Singer Alvin Stardust is best known in Europe, but particularly in the UK where he had the most hit records, and in Australia where his debut single ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ became the biggest selling single of 1974. Over twenty-five years in the music business, Alvin had a total of 21 singles in the charts.
Shane Fenton and the Fentones
Born Bernard Jewry in London in 1942, he took on the stage name Shane Fenton in 1961 at the age of nineteen. The original singer of Shane Fenton and the Fentones tragically died of a heart condition just as the group were about to audition for the BBC. The remaining Fentones members saw potential in Alvin (who was still Bernard Jewry at the time) and asked him to become their new singer. He agreed, and the audition with Alvin as the new Shane Fenton was successful. The young rock’n’roll band were signed to the Parlophone label. Six of their singles entered the UK charts between 1961 and 1963, including the top twenty hit ‘Cindy’s Birthday’ in 1962.
A ‘Stardust’ is Born
Things went quiet for a few years until a new persona, Alvin Stardust, was launched in the 1970s with another string of hit singles. His 15 chart entries include biggest hits ‘‘My Coo Ca Choo’ and ‘Jealous Mind’, together with seven more top ten hits between 1973 and 1984. In addition to singing, Alvin appeared in two movies in his early years as Shane Fenton which featured two big rock’n’roll stars of the era. Alvin acted in the 1962 Billy Fury film ‘Play it Cool’, and in the 1963 Tommy Steel film ‘All Happening.’
After the Fentones broke up, Alvin worked in music management and performed in small music venues for a decade until the early 1970s. Pete Shelly of Magnet Records recorded the song ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ under the pseudonym ‘Alvin Stardust’, but he did not want to be the live performer. So, after initiating the persona, Pete recruited former 60s rocker Shane Fenton/Bernard Jewry to take on the role. It suited his theatrical capabilities well and the new Alvin Stardust was the one to perform ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ on Top of the Pops as the single leaped up the charts. It was a major hit in many countries, becoming the biggest selling hit of the year in Australia in 1974. From there, Alvin Stardust became a major success with regular hit singles well into the 1980s. He also became the ‘Green Cross Code’ superhero character for children’s safety adverts.
Praying on the Train
His conversion to Christianity had its origins on a train journey, where Alvin met a group of Christian missionaries. After some conversation, he ended up kneeling on the carriage floor and praying. Liza Goddard, his wife at the time, said,
“He was converted by a group of people in his carriage. At Waterloo, the cleaner found them on their knees praying. Alvin came home and said ‘I’ve found God’.”
Shortly afterwards he attended Cobham Christian Fellowship with his friend Cliff Richard. The church leader, Gerald Coates, concluded his message with an invitation for people to give their lives into the hands of Christ. Alvin stood up and prayed again as a confirmation of his new found faith. His life changed completely and he became a dedicated Christian almost overnight. Sadly, his newfound faith could not save his marriage, but he continued with his stage and music career.
A new faith and a new wife
Touring with the musical ‘Godspell’, Alvin met actress Julie Paton, who was also a Christian. They fell in love, married, and settled in the Sussex village of Loxwood. As well as joining the local church, Alvin and Julie became involved in Loxwood community life and they helped to raise money for both the village hall and the primary school. Sir Cliff Richard became the godfather of their daughter Millie.
Sadly, Alvin developed terminal prostate cancer in his later years. Never one to quit easily, he had resumed his singing career, and even performed on the Sunday before his death. He died on 23 October, 2014 aged 72. His manager Andy Davies paid tribute to the singer, saying:
“Alvin and I had only started working together over the last couple of years because he and I believed that musically he still had a great deal to give and explore, and so we recorded an album that is a testament to an artist who gave his career to music. I may not have known him long but even in that short time he proved to be one of the most genuine and likeable men I’ve ever met. His passing is a huge and sad loss.”
Just four days after he died, his new album entitled ‘Alvin’ was released. Alvin had said that the new album would “more accurately reflect my own beliefs and priorities.”
Story by Ralph Burden
Photo: Alvin Stardust in AVRO’s TopPop (Dutch TV) 1974.
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Netherlands license