Searchers, The

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Searchers, The

Searchers, The, British pop hitmakers of the mid-1960s. Membership: John McNally, voc, gtr. (b. Liverpool, England, Aug. 30, 1941); Mike Pender (real name, Michael Pendergast), voc, gtr. (b. Liverpool, England, March 3, 1942); Tony Jackson, voc, bs. (b. Liverpool, England, July 16, 1940); Chris Curtis (real name, Crummy), drm., voc. (b. Oldham, England, Aug. 26, 1942); Frank Allen, bs., voc. (b. Hayes, England, Dec. 14, 1943); Spencer James, voc, gtr. (b. Hayes, England, 1953); John Blunt, drm. (b. London, England, March 28, 1947); Billy Adamson, drm., voc; Eddie Rothe (real name, Walter Edgar Rothe), drm. (b. Buckingham, England).

For over 40 years, the Searchers have remained popular, playing their older hits while continuing to create new music. Like the Beatles, the group’s members began their careers playing in a variety of skiffle groups that eventually coalesced around guitarist John McNally. They first worked as a backing band for vocalist Johnny Sandon. When Sandon left, they carried on as a quartet, taking their name from a John Wayne film (the same one that inspired Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day”). The Searchers played the haunts around Liverpool that became legendary in The Beatles’ story—The Cavern and the Iron Door—and the clubs on Hamburg’s Reeperbaum like the Star. All members had vocal ability, leading to some impressive harmonies, along with the distinctive sound of Pender’s 12- string guitar.

In 1963 the Searchers started recording, larding the English hit parade with a series of singles including “Sweets for My Sweet,” which knocked the Beatles out of the #1 slot, and “Sugar and Spice.” They started off 1964 topping the U.K. charts with the Sonny Bono/Jack Nitzche composition “Needles and Pins.” This broke the band in the U.S., rising to #13. They followed this at roughly three-month intervals with “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” (#16), “Some Day We’re Gonna Love Again” (#34), and Jackie DeShannon’s “When You Walk in the Room” (#35). The Searchers had their biggest hit with a cover of “Love Potion Number Nine” that carried them into 1965, rising to #3. Over the course of that year, they charted with a rocked up version of Malvina Reynolds ecofolk anthem “What Have They Done to the Rain” (#29) and “Bumble Bee” (#21).

While they never hit the U.S. Top 40 again after that, the Searchers continued to chart often in Europe. The band went through several personnel changes over the years, but continued to record new material, despite frequently being relegated to the oldies circuit. In the late 1970s, they were signed to Sire records and issued two much-ballyhooed but commercially unsuccessful albums. Mike Pender split and formed his own version of the Searchers in 1985. He was replaced by former First Class (“Beach Baby”) guitarist Spencer James, who added his synthesizer guitar to the band’s sound. In 1989 the group played to over 75, 000 people at London’s Wembley Stadium, opening for another British rock survivor, Cliff Richard. They continued to go strong, playing hundreds of shows a year into the new millennium.


Meet the Searchers (1963); Sugar & Spice (1963); Twist at the Star Club Hamburg (live; 1963); Ain’t Gonna Kiss You (1963); Sweets for My Sweet (1963); Hear! Hear! (1964); It’s the Searchers (1964); When You Walk in the Room (1964); Hungry for Love (1964); The New Searchers (1965); The Searchers No. 4 (1965); Take Me for What I’m Worth (1965); Sounds Like the Searchers (1965); Bumble Bee (1965); Searchers ’65 (1965); Four by Four (1966); Second Take (1972); The Searchers File (1977); Rock Music from Britain (1979); The Searchers (1979); Play for Today (1981); Love Melodies (1981); The Silver Searchers (1984); Live at the Star Club (1994).

—Hank Bordowitz