Sheri Kershaw was born in a small town called Pickering just out side of Toronto, Canada, where small woodlands filled with shepherd’s purse and trillium, farmland and wild ponies were a part of everyday life in this community.
Where names like ‘Snake Hill’, ‘Woodlands Road’ and ‘Highland Creek’ were already lyrically forming the path into song that she would take.
At the age of 13, Sheri’s cousin from England came to visit and with him came a guitar. Robert played well and wrote some of his own songs inspiring Sheri to want to play and sing. This was her introduction to a life’s journey of word and song.
She borrowed her brother’s guitar (which he did not play) from his room, used her allowance to buy a guitar book and learned “In An English Garden” classical style in order to impress her parents so that she too could have a guitar and learn to play. They did give her a guitar and she had three lessons but her parents felt it interfered with suppertime and the lessons were cancelled and never reinstated. She did not give up playing and carried on picking up what she could where she could.
She had learned a few chords from her cousin and at 13 she started to write songs and from that day to this, except for a short break in her life while she gave herself over to her husband’s (Nik Kershaw) career, music, singing and writing her own songs have always been her main highway, a commitment of the heart.
She was offered her first job singing at a ski resort at the age of 15 (her age unknown at the audition); a job she could not accept knowing her parents would not allow it. Sheri’s parents wanted her to be a secretary, music was, in their opinion, not a career.
Sheri’s mother and father came from Birmingham, England, and at the age of 16 they returned taking her away from her Canadian roots, from friends and family there.
They sent her to a secretarial school where she was asked to wear skirts to the knee and take secretarial makeup and dress lessons – all things that went against her grain. In Canada she wore bell bottomed jeans and flares that she made herself using her allowance to buy the material. She was of the Hippy Generation and knee length skirts and secretarial make up were an anathema to her.
She ran away from home at the age of 17 to join a band with Robbie Gladwell, now the guitarist for Steve Harley and ‘Doctor Robert’ of Guitar Magazine, whom she married just before she turned 18.
Sheri and Robbie often played as a duo around the Sudbury/ Colchester area.
They formed a band with Ken Elson on Bass (Sheri’s song “Kenny’ is dedicated to him) and Trevor Martin on keyboards, both of whom died young. They had various drummers, calling themselves ‘Sine Nomine’ (no name) and wrote their own songs as well as playing many folk rock songs of the time.
Their first well paid gig was in Turkey on an American airbase, adding pop music to dance to, things like “Chirpy Chirpy, Cheep Cheep” and “Going to the Chapel” amongst their usual repertoire. Later they worked in Germany in an American club in Kitzingan.
They were of a time (the 70’s) forging their musical apprenticeship abroad. At home they were the duo, singing many songs from Joni Mitchel to Sandi Denny.
They had many adventures at a time where being on the road was a big yellow Bedford van, taking it in turns to drive and sleeping in the back as they traveled across Europe.
Back home again she joined a dance band doubling as a jazz Quartett and also as a Pop/ Soul band by the name of ‘Plimsoul Sandwich’.
Here she honed her skills learning from those older and longer in the music business. The pianist, Bill Haig, had played with Cleo Lane before Johnny Dankworth and introduced her to the likes of Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Ella fitzgerald, Chaka Khan, Janis Joplin and Singers Unlimited. Quite a mixture. On the side in their jazz quartet she fell in love with many jazz greats.
For a few lean years and after the break up of her marriage to Robbie, Sheri worked the clubs up North singing cabaret.
Sheri lost her voice and was told she would never sing again at the age of 26.
Song was her world and she made a prayer saying she would give up singing if only she could have her voice back. She met Jean Marshall a Bel canto teacher and healer and slowly she struggled back to voice. She entered classical competitions “festivals” where she gained distinctions and once won her a first in a small festival in Sudbury singing Mozart.
During this struggle back to voice she met her husband Nik Kershaw who had joined friends of hers (whom she often sang with) in a band called Fusion led by Regg Webb who is now a radio presenter as well as very fine jazz pianist.
Nik and she moved into and rented a bungalow together, Sheri supporting Nik while he (backed and supported by Sheri and in fact her idea) used his savings to make a tape to send to record companies and at the same time putting an advert into the Rolling Stone for a manager.
They met before fame touched their lives and they rode that roller coaster together.
She gave up her career and gave herself over to supporting the man she loved, at home and on tour, singing backing vocals on record and on tour, on television and on radio, in magazines and a part of interviews, both in England and abroad. They were often in the public eye together.
They lived in Hollywood, California for a few months while pregnant with her first son. This was to be Nik’s last album in the pop world. An album that was not given backing by the record company and a time when Nik then worked at home writing with others.
At the age of 40 she started writing again. By then they had children. Their second son born severely mentally disabled, a beautiful Downs Syndrome baby, now a man of 22.
