Spotlight on ……
Gerry and the Pacemakers
Gerald Marsden was born on 24 September 1942 at 8 Menzies Street, Toxteth, Liverpool, Lancashire, and his interest in music began at an early age. He remembers standing on top of an air raid shelter singing "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" and getting a great reception from onlookers. That inspired him to try his hand at singing
Gerry Marsden formed the group in 1959 with his brother Fred on drums, Les Chadwick on bass and Arthur McMahon on piano. They rivaled the Beatles early in their career, playing in the same areas of Hamburg, Germany and Liverpool. McMahon (known as Arthur Mack) was replaced on piano by Les Maguire around 1963.They are known to have rehearsed at Cammell Laird shipping yard at Birkenhead. The group's original name was Gerry Marsden and the Mars Bars but they were forced to change this when the Mars Company, producers of the chocolate Mars Bar, complained.
The band were signed by Brian Epstein in 1962, the first band to do so besides The Beatles. They began recording for the EMI Columbia Records label early 1963 with "How Do You Do It?", a song written by Mitch Murray, that Adam Faith turned down and one that the Beatles recorded but chose not to release as they were more interested in recording their own original composition "Please Please Me". Gerry & The Pacemakers song was produced by George Martin at Abbey Road Studios in only four or five takes and became a number one hit in the UK, the first by an Epstein Liverpool group to achieve this on all charts, until being replaced at the top by "From Me to You", the Beatles' third single.
Gerry and the Pacemakers' next two singles, Murray's "I Like It" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "You'll Never Walk Alone", both also reached number one in the UK Singles Chart, the latter recorded instead of the Beatles' "Hello Little Girl", which went on to become the first hit for the Fourmost. "You'll Never Walk Alone" had been a favourite of Gerry’s as a young boy after seeing the film Carousel. It was quickly adopted as an anthem of several football clubs, the most notable being Liverpool, the club Marsden supports. The group narrowly missed a fourth consecutive number one when "I'm the One" was kept off the top spot for two weeks in February 1964 by fellow Liverpudlian's The Searchers of "Needles and Pins" fame.
Despite this early success, Gerry and the Pacemakers never had another number one single in the UK. Gerry began writing most of their songs, including "I'm the One","It's Gonna Be All Right" and "Ferry Cross the Mersey", as well as their first and biggest US hit, "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying", which peaked at No.4, and which Gerry initially gave to Decca recording artist Louise Cordet in 1963. She recorded the song (Decca F11824), but without commercial success. The song, written by all the band members, has also been covered by Les Carle, the Lettermen, Jackie DeShannon (This Is Jackie DeShannon album, 1965), José Feliciano, Dr. John, Rickie Lee Jones, Gloria Estefan (Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me album) among others.
The band also starred in an early 1965 film called Ferry Cross the Mersey (sometimes referred to as "Gerry and the Pacemakers' version of A Hard Day's Night"), for which Marsden wrote much of the soundtrack. The title song was revived when Gerry sang the song at Wembley Stadium when Everton faced Liverpool at the 1989 F.A. Cup final shortly after the Hillsborough disaster. It was released as a charity single as an appeal in response to the Hillsborough football crowd disaster when 96 Liverpool F.C fans ultimately died as a result of their injuries, giving Marsden – in association with other Liverpool stars, including Paul McCartney and Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Holly Johnson – another British number one.
In the US, their recordings were released by the small New York City record label Laurie, with whom they issued four singles during 1963 without success (as listed below). When the Beatles broke through in January 1964, Laurie's next regular single release of "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying became a big hit and during 1964 Laurie coupled "How Do You Do It?" with "You'll Never Walk Alone" (Laurie 3261) and "I Like It" with "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" (Laurie 3271) with some success.
In 1965 Gerry married Pauline Behan and had two daughters, Yvette and Victoria. By the end of that year the group’s popularity was rapidly declining on both sides of the Atlantic. They disbanded in October 1966, with much of their latter recorded material never released in the UK.
Gerry reformed the group in 1974 after eight years as a solo artist and they continue to tour worldwide. Sadly Gerry’s brother Freddie died on 9 December 2006 aged 66 and the present day line-up consists of Gerry Marsden, guitar & vocals, Steve Thompson on Lead Guitar, Tony Young on Keyboards, Nick Woolgar on Drums and Joe Mitchell on Bass Guitar.
In 1993 Marsden published his autobiography, I’ll Never Walk Alone, co-written with former Melody Maker editor Ray Coleman. In his remarkably candid story, Marsden emerges as a driven man, an artist with oodles of self-belief, from his streetwise hardened boyhood and early love of music to his friendship and keen rivalry with The Beatles, hunger for fame and hard won success, his story is one of grit, warmth, humour and determination. The book became the basis for a theatre production “Ferry Cross the Mersey” a musical story of Gerry’s Merseybeat days. The premiere took place in Liverpool and was a sell-out success continuing with sell-out dates in the UK, Australia and Canada