. They are the first to sign his guitar, which over the next few years ho took along to gigs and got the acts to add their autographs along side Buddy's.
There was talk at the youth club at this time about a group called, Johnny Theakstone and The Beat Boys, that used guitars. I was intrigued and went to the first dance they played at. Johnny 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. It was the big ballroom in the town centre, where up until then, all the big dance bands had played. They soon became the resident band of the Mansfield Palais. 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. A year later the 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 Goode", The Tremolo’s were raring to play. I learnt new songs every week after that and soon we became good friends”.
The band used to practice at Johnny’s home at 1 West Hill Avenue, where Johnny and the rest consisting of friends, Jack Wilcox, Mick Eyre, Tony Hinchcliffe, Walter Bonney and Bernard would run through new songs of the day. While a good friend of Johnnys dad, Fred Wilson, who was well up on electronics, used to give the boys the gen on microphone technique.
Bill Bonney recalls,
“Johnny decided that he needed a more American sounding name. Johnny, Mick Eyre and myself, had been to Mansfield Granada to see Alan Ladd in “Shane” . When we came out Johnny said what a great name Shane was, so we thought lets use it. But Shane what? AS we walked to Johnny’s house on Westfield Drive we passed a small firm called Fenton Printers. Mick Eyre said to John, “What about that” looking up at the firms sign. John liked the sound of Shane Fenton, so John contacted Mr Fitzgerald at the Palais to see if he agreed to the name. He thought it was a very good name, so it was decided that John would become Shane Fenton. The Fentones name didn’t come till some time later. There used to be a vocal group called The Kentones who sometimes broadcast on the radio. I was travelling home on the bus from work one day and I just suddenly thought: Kentones, Fentones - Shane Fenton & The Fentones- it just seemed to fit.”
Bernard aged four
Margaret & William Jewry
St Peters School, Mansfield
Basil John Rushby-Smith
The Jewry Rythmn Group
ABC Cinema, Mansfield