'Where Are They Now?' - Daily Express article

'Where Are They Now?' - Daily Express article

Mike Pender (originally Prendergast) was a founder member of Merseybeat group The Searchers, who had huge hits with Sweets For My Sweet, Needles And Pins and Love Potion Number 9, among others.

Mike still performs with his own band, Mike Pender's Searchers, which he formed in 1985. Now 74, he lives with his wife, May, in a converted barn near Malpas in Cheshire. "As a kid, I was keen on football rather than music.

"I played for Bootle Schoolboys against Liverpool Schoolboys at Anfield and I still have my loser's medal.  "Every Sunday we'd visit my paternal grandfather and there'd be a guitar in the parlour. He'd take it to the pub for people to play during sing-songs. I picked it up, thinking, 'How on earth does somebody play one of these?' 

Then when I was about 14, I swapped my collection of American comics for a battered acoustic guitar and practised every night and taught myself. 

"I left school at 15 and went to work as an apprentice printer. At 16, I met John McNally and we formed The Searchers, which I named after one of my favourite films, a 1956 western starring John Wayne.One night I saw Buddy Holly and the Crickets perform in Liverpool and thought, 'That's what I want to do, be up there.' I met Tony Jackson and taught him how to play bass guitar, and one day I ran into an old mate from school called Chris Crummy, who was learning to play drums – he later changed his name to Chris Curtis. 

"We did lunchtime gigs at The Cavern in Liverpool, where we'd run into The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers. We were invited to perform at The Star-Club in Hamburg and met our rock 'n' roll heroes there, like Chuck Berry and Bill Haley and the Comets.We were the slaves, doing three or four shows a night until 3am, but we felt we'd made it. At the printers' I was making £8 a week and at The Star-Club it was £50. 

"When we came back, Tony Hatch from Pye Records was in Liverpool looking for groups and we recorded Sweets For My Sweet for him. Six weeks later, it was number one in the charts. I remember lying on my bed at my parents' house listening to Radio Luxembourg on my transistor in the middle of the night and Sweets For My Sweet came on. I couldn't believe it."Then we had a hit with Sugar And Spice, and our management said, 'If your third release is big, we're taking it to America.' It was Needles And Pins and it got to number one. 

I'd seen Buddy Holly on The Ed Sullivan Show and there we were 18 months later on the same show. "By the 1970s things were difficult for the band. I got into antiques and May and I opened an antiques shop. "We had three children, Michael, Stephanie and Nathan. We lost Nathan in a motorcycle accident in 2009, which hit us hard. Around that time, our daughter had her son, Alexander, and he helped us through. 

"I formed my own band in 1985, called Mike Pender's Searchers. Back in the 60s, America took us and The Beatles to their hearts and loved us.They still pay good money to hear those old songs.

”Mike Pender's autobiography The Search For Myself (£25, Genuine Article Books) is available from Express Bookshop on 01872 562310, or at expressbookshop.co.uk