Guide to British Music of the 1960s

 

Gerry & the Pacemakers

Biography | Discography | Web Links | Books  

 

Gerry Marsden - guitar/vocals, Les Macguire - piano, Freddie Marsden - drums, Les Chadwick - bass guitar

Gerry Marsden joined a skiffle group the Red Mountain Boys at the age of 14 with his brother Freddie on drums, Arthur Mack on piano and Les Chadwick on guitar. Lots of Liverpool youngsters including John Lennon and Paul McCartney were doing similar inspired by the new music they were hearing. They briefly changed their name to the Mars Bars until the Mars Company insisted they change and they became the Pacemakers. Bands started to move away from skiffle after a while towards rock & roll having heard Elvis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochrane and others.

Gerry & the Pacemakers became regulars on the Liverpool circuit, often sharing the bill with the Beatles. They played the Cavern Club over 200 times. In 1961, they shared a bill at Litherland Town Hall and played together as the Beatmakers. Like the Beatles they gained a residency in Hamburg and arrived in the Grosse Freiheit December 1960 for a four-month contract.

During 1961 Les Macguire replaced Arthur Mack on piano. Beatles manager Brian Epstein signed the band to a management contract in June 1962 and by December they had a Columbia (EMI) record contract through George Martin. The producer had seen the band play at the Majestic Ballroom in Birkenhead. Their first single was How Do You Do It. Martin wanted this song for the Beatles but they preferred their own material. Gerry & the Pacemakers recorded the track, arguably much better than the Beatles version, and it reached number one in the UK charts. This was followed by two more number one singles, I Like It and You'll Never Walk Alone, making the band the first artist to reach number one with their first three releases. The third single became the anthem of Liverpool Football Club and was originally from the musical Carousel.

I'm the One reached number two while Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying and Ferry 'Cross the Mersey were also top ten hits although Gerry & the Pacemakers were unable to match the achievements of their friends and rivals the Beatles. Ferry 'Cross the Mersey was the title track of a film that featured the group playing themselves.

The band split in 1967 and Gerry Marsden starred in several West End shows as well as releasing a solo single. Since then the band has played reunion tours. In 1985 Gerry re-recorded You'll Never Walk Alone with various celebrities to help raise funds for the Bradford City stadium victims. In doing so he became the first musician to top the charts with the same song in two versions!

Gerry Marsden died 3 January 2021.

To be completed

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