Guide to British Music of the 1960s


The Searchers

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Mike Pender (Pendergast) - lead guitar, John McNally - rhythm guitar, Tony Jackson - bass/vocals, Chris Curtis (Crummey) - drums

Curtis, McNally and Pender had been in a number of bands in Liverpool such as The Confederates and the Wreckers before they formed the Searchers in 1960 with bass player Tony Jackson. The band was named after the 1956 John Wayne film. They worked for a while as the backing band to Johnny Sandon and continued on their own after Sandon left to join the Remo Four. 

Like many Liverpool bands they undertook an "apprenticeship" in the German port of Hamburg and were signed by Pye producer Tony Hatch when they returned to Liverpool. They had recorded a demo tape at the Iron Door Club in Liverpool where they had gained a residency. Tony Hatch provided material for the band including his own track Sugar and Spice which he had written under the name of Fred Nightingale. 

While in Germany they had recorded Sweet Nothin's backed by Ray Charles' What I'd Say but their real debut single was a cover of the Drifters' Sweet for My Sweet. This went quickly to number one in the UK charts. This was followed by Sweets for My Sweet and Needles and Pins, making 1963 a highly successful debut year for the band. Needles and Pins had been written by Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzsche originally for Jackie de Shannon. This track was the first top twenty hit for the group in the lucrative US market. Both Needles and Pins and Don't Throw Your Love Away reached number one in the UK. Following the initial single success, Pye release the first album Meet The Searchers which included well-known tracks such as Farmer John and Love Potion Number 9. 

Tony Jackson left the band in early 1964 to form The Vibrations (and later the Tony Jackson Group) with Mike Pender taking over the lead vocal role. The vacant bass guitar role was taken by Frank Allen (Francis McNeice) who had been a member of Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers. The Searchers sound was different to many of the Merseybeat bands. A folk or country feel may have been what helped them to have more success than many others from the city, excluding the Beatles. One of the group's trademarks was the distinctive harmonies that were helped by the fact that all four could sing well. 

A cover of The Shirelles' Don't Throw Your Love Away gave the group its third number 1 and this was followed by When You Walk in the Room, a track from Jackie De Shannon. This track featured the jingle-jangle sound of a 12-string Rickenbacker riff. In 1965, the Searchers released He's Got No Love, the first time that the band had penned one of their own singles although they had written material for the albums that had been released. 

By now the Searchers had become more popular in the US and Love Potion #9 reached the number three position  towards the end of 1965. 

Chris Curtis left in mid-1966 and released a solo single called Aggravation before undertaking some record production and forming a group called Roundabout. He was replaced by John Blunt. However, like many bands the Searchers  were unable to make the transition as the music market moved away from single towards album-oriented rock. It became increasingly difficult to get Searchers' singles to the top of the charts. Even new singles written by the likes of Jagger/Richard (Take It or Leave It from Aftermath) or Have You Ever Loved Somebody, written by Alan Clarke, Graham Nash and Tony Hicks of the Hollies, made little impression. The latter was the group's final chart entry, reaching number 48 in October 1966. 

The Searchers left Pye and moved to Liberty Records in 1968 for whom they recorded a single under the name of Pasha. 

Since the 1960s the group has continued to tour and release albums. In 1979, the Searchers signed to the new wave label Sire. the drummer at this time was Billy Adamson alongside Mike Pender, Frank Allen and John McNally. Mike Pender left the group in 1986, and now tours as Mike Pender's Searchers. The group itself - led by John McNally and Frank Allen - continue as The Searchers.

Tony Jackson died on 18 August 2003 after a long illness. Chris Curtis died on 28 February 2005. He had suffered from a long illness.

A career retrospective Hearts in their Eyes was released in 2012. The 4CD set included the rare 10" demo LP that was recorded in Liverpool's Iron Door Club in 1963.

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