Originally founded as a skiffle group in Liverpool in 1959 by John McNally and Mike
Pender, the band took their name from the classic 1956 John Wayne western The
Searchers. Pender claims that the name was his idea, but McNally ascribes it to 'Big
Ron' Woodbridge (born Ronald Woodbridge, 1938, ın Liverpool, Lancashire), their first
lead singer. The genesis remains unresolved.
The band grew out of an earlier skiffle group formed by McNally in 1957, with his
friends Brian Dolan (guitar) and Tony West (bass - born Anthony West, in 1938,
Waterloo, Liverpool, Lancashire died 11 November 2010, West Way, Hightown,
Merseyside). When the other two members lost interest McNally was joined by his
guitarist neighbour Mike Prendergast. They soon recruited Tony Jackson (born Anthony
Paul Jackson, 16 July 1938, The Dingle, Liverpool, Lancashire — died 18 August
2003, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire) with his home-made bass guitar and amplifier,
who was recruited as a lead singer, but took a back seat at first in order to learn the
bass. The band styled themselves as 'Tony and the Searchers' with Joe Kelly on
drums. Kelly soon left to be replaced by Norman McGarry (born 1 March 1942,
Liverpool, Lancashire), and it is this line-up — McNally, Pender (as he soon became
known), Jackson and McGarry — that is usually cited as the original foursome.
McGarry did not stay long, however, and in 1960 his place was taken by Chris
Crummey (26 August 1941 – 28 February 2005), who later changed his name to Chris
Curtis. Later that year Big Ron had a successful audition with Mecca and became a
ballroom singer. He was replaced by Billy Beck, who changed his name to Johnny
Sandon (born Wıllıam Beck, ın 1941, Lıverpool dıed 23 December 1996). The band
had regular bookings at Liverpool's Iron Door Club as 'Johnny Sandon and the
Sandon left the band in late 1961 to join The Remo Four in February 1962. The
group settled into a quartet 'The Searchers' with Jackson becoming the main vocalist.
They continued to play at the Iron Door, The Cavern, and other Liverpool clubs. Like
many similar acts they would do as many as three shows at different venues in one
night. They negotiated a contract with the Star-Club in the St. Pauli district Hamburg for
128 days, with three one-hour performances a night, starting in July 1962.
The band returned to a residency at the Iron Door Club and it was there that they tape-
recorded the sessions that led to a Pye Records recording contract with Tony Hatch as
producer. Their first single was issued in US on Mercury, the second on Liberty without
success and then a deal was arranged with U.S. based Kapp Records to distribute
their records in America. Their first album, sung mostly by Jackson Meet the Searchers
was released in August, 1963 and reached #2 on the British album charts by the next
month. A slightly changed version of it, including the song "Needles and Pins" hit
#22 in the US album charts in June 1964.
Hatch played piano on some recordings and wrote "Sugar and Spice"—the band’s UK
#2 hit record—under the pseudonym Fred Nightingale; a secret he kept from the band
at the time.
After scoring with their hit "Needles and Pins", bassist Tony Jackson, who was only
allowed one lead vocal on their second album, left the band and was replaced by
Hamburg pal Frank Allen (born Francis Renaud McNeice, 14 December 1943, Hayes,
Middlesex) from Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers.
Chris Curtis, who had song-writing ambitions, left the band in 1966 and was replaced
by the Keith Moon-influenced John Blunt (born John David Blunt, 20 March 1947, in
Croydon, Surrey), who in turn was replaced by Billy Adamson in 1970. In 1967, Curtis
formed a new band called Roundabout with keyboard player Jon Lord and guitarist
Ritchie Blackmore. Although Curtis's involvement in the project was short-lived,
Roundabout would eventually evolve into Deep Purple the following year.
As musical styles evolved, the Searchers could not keep up and as a result, the hits
ran out. While they continued to record for Liberty Records and RCA Records, they
ended up on the British "Chicken in a Basket" circuit, although they did score a minor
US hit in 1971 with "Desdemona".
The group continued to tour through the 1970s and were rewarded in 1979 when Sire
Records signed the band to a multi-record deal. Two albums were released: The
Searchers and Play for Today (retitled Love's Melodies outside the UK). Both records
garnered critical acclaim but did not break into the charts. They did, however, revive the
According to John McNally, the band were ready to head into the studio to record a third
album for Sire when they were informed that due to label reorganization, their contract
had been dropped. It was, in fact, because so few people bought the second album,
although it was beloved by fans.
In 1981, the band signed to PRT Records (formerly Pye, their original label) and began
recording an album. But only one single, "I Don't Want To Be The One" backed with
"Hollywood", ended up being released. The rest of the tracks, except one, would be
included as part of 1992's 30th Anniversary collection.
Soon after the PRT release, Mike Pender left the group amidst great acrimony and now
tours as Mike Pender's Searchers. McNally and Allan recruited former First Class
vocalist Spencer James to fill Pender's shoes.
In 1988, Coconut Records signed The Searchers and the album Hungry Hearts was
the result. It featured updated remakes of "Needles and Pins" and "Sweets For My
Sweet" plus live favorite "Somebody Told Me You Were Crying". While the album was
not a major hit, it did keep the group in the public eye.
The band continued to tour with Eddie Rothe replacing Adamson on drums and is
considered to be one of the most popular 1960s bands on the UK concert circuit. The
Searchers incorporate full band electric performances with an acoustic set as well. In
2010 Eddie Rothe announced that he would be leaving The Searchers to spend more
time with his fiancee Jane McDonald. On 26 February he was replaced by Scott
Creating ample amounts of confusion, former Searchers lead singer Mike Pender also
tours, formerly with his own band under the name "Mike Pender's Searchers" but now
with various pick-up groups with whom he tours but still using the name "Mike
Pender's Searchers", as he performs hits of the Searchers and some new material of