From time to time we get requests from enthusiasts about the guitars The Searchers have used over the years. Probably the most talked-about guitar is John McNally's old late-50s Hofner Club 60, originally in a blond finish but then resprayed black. It was used on all of the recordings in 1963 and early 1964. Mike Pender at this time used a Burns Tri-Sonic, a three pickup cherry red model.

Tony Jackson started with a home-made Fender copy which, along with John's Club 60 in its original colour, can be seen in some early Star Club photos.  He then moved on to a Hofner Beatle bass, the small violin-shaped model also used by Paul McCartney. When they could afford better instruments, Mike bought a very expensive Gibson ES345 in a sunburst finish, and Tony purchased an Epiphone Rivoli semi-acoustic bass guitar, a similar shape and also in sunburst.  John continued to use his Hofner.

When Frank Allen left Cliff Bennett's Rebel Rousers in August 1964 to join The Searchers he was using a cherry red Gibson EB0 bass which he had bought new in 1961. John had by then put his Hofner in to be re-fretted and was using a Fender Telecaster in the meantime. It was meant to be a temporary move, but he was unhappy with the re-fretting and decided to keep the Fender, a sunburst model that he eventually had sprayed white.

Then came the most memorable set of guitars - a matching set of white Burns instruments, almost the first off the line. Frank's Bison bass had enormous horns forming the cut-away and the instrument seemed to dwarf him. John's and Mike's guitars were neater and better proportioned. Burns supplied not only the bass and six-stringed guitars, but also the twelve-string models which by now had become a Searchers trademark. A couple of the twelve-strings were in a green sunburst finish. A photograph of the group using the set of Burns guitars appeared in a paperback book on the history of Burns instruments.

Although they persevered with them for a while, they did not find them to their liking, and soon switched to other makes. Mike acquired a twelve-string Rickenbacker Rose Morris model 1993 in fireglo finish, a special export model with extra features including an “f-hole” rather than a slash sound hole, and John returned to his Telecaster before buying a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, which he did not like at all. Mike's Rickenbacker was stolen from the Lafayette Club in Wolverhampton and he then bought a Danelectro Bellzouki twelve-string, an unusually shaped guitar which he later discovered was made out of wood and hardboard.

Frank used his EB0 again for a while, and then a 1961 Fender Jazz bass, a first-year-of-issue collector's item, although unfortunately he did not discover this until after he had sold it to Billy Hatton of The Fourmost. The Jazz was replaced by a Rickenbacker 4001 stereo bass in jetglo finish, bought in New York while on the "revival tour" in 1974.

John quickly exchanged the gold Les Paul for a 1964 cherry red Gibson ES335, probably his favourite of all. On that same US tour Mike was persuaded to get rid of the extremely cheap and tatty Bellzouki and to buy a small solid Rickenbacker 450/12 in mapleglo finish – a very unique guitar in that it had a converter comb which enabled it to be used as either a 6-string or a 12-string.

In the early 80s, following an approach from Frank, Aria agreed to sponsor the band by providing guitars for all three - Mike using an Aria twelve-string, John a PE-R60 six-string plus a twelve-string like Mike's, and Frank had a TSB650 bass. All these were in a dark mahogany finish. Frank also acquired an Aria TSB650 fretless bass in an exotic shade of blue.

Following Mike Pender's departure at the end of 1985, Spencer James joined the group, and the many guitars he has used since then have included Telecasters, Stratocasters, a Gibson 25/50 Anniversary Les Paul, an Aria semi-acoustic (335 shape), a red twelve-string Japanese model, a Roland guitar synth and various acoustics. His favourite for stage work was probably the white Squier Stratocaster. Spencer loves "fiddling around" - almost all his guitars have had their electrics and pick-ups altered.

