#279: Ain’t That Just Like Me by the Searchers
The Searchers formed in Liverpool in 1959, after a skiffle band by its founders took the name. They were the a backing band for Johnny Sandon, a rockabilly singer who was an early contributor to the Merseybeat. They took their name from the 1956 John Wayne film, The Searchers. (The film starred Wayne cast as Civil War veteran, Ethan Allen, who searches for his abducted niece for five years to discover she has become one of the wives of a Comanche chief, and wishes to remain with her Comanche husband, Scar). The founders of the Searchers were John McNally and Mike Pender. Pender was born in Liverpool in 1941 with the birth name Michael John Prendergast. John McNally was also born in Liverpool that year. It was Western film buff, Pender, who dragged McNally to see The Searchers. Inspired by the film, Pender convinced McNally the film title was a good name for their new skiffle band. Johnny Sandon left The Searchers in 1961 to form the Remo Four. Tony Jackson, from Liverpool (born 1940) became The Searchers lead singer by 1962.
There were several lineup changes and Chris Curtis (born Christopher Crummey in Greater Manchester in 1941) became the bands new drummer in 1961. Curtis chose to let go of his surname, Crummey, as there were potential downsides to headlines in the press. In 1962, The Searchers played at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, for 128 nights. Each evening included three one-hour performances. During their time in Hamburg they met Fats Domino who had a strong musical impact on John McNally. Late that year the Searchers signed with Pye Records.
1963 was the start of their string of hits, first in the UK, and then as part of the British Invasion. They made the Top 50 on C-FUN in Vancouver in December ’63 with “Sugar And Spice”, a song that peaked at #2 in the UK. Although their debut single, “Sweets For My Sweet”, charted to #1 in the UK for two weeks in August ’63, the song didn’t chart in Vancouver. “Needles And Pins”, a cover of the Jackie DeShannon hit, climbed to #16 in Vancouver in March 1964 and #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. Interestingly, the B-side, “Ain’t That Just Like Me” charted in Vancouver.
“Ain’t That Just Like Me” is a song co-written by two members of the R&B group the Coasters, Billy Guy and Earl Carroll. Earl “Speedo” Carroll was born in 1937 in New York City. In 1953 he co-founded a doo-wop group named The Carnations. But when they first entered the recording studio in 1954, they were given the name the Cadillacs. In 1955 the group had a #3 R&B hit called “Speedoo” which climbed to #17 on the Billboard pop chart. As Earl Carroll sang the lead vocals, he was given the nickname “Speedoo.” As the group’s membership changed they were billed as later as Earl Carroll and the Cadillacs. Carroll left the Cadillacs in 1961 to join the Coasters. He left the Coasters in the early 1980s to permanently reform The Cadillacs. Concurrently, in 1982, Earl Carroll took a job as a custodian at the PS 87 elementary school in New York City and worked there until retiring in 2005. Afterword, Earl Carroll became a mainstay of a PBS series honoring doo-wop, hosted by Jerry Butler. Carroll kept performing live until the early 2010s when deteriorating health forced him to retire. He died in 2012 at the age of 75.
Billy Guy was born in Northern Central Texas in 1936. At the age of 19 he was part of a singing duo called Bip and Bop. Later in 1955 he joined the Coasters. Guy became the lead singer for the group. His vocals are featured on “Searchin'”, “Along Came Jones”, and “Little Egypt”. Guy was also featured in duo vocal leads for both “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown”. Guy also recorded a number of albums as a solo artist. He died in 2002 at the age of 66 of cardiovascular disease.
“Ain’t That Just Like Me” was an obscure single released in 1961. Shortly after “Little Egypt”, it was the first of four single releases between 1961 and 1963 that failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100. The novelty song likens the narrator variously to nursery rhyme characters. Specifically, Mary (who had a little lamb) – because he follows his girlfriend around; Humpty Dumpty (who sat on a wall) – because he is cracking up over his girlfriend, just like Humpty Dumpty got (literally) cracked up; and like the rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle the Cat and the Fiddle”, because – like the dish that ran away with the spoon – the narrator is trying to run away with his girlfriend.
The Searchers “Ain’t That Just Like Me” climbed to #1 in Halifax (NS), #5 in Vancouver (BC) and Revelstoke (BC), #8 in Syracuse (NY), and #9 in New Haven (CT). However, it stalled at #61 on the Billboard Hot 100. While back in the UK the song failed to crack the national British singles chart.
