Mike Pender is delighted that The Searchers are still fondly recalled across the USA. A lifelong fan of American music, he has found that, over in the States, some fans reckon it was him and other British acts who started their love affair with music.
"In America, groups like The Searchers and myself are still quite popular with the nostalgic crowd," Mike admits, "and it is the same in places like Australia. When we went to the United States in the 1960s, The Beatles and ourselves, the people took us to their hearts, and they have remembered us all.
"I was over in New York in March to do a few concerts, and they are still fascinated by little quirky things. A DJ was saying to me: 'Mike, how come you sang pins-uh instead of pins?' "They love that, and I have to tell them it was just a Liverpool thing, just a singing mistake!
"When we recorded Needles And Pins, the producer Tony Hatch liked it and decided just to leave it in." Unfortunately for Mike, while every American he meets knows exactly who he is and even the small details of how he sang his hits, the guitar company he helped make famous haven't remembered him — well, not yet, anyway!
The Rickenbacker firm, famed for their gorgeous jangly guitars as used by The Beatles and Mike himself, have brought out special signature models for some stars and made sure some artists got one for free. Mike is still waiting for his! They did it for George Harrison, and for the guy from The Byrds, Roger McGuinn, and for Tom Petty," Mike admits. "But no, I had to buy mine, unfortunately! I think it may have been whispered in their ears a few times, but they've not been forthcoming so far! It doesn't mean that much to me now, but it certainly would've meant something all those years ago.
"I have got a few Rickenbackers now, which I have kept over the years. Sadly, the famous one, used on When You Walk In The Room and other songs, was actually stolen in the 70s. That was pinched in a nightclub in Wolverhampton, so somebody out there has a special guitar!”
Mike has no doubts where it all started for him, the night a spark was lit that sent him on the road to pop stardom and a lifetime in the business. It was before the 60s even began, watching a suited, bespectacled young man at the peak of his powers, whose life would be cut tragically short soon after.
"In 1958, when a few Liverpool groups were just coming together, I went to see Buddy Holly on his one and only British tour," Mike reveals. "It was at the Philharmonic, but Buddy would die the following year. He was my idol, absolutely brilliant, and I loved his style. Buddy wrote a lot of their stuff, too, and got amazing sounds in the studio. At this time, there was no Cavern, nothing, and later The Beatles would say it was a pity they hadn't gone to see him when they had the chance.
"So I think it was Buddy Holly who really started the Liverpool Sound, along with a few rockers like Gene Vincent. As he's discovered, Mike and The Searchers were the guys who sparked a love of music for many an American!"
■ Mike's book, The Search For Myself, is out now, and for future tour dates check his site at http://www.mikependersearchers.co.uk
By Craig Campbell. The Weekly News, 4th June 2016