By Jeremy Miles
It's almost impossible to chat to Gerry Marsden without a smile on your face. He's one of those people, who gives the impression that he's an eternal optimist, a man whose life has been blessed by rare fortune.
And so it has. For Gerry is the living embodiment of the Mersey beat boom that took the country by storm way back in the early 1960s.
Taking a lead from their mates The Beatles, Marsden and his band The Pacemakers swept into the charts scoring three consecutive number ones with their first three singles, How Do You Do It, I Like It and You'll Never Walk Alone.
It is easy to forget but, managed by Brian Epstein and produced by George Martin, Gerry & The Pacemakers were for a while second only to their mega-famous mop-topped chums.
Nearly 45 years later a small army of Pacemakers may have come and gone but Gerry is still playing the old numbers. "I've almost learned all the chords now," he quips.
No wonder he laughs so much in his thumbs-up, Macca-Wacca kind of way. He plays the Sixties Scouser to the hilt and it's brought him a very good living.
He is in town with the latest incarnation of his band tomorrow night to headline the perennially popular nostalgia package Solid Silver 60s Show. The evening finds Gerry & the Pacemakers joining forces with fellow Sixties hit-makers The Swinging Blue Jeans, Dave Berry and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich.
Now in its twenty third year the Solid Silver 60s brand was originally conceived as a means of getting one last gasp out of the sixties generation of rockers.
Much to everyone's astonishment it proved an instant and continuing success.
"We thought it would be just one tour but the reaction was so amazing that we've been touring every two years ever since," says Gerry.
"You can't knock it, the music's memorable and we have an audience with people aged from 11 to 93 all singing along to the songs. We get kids coming to the concerts who tell me that their mothers and grandmothers have brought them to see the stars they made famous.
"It's great - the girls, the screamers from 1963, they're grannies now, zimmering around in their bloomers. Who'd have thought it? God bless em!"
Gerry says the shows are all about shared experience. "Sixties music was very simple They were great tunes and everyone remembers them."
He seems just a little amazed that after so many years he's still rocking away but, following a heart operation five years ago, he says he's enjoying a new lease of life.
The operation - a by-pass that gave a whole new meaning to the fact his band were called The Pacemakers - has completely revitalised him.
It's also brought home to him how fortunate he is in a business where so many of his contemporaries are no longer with us.
In particular he remembers with lasting affection his boyhood friend, the assassinated Beatle John Lennon. "We went way back to the days when John had The Quarrymen Skiffle Group and I had the Gerry Marsden Skiffle Group. John Lennon was my best mate, he was a great lad and I miss him a lot. We had some great times together."
He says he knew early on that The Beatles had something special. "I thought Yeah, they're going to be huge.' "I had no idea, of course, what that meant. No idea that when it happened it would happen so quickly, that we'd go to America or Australia but, thanks to The Beatles that's how it turned out. The Beatles went and opened the door and Brian Epstein decided to keep that door open."
Gerry has another reason to thank Lennon for his pop career. His first hit How Do You Do It was originally offered to the Beatles but Lennon turned it down.
"He said: That's crap, give it to Gerry Marsden he'll do it.' I did and it went straight to number one.
"I really enjoyed ringing him up and telling him we were top of the charts."
Lennon's reply is unfortunately unprintable in a family newspaper!
The Solid Silver 60s Show plays Bournemouth Pavilion on Thursday evening.