Life changed dramatically for Sheri and the next many years were spent in and out of hospital with her young son, learning sign language and working on helping her son to develop simple skills. She was told that by the time he was a teenager he would be in a wheelchair, that he had cerebral palsy on his left side and might never walk, he had fits any where up to ‘uncountable’ in a day at a time where her heart felt it would break with the many pains and worries. She started a Downs group which she ran from her home inviting many mothers and their children from babies to toddlers to her home, organizing physios and play therapists to come along. She was invited to give talks to teachers and training child support workers. She took and passed an open university course set for Teachers on Disability, inclusion and education.
By the time her third child, a daughter, was born she started to yearn to learn. She trained in Voice and Movement therapy with Paul Newham and then because the effect of his cathartic style she trained on as a body psychotherapist over many years taking in Gestalt training and also Trauma therapy.
Music and singing was always the driving force. At 40 she came back to writing and over a period of a few years having redeveloped her musical style she created two albums while bringing up the children and keeping hearth and home together, caring for those who came to work there with her husband, cooking cleaning and doing all those jobs that any mother and wife will do.
Writing her songs was done in snatches while the kids were in a quiet moment. Curled up in her old green chair in front of the aga in the kitchen, the album Blue Pillows came to life.
Nik, in the mean time, came to believe that he needed a new life and he ended the marriage finally leaving Sheri behind to start a new life and marriage and family.
Their partnership of over 25 years did not end amicably and was a very destructive time for all concerned.
Sheri had, over the years, including before she had met Nik, had been part of several groups, her deep commitment to finding more of herself at the core of her search. She was a part of the Economic school of Science ( an Outspensky and Indian based group of meditation and transformation), then moving into Gurdjeiff group (‘ the work’ ) for many years and finally finding Buddhist philosophy which is where she finds teachings and sanga that support her work on her self. The work of peeling back the many layers to find freedom from projection and internal suffering. Her many years of psychotherapy as part of her trainings gave her strength and understanding along with an alternative view that kept her steady and finding her feet when turmoil was all around her.
She found a house that was being built close to her home so that her children would still go to the same schools and have access to the same friends, wanting to give them as much stability as she could in what were to be very difficult times.
After a few hard years of very hard work as a single parent she learnt new skills, taking care and full responsibility for her children, for her home, for all the things that a husband had added to a shared life. Some times the work was overwhelming and at those times she took life slowly one step at a time learning that life does not have to be perfect and things can be late and get done in their own time. That we all make mistakes and we can find our way through them.
Though having worked as psychotherapist/ voice therapist for some years, she knew she had to give it up to concentrate on keeping the family together. She made a choice and family came first.
Because of the both day and night time care of her disabled son (who did not sleep at night due to severe sleep apnea, and often woke her 3 or four times a night) she was unable to go out, not having the support when needed and so because music was such a need in her life, she advertised for people to come to her home welcoming any one who wanted to play and learn and get together to enjoy making music.
First Martyn Hewitt and then Chris Brimley joined the group and soon the Sheri Kershaw Band came into existence They started out by going along to open mike nights in the community and soon Sheri gathered musical friends and associates around her finding a new life around music and working on her songs with Martyn and Chris, finally making their first album together “Kettles In The kitchen.
Around this time Sheri, who had been fighting for a support plan for her son, finally won his case and was then able to pay support workers so that her son could have more independence and Sheri was able to get out and sing while her son was cared for and happy leading his own life. The Sheri Kershaw Band was moving forward, getting tighter and yet relaxed with each other, finding their own inimitable style.
“As a group we have been working towards recognition and finding our way into festivals where we can begin to gather a fan base; gigs and their organizers have started to come to us. We were invited onto Sue Marchant’s show the “Big Night out”. We are now taking gigs at Folk and Acoustic Clubs, Festivals and occasionally blues clubs.
I have written enough songs for a second album and will work towards getting them recorded and finding a way to do that.
I also teach voice using the many skills learned from my many trainings which you can find under “Voice and Therapeutic Voicework”.
I have met many single women and mothers (and I also include single parent fathers who are in the same position) out there with stories to tell and lives that are often hard, with responsibilities taken on alone. I feel strongly and want to say to those out there that may feel it would be too much to try and be creative amongst the many other unpaid jobs that we take on for the love of family, that if I can do it then I believe that any one can. What I have learned is that I may not be able to work as fast as others. I may take a lot longer to organize the things that need to be done because I do not have so much free time and often I am tired from having too much on my plate. Sometimes the needs of my children come first and everything else must take second place, but I do what I can, step by step, at a slower pace because it is important and I don’t have to be perfect. Creativity is healing, empowering, whether I get somewhere with it or not. It is a joy to finish a song, to go out and sing it in front of others and to love what I do, though I may never be famous, never recognized by the wider public. The body of work that I have created is there for me to know and be proud of and that is what counts.
I found that in my life as a supportive partner, I had lost the sense of my own abilities, seemingly small in comparison to my husband’s fame. Looking over the many things I have done in my life I realized that all the organizing I did for my family, and my husband, the jobs I took on and the fights I fought and won on behalf of my disabled son, the people I helped along the way, I have come to realize, having had to take on responsibility and all the work alone, that I can do it. That I make mistakes and I go on, that every one muddles along, no one does everything perfectly and that we all need help and support and friends.
We all need each other. You just have to take one step at a time.”