Formed in 1959 during the tail end of the British Skiffle boom, the Liverpool
born ‘Mars Bars’ evolved and prospered over the next five years to worldwide
fame as Gerry and the Pacemakers. Standing shoulder to shoulder with their
friends the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, led by lead guitarist and vocalist
Gerry Marsden, put Liverpool on the map with classic songs like "Don't Let the
Sun Catch You Crying" and "Ferry Cross the Mersey".
The Mars Bars originally consisted of Gerry and his elder brother Freddie,
but with the addition of bassist Les Chadwick they became a trio, and by 1960
they were using the name Gerry and The Pacemakers. After a late billing
supporting Gene Vincent at a gig at the Liverpool Boxing Stadium in 1960, they found
themselves thrust to the forefront of the new, emerging Merseybeat music scene.
Like The Beatles, they did a residency at a Hamburg club (in this case The
Top Ten Club in late 1960/early 1961) where they belted out a mixture of R&B
standards and mainstream pop classics.
By May 1961, Les Maguire (formerly of The Undertakers ) had joined on piano
(and saxophone) and the band had become a polished and respectable act fronted
by a real Mr. Nice Guy. In October of that year they appeared with The Beatles
at Litherland Town Hall in Merseyside as 'The Beatmakers' and both bands
interchanged instruments and stage costumes on this occasion. The two bands were at
the forefront of the Liverpool boom and frequently appeared together at The
Cavern Club and other area venues during 1961 and 1962. It came as little
surprise, then, when Brian Epstein, having already signed up The Beatles, became
manager for Gerry and the Pacemakers in June 1962. A few months later, he
persuaded EMI's George Martin to see them at Birkenhead's Empire Ballroom and this
led to them getting a contract with EMI's Columbia label.
They entered the recording studio in January 1963 and the first session
produced “Pretend” (which appeared on their debut album), a Gerry Marsden
composition, “Away From You”, and a Mitch Murray song, “How Do You Do It?” This had become
the showcase of the band's live act and was chosen as their first single,
rocketing to No 1 in April 1963. In fact, George Martin had wanted The Beatles to
record it but they'd rejected it, recording “Please Please Me” instead. They shot
back to the top of the UK Charts again two months later with another Mitch
Murray song, “I Like It”, and stayed there for four weeks.
Their next 45, a revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's “You'll Never Walk
Alone”, became their best selling UK single. Its adoption as a crowd anthem by
Liverpool Football Club not long after it became a No 1 hit has given the song a
timeless quality. It has been performed by Gerry Marsden on several occasions
since then, most notably at the memorial service for Liverpool manager Bill
Shankly. In June 1985, after the Bradford City Football Club fire disaster, he
performed lead vocals on a multi-artists recording of the song organized by
Graham Gouldman of 10cc. Proceeds from the sales went into a fund for the victims'
families. When the record hit the top spot back in 1963, it gave the band the
distinction of becoming the first act to achieve No 1 with their first three
singles, a record they held unrivalled for 21 years.
“You'll Never Walk Alone” was from their tremendously successful debut album,
How Do You Like It? which climbed to No 2 in the UK Album Charts - kept from
number one only by the staggering success of the Beatles' Please Please Me LP.
How Do You Like It contained a fair splattering of R&B as well as more
orchestrated numbers. By now the group's appeal as all-around entertainers was so
broad that they topped the bill on Sunday Night At The London Palladium on
December 13, 1963, and also appeared in the pantomime Babes In The Wood.
For their fourth 45, they used a Gerry Marsden composition, “I'm The One”, and
it continued their chart success as they embarked on an extensive series of
tours first in the UK, then in Australia and New Zealand. In April 1964 they
appeared on American TV for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show,
performing their next 45, another Gerry Marsden song, this time a ballad. “Don't
Let The Sun Catch You Crying” became their first U.S. hit, peaking at No 4.
