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Members include Billy Adamson (group member, 1969-98), drums, vocals; Frank Allen (born Francis Renaud McNeice on December 14, 1943, in Hayes, Middlesex, England; joined group, 1964), bass, vocals; John Blunt (born on March 28, 1947, in London, England; group member, 1966-69), drums, vocals; Chris Curtis (born Christopher Crummy on August 26, 1942, in Oldham, Lancashire, England; founding member, left group, 1966), drums, vocals; Tony Jackson (born on July 16, 1940, in Liverpool, England; founding member, left group, 1964), vocals, bass; Spencer James (born in Hayes, England, in 1953; joined group, 1985), guitar, vocals; John McNally (born on August 30, 1941, in Liverpool, England), rhythm guitar, vocals; Mike Pender (born Michael John Pendergast on March 3, 1942, in Liverpool, England; founding member, left group, 1985), guitar, vocals; Eddie Rothe (born Walter Edgar Rothe, in Buckingham, England; joined group, 1998), drums. Addresses: Agent--Alan Field, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website--The Searchers Official Website: http://www.the-searchers.co.uk.
The intricate harmonies and distinctive chiming 12-string Rickenbacker electric guitar sound of the English band the Searchers are credited with heralding the folk-rock movement most commonly associated with the American band the Byrds in the mid-1960s. The group also recognized international success from 1963 to 1965 with cover versions of such American R&B songs as the Clovers' "Love Potion No. 9," the Drifters' "Sweets for My Sweet," the Coasters' "Ain't That Just Like Me," the Orlons' "Don't Throw Your Love Away," and Barbara Lewis's "Someday We're Gonna Love Again." These songs featured three- and four-part harmonies and tightly structured musical arrangements that attracted comparisons to their fellow Liverpudlian group, the Beatles. In fact, it was John Lennon's comment to the press that his favorite song at the moment was the Searchers' rendition of "Sweets for My Sweet" that propelled the group to the top of the pop music charts. The band's knack for rediscovering somewhat obscure American songs was complemented with their versions of original compositions by producer and pop music impresario Tony Hatch, including "Sugar and Spice" as well as covers of such folk-themed compositions as the Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzsche song "Needles and Pins" and Malvina Reynolds's ecologically themed song, "What Have They Done to the Rain?"
Members of the Searchers began playing together in 1957 as part of the British skiffle sound that was pioneered by singer Lonnie Donegan with the song "Rock Island Line." Guitarist and singer John McNally recruited guitarist and singer Mike Pender from the Liverpool bands the Wreckers and the Confederates, and guitarist and singer Tony Jackson from the Liverpool band the Martinis. Jackson became the group's bassist, using an instrument he designed and built himself. He found it difficult to play the bass and sing, however, and Johnny Sandon was hired to sing lead vocals. Norman McGarry joined the band as drummer, but left shortly thereafter. He was replaced by Chris Crummy, who changed his name to Chris Curtis.
The Searchers officially began in 1960 as Johnny Sandon and the Searchers. They took their name from the John Ford film The Searchers, which starred John Wayne in one of his most famous roles. Sandon eventually left the band to form the Remo Four in 1962. Like fellow Liverpool band the Beatles, the Searchers played the Cavern Club and the Iron Door, and traveled to the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany. Returning from Hamburg in late 1962, the group signed a management contract with Tony Hatch and a recording contract with Pye Records.
The group's harmonies were used to good effect on the band's first single, "Sweets for My Sweet," a song written for the Drifters by Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus, which displaced the Beatles from the number one spot in Great Britain. Tony Hatch--who later wrote, produced, and managed Petula Clark's successful pop singles of the mid-1960s--wrote the band's second single, "Sugar and Spice," under the pseudonym Fred Nightingale. This song once again displayed the group's harmonic abilities. The band's biggest hit, a harbinger of the folk-rock boom that would dominate much of the West Coast music of the United States for the remainder of the 1960s, was the 1964 number-one hit "Needles and Pins," which was written by two session musicians for American record producer Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono. The 12-string Rickenbacker guitar sound featured on "Needles and Pins" was later a dominant sound on the Beatles' soundtrack for the movie A Hard Day's Night, which subsequently influenced the musical direction of the Byrds.