In the late 80s John and Frank were honoured by being asked for guitars to go into the collection of the Hard Rock Cafe group, which have guitars and memorabilia from most of the biggest names in rock on display at their various branches around the world. John's six-string Aria went to the Hard Rock Cafe in London's Piccadilly, his Hofner Club 60 to Dallas and then to Singapore, and Frank's original Gibson EB0 bass went to Los Angeles and then to Reykjavik in Iceland. In return the Hard Rock Cafe group gave John a Les Paul custom, and Frank was delighted to be given a very old 50s Guild X375 as he is a collector of vintage six-string electric guitars: it is the blond version of the Guild that he bought on an earlier US tour.

Towards the end of the 80s John and Frank took delivery of Aria Interceptor headless guitars – John's was a black six-string, and Frank's was a white bass. Frank's bass was later stolen from the boot of John's car in Liverpool, so he replaced it with a red Hohner B2A headless bass, but soon decided to change back to a more traditional shaped bass with a brown Gibson EB-3.

By the start of the 90s John was using a black Fender Telecaster and a Rickenbacker 620/12 in jetglo and white. Frank had gone back to his black and white Rickenbacker bass, and Spencer was still using his black synth guitar.

In 1992 ESP Guitars supplied The Searchers with special "30th Anniversary" instruments - a six-string for John and a bass for Frank. They are black with white trim and have maple necks. The headstocks were overlaid with the legend "Searchers 62 - 92" with their names inlaid into a block at the 12th fret. A new neck was made for Spencer's synth guitar, and ESP later supplied John with a new twelve-string model.

During the past few years the Searchers have added a few acoustic numbers to some of their theatre shows, for which John initially played a black Takamine but now he uses an Ovation Elite, a top of the range black-finished model with multiple sound holes around the front upper and lower bouts, decorated with fretworked wood in different shades. He still has a blond Ovation at home but he finds sound of the Elite much clearer. Frank plays an Aria PW51 acoustic and Spencer an Epiphone.

John continues to use his ESP 6-string and his 12-string Rickenbacker, but sometimes for a change swops to his Telecaster and his Aria twelve-string. Spencer uses his updated synth with all its accompanying range of gadgets.

For 14 years Frank used his ESP bass, to which he added active electronics. Unfortunately it was dropped during a show in 2003 and the head and neck had to be replaced, so the commemorative overlays were lost. However the original neck is still in his garage and one day he might attach it to the body again if only to have a souvenir of the 30th anniversary. The repaired ESP will be kept at his home as a spare but on tour it is easier for the roadies to keep a cheap lightweight Rickenbacker copy (a Shaftesbury finished in red sunburst Fireglow). His black and white Rickenbacker 4001 bass does make the occasional appearance, but he is loathe to take such a treasured instrument out on the road too much.

Since autumn 2006 Frank has been using a replica of the Fender Precision bass from the very early fifties design, specially made for him as a gift by Norwegian guitar maker Martin Olsen It is in a two-tone sunburst finish (they changed to three-tone sunburst in 1958) and was the first bass guitar model by Fender made to fulfil the demands of players who not only wanted to compete effectively with the increasingly popular electric guitars but who also wanted something more portable than the huge traditional stand up basses. It's the same model Sting is seen to use these days (although of course Sting`s instrument is an original model made between 1951 and 1954).

Despite his love of the `54 style Precision bass however, for the moment at least and at the request of John and Spencer, Frank has switched back to the 1973 Rickenbacker 4001S. They apparently like the sound of it but Frank suspects that it also very much a visual thing, the Rickenbacker being so iconic of their era and fitting with the dramatic black and white theme which has for the most part constituted The Searchers` on-stage image. Nothing is set in stone though and at any point you might find guitars, be they six string or four, being substituted on a whim by any of the guys and we can`t update the information every five minutes so just be aware of the vagaries of musicians and bear with us when checking against the info on this site.

And so the story is up to date, or as up to date as it can be for three guitarists who are all avid collectors, not only of guitars for stage work but of vintage instruments for private enjoyment too.

Click here to read about The Searchers stage equipment

Back To Main Searchers Page