Born: 27 September, 1942, in London. Died: 23 October, 2014, in West Sussex, aged 72
Alvin Stardust was the most famous performing pseudonym of the singer born Bernard William Jewry in Muswell Hill, London, in 1942.
He would enjoy greatest success under the Stardust name, particularly with pop hits which spanned the early 1970s to the mid-1980s including My Coo Ca Choo, Pretend and I Feel Like Buddy Holly, and would continue to use it in later life as a musical theatre performer and television and film actor.
His earliest exposure, however, came in the early 1960s as the again pseudonymous singer of Shane Fenton and the Fentones, who enjoyed minor chart success.
Moving to Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, with his family for his father to pursue his career in sales, the young Jewry was introduced to performers at an early age, as his mother would let rooms in their large home to actors and singers appearing at the town’s Palace Theatre. He would himself appear in pantomime at the age of four, while he later became a lover of film, growing to idolise Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.
Boarding as a teenager at the nearby Southwell Minster Collegiate Grammar School, Jewry was introduced to rock’n’ roll music through listening to stations such as Radio Luxembourg and the American Forces Network, developing a fascination with artists including Elvis Presley, Howlin’ Wolf, Frank Sinatra and Buddy Holly.
His first brush with showbusiness came via Holly, when Jewry took the guitar he was given as a 12th birthday present to see Buddy Holly and the Crickets play in Doncaster.
Talking himself backstage, he met Holly and asked to play for him, collecting the band’s autographs on the body of his guitar. Later signatories on the guitar would include Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochrane, Chuck Berry and all of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones: a treasured possession throughout his life, it was a valuable collector’s item.
In his late teens, Jewry became friends with, and an occasional roadie to, a local group called Johnny Theakstone and the Tremolos, who would sadly split when Theakstone died through complications associated with childhood rheumatic fever.
However, in the weeks following his death, Theakstone’s parents received a letter inviting the band to appear on the BBC, following Jewry’s submission of a demo tape under the pseudonym Shane Fenton and the Fentones (Shane from a name he had spotted on a Gene Vincent record and Fenton from a local garage).
With the blessing of Theakstone’s mother, the band reformed for the gig with Jewry playing the “Fenton” role, and their appearance at the BBC went so well that they were signed by EMI within a week.
The years 1961 and 1962 would see a few minor hits including I’m a Moody Guy and Cindy’s Birthday. Subsequent singles flopped, however, and the band split up in 1963.
The rest of the 1960s saw Bernard continuing to be involved with the music industry, while remaining out of the spotlight.
He dabbled in the cabaret circuit, tried his hand at artist management (his client list included Lulu and the Hollies, whose drummer Bobby Elliott had been in the Tremolos and the Fentones) and appeared back on stage for a short-lived stint with the Shane Fenton Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio.
Yet as the 1970s began, he was stung by criticism from the record labels he approached that his sound was “too Sixties”.
As a result, the still-aspiring pop star went on to fully embrace the glam-rock trend then emerging in popular music, as artists such as David Bowie and Marc Bolan’s T-Rex began to hit the charts.
Meeting the founders of Magnet Records, the singer and songwriter Peter Shelley and the industry lawyer Michael Levy (later Lord Levy, special envoy to the Middle East under Tony Blair), he concocted the bequiffed, leather-clad persona of Alvin Stardust as a homage to the music he enjoyed in his youth even as it was a response to the demands of glam style.
It was as Alvin Stardust that he found the real pop stardom he had worked his adult life to achieve, albeit in brief flashes. His debut single, My Coo Ca Choo, reached number two in the charts in 1973, while the following year he topped the hit parade with Jealous Mind, and Red Dress and You You You both reached the top ten.
As glam faded and the disco and punk styles began to dominated the latter half of the decade, however, his profile dropped to such a level that his greatest impact on the public consciousness was an appearance in a Green Cross Code road safety campaign advert, which gave birth to the playground catchphrase of the time, “You must be out of your tiny mind!”
Displaying much of the tenacity which had characterised his career, however, Stardust again returned to the top ten in 1981 with Pretend and in 1984 with I Feel Like Buddy Holly and I Won’t Run Away. Although these were his last pop hits of any note, he yet again reinvented himself as a stage performer and as a screen actor.
He hosted his own ITV children’s show, It’s Stardust, in 1989 and in later years would take parts in Doctors and Hollyoaks, while his stage roles included Godspell, David Copperfield: The Musical and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Bernard Jewry aka Shane Fenton aka Alvin Stardust died at home in West Sussex following a short battle with metastatic prostate cancer, at the age of 72. He is survived by his third wife Julie Paton, his sons Shawn and Adam (also known as the drum ‘n’ bass producer Adam F) and his daughters Sophie and Millie. His second wife, TV and stage actress Liza Goddard, whom he married in 1981, and who is Sophie’s mother, was among the many people paying tribute to him yesterday.