On the strength of their singles success in the US, a US-only album, Don't
Let The Sun Catch You Crying, was put together from a collection of album
tracks and UK singles, and rose to No 29. They followed their Top Five US debut
single with the Top Ten smash "How Do You Do it" in August 1964, and continued
their 1964 US invasion with the year's final hit single, the Top 20 "I Like
Their second U.S. visit of 1964 featured one of rock's greatest ever
concerts. Television director Steve Binder was given the task of staging the Teen-Age
Music International Show, a concert event which would showcase some of the
biggest rock and pop acts of the day. Binder and his camera crew captured
the proceedings on video tape, and the results were transferred to kinescope
film and released to theaters as The T.A.M.I. Show. The roster of performers
reads like a who's who of early 60's rock -- original guitar hero Chuck Berry,
three of Motown's biggest stars - Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles,
and The Supremes; two leading British Invasion acts - our own Gerry and the
Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas; not to forget The
Barbarians, Leslie Gore, The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, James Brown, and The Rolling
Stones. One of the show's highlights was Gerry and the Pacemakers and Chuck Berry
performing together, including the song "Maybelline".
Gerry and the Pacemakers kicked off 1965 in style, hitting the upper reaches
of the U.S Hot 100 with their cover of Bobby Darin's ballad "I'll Be There" in
January and February.
Since June 1964, the band had been busy working on a feature film written by
Tony Warren (the man who created Granada's Coronation Street). Gerry wrote
many of the songs for it. Penned especially for the film, his “It's Gonna Be
Alright” became one of their most dynamic releases, delighting the group's
ecstatic fans as the film's big finish!
The motion picture Ferry Cross The Mersey was released in the UK at the
beginning of 1965; the U.S. release was held until the summer. Setting up the
film's release was the title track, which became a standard and perhaps Gerry's
signature song in the USA, "Ferry Cross the Mersey". Released in February 1964,
it became Gerry and the Pacemakers' fifth straight U.S. Top 20 hit, peaking at
number 6. It gave the band a massive Top 10 success on both sides of the
Atlantic as well as many other countries worldwide; it peaked at number 8 in the
In April 1965 Gerry and the Pacemakers embarked on another US tour, which
ended shortly before the movie Ferry Cross the Mersey saw US release. The band
played themselves, winning a sort of Battle Of The Bands tournament. The
Fourmost, Cilla Black and a number of acts from the era had cameos in the film; live
concert footage was filmed in the now world famous cavern Club. The Soundtrack
album hit 13 in the US Album Charts, and the group consolidated their US
success by charting the singles "You'll Never Walk Alone", "Give All Your Love to
Me", the aforementioned It's Gonna Be Alright" and the album Gerry and the
Pacemakers' Greatest Hits all before the end of 1965.
As they moved into 1966, other callings beckoned, including Gerry's interests
in theatre and television. Gerry and the Pacemakers were featured on Dick Clark's
Where the Action Is in May 1966, with their first single of the year "La La
La" having hit the US charts in April. With an offer to star in a West End
musical, a dream fulfilled and simply too exciting to overlook, Gerry Marsden took over
the lead role in Charlie Girl from Joe Brown in late 1966, and Gerry and the
Pacemakers disbanded. Their final singles were the Top 30 hit "Girl on a
Swing" in August 1966, and -recorded in September of 1966- January 1967's "Looking
For My Life" b/w Paul Simon's "Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine".
By 1970 Gerry had become a prominent figure on UK television and offers
poured in for live performances. In 1971 he reformed Gerry and the Pacemakers with
a completely new lineup behind him. They have remained a huge attraction ever
Gerry's rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone", from the musical "Carousel",
has been adopted as an anthem of several soccer clubs, most notably Liverpool
F.C.. He sang the song at Wembley Stadium when Everton F.C. faced Liverpool,
the team grew up rooting for.
Gerry Marsden returned to No. 1 in the charts twice during the 1980s with
re-recordings of two of his hits, with all profits going to charity. In 1985,
after the Bradford Football Club stadium tragedy where 56 were killed, he
formed The Crowd, including other musicians, singers and radio disc jockeys, in a
new version of "You'll Never Walk Alone". After the Hillsborough football ground
tragedy of 1989 which left 96 dead, he joined forces with Paul McCartney, The
Christians, Holly Johnson and production trio Stock, Aitken & Waterman on a
new version of "Ferry Cross the Mersey".
In 1993 Gerry Marsden published his autobiography, I'll Never Walk Alone,
co-written with former Melody Maker editor Ray Coleman. In 2001 he recorded a
John Lennon tribute called "Much Missed Man", written twenty years earlier by the
musician Joe Flannery. Gerry has been featured on three PBS TV specials over
the last 3 years, including the new My Music: The British Beat that is