Following the success of "Needles and Pins," original bassist and lead vocalist Tony Jackson departed the group to form The Vibrations. Subsequently imprisoned in 1997 for making threats with an offensive weapon, Jackson was replaced by Frank Allen, who previously had played in the band Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers. For the next two years the Searchers enjoyed major chart success on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Their hits subsequent to Allen's enlistment include "When You Walk in the Room," "Goodbye My Love," "What Have They Done to the Rain," and "Take Me for What I'm Worth." In 1966, following an Australian tour with the Rolling Stones, Chris Curtis departed the band to pursue a career as a producer and songwriter. He was replaced by John Blunt, who stayed with the band for its hits "Take It or Leave It" and "Have You Ever Loved Somebody." In 1969, Blunt left the band, which had switched record labels from Pye to Liberty. Blunt was replaced by Billy Adamson, a Scotsman who had recorded with 1960s Welsh pop star Lulu.
The band spent the majority of the 1970s in a creative decline, rerecording their 1960s hits for the RCA label in 1972, as well as recording the minor hits "Vahevala" and "Solitaire." The group discovered new life as a cabaret act in the mid-1970s, and, in 1979, signed a contract with Sire Records. They recorded two critically acclaimed albums for the label, The Searchers in 1979 and Love's Melodies in 1980, but the band's brand of music was overshadowed by dominance of the punk and New Wave musical movements of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The irony is that Sire Records helped initiate punk and New Wave in the 1970s when it signed such acts as Talking Heads and The Ramones. Bruce Eder, writing for All Music Guide, declared the two Sire albums, "the best work the group ever did, highlighted by achingly beautiful yet vibrant and forceful playing and singing, and an unerring array of memorable hooks and melodies."
In 1985, lead vocalist Mike Pender left the group to form his own version of the band, Mike Pender's Searchers. The original group replaced him with Spencer James, who had been a member of the 1970s Beach Boys sound-alike band First Class. First Class had recognized a small degree of success in 1974 with the song "Beach Baby." In 1989, the Searchers released their first album featuring James on lead vocals and guitar, called Hungry Hearts. Signed to the Coconut label, the band was reinvigorated enough to support singer Cliff Richard at his thirtieth-anniversary celebration at Wembley Stadium. In 1998, drummer Adamson departed the group, and was replaced by Eddie Rothe, a former drummer with the bands Liquid Gold and Mud.
The Searchers continued to perform, tour, and record after 2000. While the band never distinguished themselves as original songwriters, they are recognized as consummate musicians, singers, and interpreters of the little-known compositions by other songwriters. During the group's heyday, they even challenged the Beatles for domination of the international pop-music charts.
by Bruce Walker
The Searchers's Career
Formed as group featuring singer Johnny Sandon, 1960; signed to Pye Records by Tony Hatch, released first two albums, Meet the Searchers and Sugar and Spice,1963; song became British number-one hit, 1964; "Needles and Pins," arguably first folk-rock single, reached British number one position, 1964; released last hit single, "Have You Ever Loved Somebody," 1966; released acclaimed comeback album, The Searchers, 1979.
- Selected discography
- Meet the Searchers Pye, 1963.
- Sugar and Spice Pye, 1963.
- Hear! Hear! Mercury, 1964.
- It's the Searchers Pye, 1964.
- This Is Us Kapp, 1964.
- The New Searchers LP Kapp, 1965.
- The Searchers No. 4 Kapp, 1965.
- Sounds Like the Searchers Pye, 1965.
- Take Me for What I'm Worth Pye/Kapp, 1965.
- Second Take RCA, 1972.
- The Searchers , Sire, 1979.
- Love's Melodies Sire, 1980.
- The Very Best of ... the Searchers Sanctuary, 2002.
August 18, 2003: Tony Jackson, the bassist for the Searchers, dies on August 18, 2003, in Nottingham, England, of arthritis and cirrhosis of the liver. He was 63. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com, August 21, 2003.
February 28, 2005: Group member Chris Curtis was found dead on February 28, 2005, at his home in Liverpool, England. He was 63. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Music/03/01/searchers.obit.ap/index.html, March 10, 2005.
- Larkin, Colin, editor, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music,Muze, Inc., 1998.
- Slonimsky, Nicolas, editor emeritus, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Centennial Edition, Schirmer, 2001.
- "The Searchers," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (October 24, 2002).
- The Searchers Official Website, http://www.the-searchers.co.uk (October 29, 2002).
- Additional information was obtained from the liner notes by Colin Escott to The Very Best of ... the Searchers, Sanctuary Records, 2002.
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