Part 1: I'm a Moody Guy

Bernard William Jewry was born in the Muswell Hill district of London on September 27th 1944.  At the age of two the family moved north to Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, where his mother ran a boarding house.  Many of the guests were either artists or musicians appearing at the Mansfield Theatre and in this sort of atmosphere, it's not surprising that although only a toddler, he took an avid interest in music and stage work.  At four he made his first vocal stage appearance in the pantomime "Babes In The Wood"; five years later he made his straight acting debut in the Carl Jenner Mobile Theatre's presentation of "No Room At The Inn"; and three years on, whilst attending boarding school he fronted his first band at local fetes and garden parties.  Bernard had discovered the joy of creating and playing music but the trio he'd formed, called 'The Jewry Rhythm Band', didn't lead to much in itself.  It was at the age of 17 though, when he took part in a talent showcase at the Mansfield Palais, that his life would completely change direction.

Also appearing were a group who'd evolved from the remnants of two other local bands, one being the Diamond Skiffle Group and the other Roger Lymer and his Crusaders.  The resultant combo, Johnny Theakston and the Tremeloes (the backing band was originally called the Beat Boys), won the competition and Bernard decided to throw his lot in with the group when they offered him the job as their road manager.  His singing talent wouldn't be entirely forgotten, as he occasionally joined them onstage for a few numbers.  By the turn of the 1960's Theakston (left) had assumed a more 'Americanised' stage persona from an amalgam of the lead character from the western "Shane" and a local printer firm, Fentons'.  The newly re-christened and now fully professional "Shane Fenton and the Fentones" went from strength to strength in the Nottinghamshire area and beyond, and encouraged the group to submit a tape recording to the BBC Light Programme (forerunner of Radio 1).  The response from Auntie was positive and they received invition to audition for the Corporation, a much-coveted achievement at the time.  But with just days to go before the event tragedy struck: 17-year old Johnny Theakston was taken seriously ill with rheumatic fever and was rushed into hospital.  A result of complications from a childhood illness, and he sadly died just two days later.

The band, whose line-up had long settled of Jerry Wilcock and Mick Eyre on lead and rhythm guitars, Bill Bonney on bass and Tony Hinchcliffe on drums were understandably gutted and ready to quit, but with some persuasion from Johnny's Mother they steeled their resolve and coerced Bernard into full-time singing by taking over the Shane Fenton role.  They attended the BBC and passed the audition with flying colours, on offer was a slot on the two-hour "Saturday Club", a show recorded in Birmingham to be transmitted nationally.  Their spot on the show went so well they became regular guests on the series and the programme's musical director, Tommy Sanderson became their manager.  He secured the group a long-term recording contract with EMI's Parlophone label, sometimes seen as the eccentric relation to its associate labels, Columbia (Cliff Richard, the Shadows) and HMV (early Elvis, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates).  True, George Martin's roster consisted of more unusual signings on the company like established comedy acts, like Bernard Cribbins, Charlie Drake and Peter Sellers, although Martin would turn this to advantage by turning output into hits, sometimes unexpectedly so.  The label's biggest current draw and consistent seller was teen idol Adam Faith, and even his gimmick of emulating Buddy Holly's hiccupping approach to deliver the lyrics wasn't too far away from the labels' reputation within EMI.  The bulk of the groups' production work was handled by George Martin (the man behind the Beatles' hits), only occasionally handing over to others.

A breezy rendition of the George Formby novelty number "Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue" was originally slated for the first single but a new number was eventually commissioned for the topside from fellow Parlophone artist Jerry Lordan.  He had already been responsible for a string of hits including "With A Girl Like You" for Cliff Richard, also the Shadow's "Apache"; he would go on to pen many others, including "Diamonds" and "Scarlett O'Hara", top five smashes for Jet Harris and Tony Meehan in 1963.  Sharing the same Manager, Tommy Sanderson, Lordan and Fenton met each other in the offices of music publisher Francis, Day and Hunter.  Fenton's natural shyness and laid back demeanour inspired Lordan to custom write "I'm A Moody Guy" (click here to play an extract) which contains his distinctive trademarks; a shifting chord sequence line with unexpected extra beats and notes (a style mastered by Burt Bacharach), plus a catchy melody pleasantly sung by Shane with a few Holly-esque hiccoughs here and there for good measure.  The finished song was delivered within 48 hours to George Martin who gave it his usual attention to clean production, Tommy Sanderson tinkled the ivories and Lordan himself is in there on his electric ukulele.  The single was released at the end of September and the band introduced to the media mat London's Centre Of Sound.  This minor classic entered the charts a month after issue, and went on to make no. 21 in a eight-week run and has become one of the better-remembered pre-Beat era British pop songs despite not quite breaking the Top Twenty.  In November, the "New Musical Express" contained a feature on Parlophone's new recording star.

The group's live appearances featuring a solid stage set quickly gained the group a good reputation.  Onstage, they cut fine figures; Fenton sporting a distinctive silver lame suit and backed by the smartly playing Fentones in matching pink suits, resplendent with their corresponding white Fender guitars.  Shane Fenton quickly became part of Britain's' pre-Beat enclave beside other home-grown talent including Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde, Duffy Power and Billy Fury.  During the next four years, he and his Fentones regularly headlined pop-package concert tours alongside some of these big stars, and also starred on legendary television shows like "Thank Your Lucky Stars".  The bands' debut on this show took place on Saturday 6th October,  Keith Fordyce and Brian Matthew presented an star line-up including Cliff Richard, the Shadows, Karl Denver and Helen Shapiro.

After the initial but modest success of "Moody Guy" there were high expectations for a follow-up.  A new acts' second release is often more important that their debut in terms of improving on it, or at least being able to keep any initial momentum going.  With this in mind George Martin opted to play safe and went for the repeat formula approach with Jerry Lordan.  "Walk Away" continued the musical theme he'd created continued in line with Fenton's image, only this time the "moody guy" is wistfully defiant after a failed relationship.  Arguably equal to their debut in terms of memorable tune, solid production and some nice guitar licks the platter entered the charts less than three weeks after release, to the relief to all concerned.  The single, whose flipside featured a gentle ballad, "Falling Leaves On The Ground", the first in a series of regular outings written by Shane, was promoted on "Saturday Club" and "Thank Your Lucky Stars", as well as on the seemingly non-ending touring circuit.  In recent years this cut - as with their debut hit - has surfaced in true stereo on the occasional European CD release.

On to Part Two     Further on to Part Three     The Fentones     Recordings


[HomeShane Fenton: [Part 1]  [Part 2]  [Part 3]  [Retrospective]  [Gallery]  [related]

The Fentones: [The Fentones]  [Duffy PowerOther items: [Recordings]  [Linkages]


Site maintained by Adrian Barrett