Born Gerard Marsden in Liverpool on 24 September 1942, Gerry formed his first group with his brother Freddie.
A skiffle outfit, the band were originally called The Red Mountain Boys but changed their name to Mars Bars in the hope of securing sponsorship from the chocolate company.
The ploy backfired and the company demanded the group change their name. And so they became The Pacemakers.
Managed, like the Fab Four, by Brian Epstein, Gerry Marsden and the boys started life hitting the record books with three consecutive number one records in the UK – How Do You Do It?, I Like It and You’ll Never Walk Alone. Never before had any act achieved such results with its first three releases.
Further hits like I’m The One, Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying and Ferry Cross The Mersey followed, and Gerry & The Pacemakers helped define the form of Merseybeat as much (if not more so) than The Beatles did.
Gerry and The Pacemakers toured America and Britain until December 1965 when they issued Walk Hand In Hand, a fifties ballad in the style of You’ll Never Walk Alone. The song faltered in the Top 30 and was their last British hit.
Unable to keep abreast of the changing musical trends, Gerry disbanded the group in 1969.
He recorded numerous solo singles but they all bombed, so he headed for London’s West End where he played a handyman in a long-running romantic comedy, Charlie Girl. He also regularly appeared in comedy sketches on television variety shows.
In 1973 he left acting and hit the road again with a new set of Pacemakers, debuting at Madison Square Garden in New York for The British Re-Invasion Show.
In 1983, an outrageous sex-and-glam quintet from Marsden’s own home town of Liverpool put a campy rearrangement of Ferry Cross The Mersey on the B-side of their debut single.
The group was Frankie Goes To Hollywood, the single was Relax – and Marsden’s bank balance hasn’t been the same since (it is rumoured he pulls in around $250,000 a year in publishing royalties alone).
Gerry and the Pacemakers hits still draw warm response in a club and cabaret act which flourishes today, but it is for You’ll Never Walk Alone that Gerry is best remembered.
The song was subsequently adopted by Liverpool Football Club fans and is sung every year in football grounds across Britain.
It even made a return to #1 in 1985 when Gerry organised a superstar recording of the song to benefit victims of the Bradford football stadium fire.
Gerry Marsden received an MBE on 12 December 2003 for his services to charity.
He passed away on 3 January 2021 after a short illness involving a heart infection. He was 78.
John ‘Les’ Chadwick