THE SEARCHERS soared to fame in the Swinging Sixties with hits including Needles And Pins, Sugar and Spice and Sweets For My Sweet.

They toured the world, sold millions of records and set teenage hearts a-flutter. In their heyday their fame even rivalled that of The Beatles.

Caroline Dutton spoke to guitarist John McNally, one of the two remaining original members.

What inspired you to go into music?

"I think the early days of country, people like Hank Williams. My brother was in the Merchant Navy and he used to bring all these American records home."

What is your idea of happiness?

"A happy home life. When you've been on the road as long as us, seen everything, done everything, played with everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis, Cliff Richard, The Who, The Beatles -- everyone you can think of -- there's nothing more joyful than grandkids playing in the back yard.

"Two of my grandkids were over recently and kept asking their grandad to play Scooby Dooby Doo on the guitar. They'd sing along and I'd get a standing ovation.

What's the most rock 'n' roll thing that's happened to you or that you've done?

"We were never into throwing TVs out of windows. The most rock and roll thing I've ever done was when we were touring Israel in the '60s. They didn't have the venues so we used to play in cinemas with the old pits at the front. One night I got a few drinks down me and thought it would be funny to jump into the pit. The only thing was, I couldn't get back up again."

Who is your hero?

"Buddy Holly. I think it was because he proved anybody could be a pop star without needing to look pretty. He broke the mould because he was this gawky kid but he was a great guitar player."

Have you ever been in trouble?

"When Sweets For My Sweet was released in 1963 we were contracted to play the Star Club, Hamburg, for a month, but we realised we needed to be back home to promote the song so we had to buy ourselves out of the contract. That caused a lot of aggro. Our bass player (Frank Allen) was thrown in jail in Spain in the '70s for being drunk. He's quite proud of it, actually, and still has the fine framed and hanging on his toilet wall."

What's your greatest talent?

"Five-a-side football. I play in a team but we're not very good. Billy Kinsley from The Merseybeats used to play with us but his knees have gone now. "

What's the most important thing to you?

"Good health. I had a bad time in the '80s with my prostate. I was speaking to Gerry Marsden yesterday. We were at the funeral of Big Les from the Swinging Blue Jeans. Gerry's just had a heart bypass and he was saying that when you go through something like that you come out a different person. When you're getting wheeled into theatre you start thinking 'I might not come back from this'. Afterwards you don't let the little things in life bother you.

What's the best piece of advice you've received?

"I was taught to play the guitar by a man called Georgie McGee. He was a seaman who lived near me. He told me to enjoy it and not worry about trying to sound like anyone else."

Any regrets?

"I regret not looking more into the business side of things when we first started. We all made the same mistake -- The Beatles, The Stones and us. We didn't take enough notice because we were so excited at having the hits. I wouldn't say that we were ripped off but we didn't realise this is a business and people make a lot of money out of you.

The Searchers play Burnley Mechanics on Sunday, October 16. Call 01282 664400.