(My Story) – By Felix Fernando
Having completed my Primary schooling at St. Sebastian’s School in Hultsdorf, Colombo 12, I continued my Secondary schooling at St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena, Colombo 13.
Quite a few of my classmates were interested in music, and we would talk music during our breaks. When I reached my Senior Level, a certain Christian Brother once came up with the idea of playing music, on the loudspeakers, during our lunch breaks and we loved this idea. Songs were requested and played for 20c. per song. This became quite popular among the students. Hence the idea came up of having a Talent Show, and it would feature anyone who could sing or play an instrument. I decided to gather a two of my friends and perform on this show. We sang two songs, “Three little Kisses” & “Moonlight Bay”, with me playing guitar.
Stepping off stage, I was met by this guy who introduced himself as Colvin Perera (who had ‘Lucien Merle’ added to his name). He requested if I could back him up on two instrumentals, namely “Guitar Boogie” and “Quartermasters Store”, both of which I had heard before, and thus I agreed to do so. On completion of his act, he invited me to join a group which he was forming. Didn’t I jump at the idea of playing in a group. The first rehearsal was on the Saturday morning at his home in Dehiwela. Dehiwela? That’s quite a distance from Hultsdorf. How would get to Dehiwela from Hultsdorf? Simple! A couple of buses would take me there. Come Saturday, I approached my Mum for bus fare to Dehiwela, which was promptly refused. (I’ve got to mention here that was the twelfth sibling of a family of 13.). Times were tough! Hence my mum’s refusal. I had to take my next mode of transport, my faithful bicycle, which took me about 2 hours to get to my destination.(From here on, I will change the name “Colvin” to Lucien.)
Having met Lucien, I was introduced to Anton de Mel (bass guitarist) and Aloy Backhouse (drummer). Also Jimmy Mortimer, who would be our vocalist. We rehearsed tunes made popular by “The Shadows” and “Cliff Richards” vocals.
Rehearsals were held at the Mortimer house in Mt. Lavinia, which meant a bit more bike peddling for me. There were days, when one of my tyres would develop a ‘puncture’. I would still continue my journey, and get it fixed by Jimmy’s younger brother and friends, who would then use my bike to ride around the neighbourhood till it was time for me return home. There were days when rehearsals went on till late, but still I continued rehearsing on the promise that the boys would purchase a lantern (but the lantern would end up in flames due to the sea breeze). This meant my pleading with the ‘cops’ and showing proof of a burned-out lantern.
There were quite a few days, rehearsals would continue with the absence of the drummer. On days like this, a ‘pint-sized) guy would seen sitting on a side, and beating a good rhythm on a pile of old newspapers with a pair of sticks plucked off a ‘guava’ tree. This guy was Harris Jurangpathy. It was a bit frustrating rehearsing without a drummer, till the day came when we invited him to join us (on the proviso that he had to own a set of drums). A few moments later we would see him running up the road to ask his dad to get him a Drum set. Sure he got it, but the bass drum was so huge that all we could see was his head. Still drumming was excellent.
The group became quite popular with the folk living in and around Dehiwela – Mount Lavinia. We performed at many School Fetes. Also winning a Talent Contest at St Peter’s College for Best Male Vocalist and Best Instrumental Group.
Then came the day when I turned up for rehearsals and was met by a ‘glum’ Lucien who gave me the bad news that our Bass Guitarist had quit the group. Unaware to this day, for the reason of this split-up and
stunned by this happening, I put my hand up to play bass-guitar (an art of playing entirely foreign to me). So we had to look for a rhythm guitarist. Not being satisfied with the first replacement, we spotted a guy who played quite a fine rhythm guitarist – playing with another group at the Vihara Maha Devi Park. We invited him to join us and he agreed. His name was Anton Gunawijeya.
After a short while, our vocalist, Jimmy Mortimer, decided to quit the group. Looking for a replacement, Ralph Edmonds, a close friend of Anton’s, joined the group handling the Cliff Richards songs. We also attempted a bit of harmonising, singing tunes such as “Cool Clear Water” a Marty Robbins classic, as well as “All My Sorrows” performed by “The Kingston Trio” and later handled by our favourite group “The Shadows”.
PIC 1: (L – R) THE FINAL LINE-UP: ANTON GUNAWIJEYA (RHYTHM GUITAR); HARRIS JURANGPATHY (DRUMS);
LUCIEN PERERA – (LEAD GUITAR)/ LEADER OF THE GROUP & FELIX FERNANDO (BASS GUITAR)
PIC 2: (L – R) “THE JETLINERS” : JIMMY MORTIMER (VOCALS); HARRIS JURANGPATHY (DRUMS); ANTON DE MEL (BASS GUITAR)
FELIX FERNANDO (BASS GUITAR) & LUCIEN PERERA (LEAD GUITAR)
PIC 3: (L – R) “THE JETLINERS” ON STAGE AT ST. PETER’S COLLEGE WITH RALPH EDMONDS ON VOCALS.
(note: Ralph Edmonds was backed by The Jetliners for a one-off time)