Gerry & The Pacemakers was made up of Gerry Marsden, his brother Fred, Les Chadwick and Les Maguire. The group’s original sound was influenced by American rock n’ roll pioneers Chuck Berry and Fats Domino.
The Pacemakers became rivals with The Beatles early on in their career, often playing the same clubs in Germany and England. The two groups defined the “Liverpool Sound,” which was a fusion of rock and roll, doo wop, R&B and soul. Although competitors, Gerry & The Pacemakers signed with The Beatles’ manager, and in 1963, recorded their first single “How Do You Do It?” The song was an immediate success in the UK. They followed that with two more singles, “I Like It” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (from Carousel), and both songs went to #1 on the British charts.
With all that success in the UK, Gerry & The Pacemakers set their eyes on the US. In February 1964, The Beatles had taken the country by storm. Following the huge ratings success of the Beatles’ performance, The Ed Sullivan Show was looking for other British groups. Brian Epstein was ready with Gerry & The Pacemakers.
On May 3, 1964 they took the stage on The Ed Sullivan Show to the screams of girls in the audience. Just like The Beatles, they all wore identical suits. Gerry Marsden, in his grinning, peppy style, opened with “I’m The One.” Although the song was relatively unknown in the US, the Pacemakers gave an energetic and fun performance on a stage set trimmed with light bulbs. They followed up with the light string arrangements of “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying.” At the close of the evening’s show, Ed, to the audience’s delight, asked Gerry to come back on stage to take a bow.
A week later on May 10, 1964, Gerry and The Pacemakers returned to The Ed Sullivan Show and opened with their 1963 hit “I Like It.” The lively rendition was driven by rhythm guitar and Marsden’s chipper vocals. Then they performed another version of “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying.”
In 1965 Gerry and The Pacemakers, like The Beatles, had released their own film, Ferry Cross the Mersey. It featured the guys playing clubs around Liverpool. On April 11 1965, Gerry & The Pacemakers made their final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The first song was “It’s Gonna Be Alright” and was intercut with clips from the film. After a break, Gerry & The Pacemakers took the stage again to sing the film’s theme song, “Ferry Cross The Mersey.” At the end of the ballad, the band jumped right into the upbeat, country-styled tune “Why, Oh, Why.” Following that number Gerry shook hands with Ed and walked off the show’s stage for the last time.
By 1965, Gerry & The Pacemakers’ popularity was fading. In 1966, they decided to split up. While their run was short lived, they were one of the trailblazing bands of the British Invasion. Their sound and style opened the floodgates for subsequent acts that would change the face of rock n’ roll. By December 31, 1964, a little over six months after Gerry & The Pacemakers’ Ed Sullivan Show debut, 27 songs on the US Top 100 were by British performers.