A Hero Comes Home

My first musical hero died this week. In fact, given the role music has played in my life, it would be accurate to call him one of my first heroes, period. Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers, along with The Beatles, helped lead the 60s British music “invasion.”

By the time I fell in love with guitars, solid-bodied surf guitars (“planks”), were passé.* Amusingly, the British bands favored the bigger, semi-hollow-bodied pre-surf guitars of their heroes, 50s rockers like Elvis and Chuck Berry.

george-harrison-tennesseanEveryone was copying The Beatles (as did I a bit later), so I copied Gerry. Gerry played a big, boxy Gretsch guitar way up on his chest. And that, to me, was the epitome of cool. So when I bought my first electric guitar, it was a Gretsch—just like Gerry’s. And I played it way up on my chest—just like Gerry. Although later I had to lower it because, frankly, my arms were longer than Gerry’s. (My best buddy Marc bought a Gretsch–just like George Harrison’s).

Gerry and the Pacemakers aren’t icons like The Beatles (only the Stones and The Who come remotely close to that). But for a time they were The Beatles’ biggest rivals with catchy, feel-good rock ‘n’ roll in the style of their hero Buddy Holly (whose band The Crickets inspired The Beatle’s name). The Pacemakers were the other big group in Liverpool’s “Merseybeat” music scene. They had the same manager and the same producer. In fact, Beatles’ producer Sir George Martin championed them early on and created the stirring string arrangements behind Gerry’s haunting ballads “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’” and “Ferry Cross the Mersey.”

Although Gerry grew up a generation earlier than me, and 5,000 of miles away, we shared the same Irish-English background and the same deep, wistful longing for home. I was almost too choked-up (almost) to join in with Gerry as he sang in his lilting tenor about coming home, in the movie Ferry Cross the Mersey (see video above):

People around every corner
They seem to smile and say
We don’t care what your name is boy
We’ll never turn you away

So I’ll continue to say
Here I always will stay

So ferry, cross the Mersey
‘Cause this land’s the place I love
And here I’ll stay
And here I’ll stay
Here I’ll stay

Gerry is home forever now. Beside the Mersey. And in my heart.


*Note: Those “surf guitars” made a huge come-back in 60s blues-rock (Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton et al), and are now considered the quintessential rock guitars.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Videos and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to A Hero Comes Home

  1. pastorpete51 says:

    Oh Mitch; your post stirs lots of memories with me and your details are way better than mine. I had completely forgotten who wrote those songs (though not the tunes). I loved the Beatles as you did but from there went the way of Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel and Peter Paul and Mary. But just for fun speaking of British bands; who else remembers Herman and the Hermits? Now they left us the classics like my own favorite Leaning on the Lamp! 2021 Blessings brother!

    Liked by 5 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      ;>) I remember Herman’s Hermits well, Pete, along with so many other early 60s British faves like The Kinks, The Zombies, The Hollies, The Yardbirds, The Moody Blues, etc. etc. And, yeah, I was a big fan of American folk-rock too: Dylan, Joni, S&G, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, and late 60s/70s artists like James Taylor, Eagles, Linda Rondstadt, etc.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. badfinger20 (Max) says:

    I’ve read many books on the Beatles and no one ever says a bad word against Gerry. The song I remember most by them is Ferry Cross the Mersey.

    I’ve read when he would play with the Beatles at times and he had to stand on orange crates because of how short he was…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Rest in peace ☮️🕊️

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Rocky says:

    Though the Beatles were more popular, I prefer the music of Gerry and the Pacemakers.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. I love the Aran sweater (I may wear mine this week as a tribute to Gerry).

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I always liked “Ferry Cross the Mersey.” Rest in peace, Gerry.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Even after all these years, whenever I hear “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” I stop and savor it, and remember how special it was to me. Thanks for writing this tribute, Mitch.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Piano girl says:

    I remember hearing the song, but didn’t know the words/meaning until now. Thank you! 🎶❤️🎶

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Love Alone says:

    Reblogged this on Love and Love Alone.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I love his voice and smile…can remember seeing them on TV when I was a young teen. So many memories!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Ann Coleman says:

    A lovely tribute and well deserved. Sometimes the people who make the biggest difference aren’t necessarily the ones who get the most attention. But he sure made a mark on the music world and on many, many people as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Jennie says:

    Ferry Cross the Mersey was one of my favorite songs. RIP, Gerry.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Too bad he gone. Don’t let the Sun Catch You Cryin.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I am going to share this on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: A Hero Comes Home – 100 Country Trek

  16. Nice tribute! Have you visited Liverpool? If you do, and catch the ferry across the Mersey, the song is played over the ferry’s tanoy! https://bitaboutbritain.com/razzle-dazzle-ferry-cross-the-mersey/

    Liked by 1 person

  17. revruss1220 says:

    Rest In Peace, Gerry. Your influence was vast.

    Liked by 2 people

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