In June ’64, The Searchers “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” climbed to #16 in Vancouver and the Billboard Hot 100. “Some Day We’re Gonna Love Again” made the Top 40 on CKLG in September ’64. And in November ’64, The Searchers charted “When You Walk In The Room” to #12 in Vancouver on C-FUN. With “Love Potion #9” climbing to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the winter of 1964-65, and to #3 in Vancouver on CKLG (#4 on C-FUN), The Searchers managed to chart seven singles onto the pop charts in Vancouver within a calendar year. Meanwhile, in 1964, Tony Jackson had left the group and was replaced by Frank Allen as front man.
In 1965, The Searchers continued with their string of hits in Vancouver and elsewhere. In March ’65, they took “What Have They Done To The Rain”, a folk song by Malvina Reynolds, to #6 in Vancouver. Their next single, “Bumble Bee“, was their fourth Top Ten hit in Vancouver, contrasting with the group having only succeeded in charting one single into the Billboard Hot 100’s Top Ten.
After “Bumble Bee”, The Searchers failed to match their earlier successes. Although “Goodbye My Lover Goodbye” climbed to #4 in the UK, it stalled at #21 in Vancouver and #52 on the Billboard Hot 100. The P.F. Sloan lyric, “Take Me For What I’m Worth”, made the Top 20 in the UK, but stalled at #26 in Vancouver and #76 on the Billboard Hot 100. While The Searchers would release another twenty singles between 1966 and 1982, they were met with commercial failure on both sides of the Atlantic, failing to crack the UK Top 50 after 1966.
In 1966, The Searchers went on tour with The Rolling Stones to Australia, Hong Kong and The Philippines. After the tour, Chris Curtis left the group and went on to form Deep Purple. The Searchers experienced some lineup changes as they played the cabaret circuit in the 70’s. But it was Mike Pender’s decision to leave the group in 1985 that really rocked the boat. Pender went on to front Mike Pender and The Searchers. This was confusing as The Searchers also continued to perform. But they replaced Pender with Spencer James to fill Pender’s shoes. In 1989, The Searchers opened in front of 75,000 fans at Wembley Stadium for two nights in a row, marking 40 years in show business for Cliff Richard.
Into the 90’s, The Searchers performed in Canada, Kenya, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore. They also entertained the troops in Bosnia, Belize, Northern Ireland, the Falkland Islands. In 1998, the group shared billing on a tour of the UK with Bobby Bee Helen Shapiro and the Swinging Blue Jeans. In 1999, Frank Allen published his book Travelling Man – On the Road with The Searchers. Allen published another book in 2009 titled The Searchers And Me.
In the 21st Century, The Searchers have been on tour packages with Gerry & the Pacemakers, Peter Sarstedt, the Swinging Blue Jeans, PJ Proby, Wayne Fontana, the Dakotas, Barry Ryan, John Walker (of the Walker Brothers), Chip Hawes (lead singer with The Tremeloes) and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Over the past few decades The Searchers have been on tour in Bahrain, Spain, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, The Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, and multiple times across the UK, Canada and America.
In 2003, Tony Jackson died at the age of 63 after many years living with diabetes, heart disease and heavy alcohol consumption. After playing drummer on Deep Purple’s “Hush”, in 1968, Chris Curtis left the music industry to work with Inland Revenue, the UK’s tax department from 1969 to 1987. After years of failing health, he died in 2005 at the age of 63.
Both John McNally and Frank Allen remain with The Searchers, with McNally a member now for 60 years and Allen for 55 years. They and the final iteration of the band – with Spencer James and Scott Ottaway – will perform sixty concerts between January 4 and March 31, 2019. Spencer James will again be the featured on lead vocals. This tour is billed on their website as The Searchers Farewell Tour. After March, 2019, the band retired.
John Ford – Director, The Searchers, Warner Brothers, 1956.
“The Searchers Story – The 60s and 70s – Peaks and Troughs,” Searchers.co.uk.
“Still Acting Nonchalant with The Searcher – the John McNally Interview,” Writewayattuk.com, Manchester, UK, June 2, 2017.
The Searchers Official Concert Dates Page, Searchers.co.uk.
Dennis McLennan, “Billy Guy — in Original Coasters Comedy Quartet,” SFGate, San Francisco, November 20, 2002.
“C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, May 23, 1964.
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