Gerry Marsden has fronted Gerry and the Pacemakers for more than 50 years.
The countryside, the people are great, the food is fabulous. I'm nearly a New Zealander. Gerry MarsdenIt's official - British pop legend Gerry Marsden is hanging up his touring boots with a 10-date "Farewell Tour" of New Zealand. But fear not, it won't be the last New Zealanders see of the charismatic and cheeky Scouser, who has fronted Gerry and the Pacemakers for more than 50 years.
"The reason I said it was my last tour is because it's my last one-night-stand tour.
Every day it's airports, planes and hotels where you don't have time to unpack," he explains.
"But I certainly will come back to New Zealand, there will just be a bit of a spread between shows, because it's too nice to miss. And if I packed it in, I don't know what I'd do. I'd be living in my house with my wife and that'd drive me bleedin' mental," he says with a roar of laughter.
Marsden's had a long and colourful career since forming Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1959. Alongside the Beatles, they dominated the airwaves and were forefront of the so-called British Invasion movement of the mid-60s under the charge of the brilliant Brian Epstein.
He still remembers coming here at the height of the British pop frenzy and says he's forever thankful for the support New Zealanders have given him over the years.
"We were only 20, 21 when we first came and New Zealand didn't get too many bands coming from the UK, so when we hit the Southern Hemisphere, the fans were fantastic, they really were brilliant," he recalls.
"Now, I've been more than 20 times. I just really enjoy it - the countryside, the people are great, the food is fabulous. I'm nearly a New Zealander," he chuckles.
Those who do plan on celebrating with Gerry and the Pacemakers when they hit the road for the last time, starting in Christchurch on March 27 and finishing in Auckland on April 7, can be certain they'll hear the hits, from Ferry Cross the Mersey to I Like It and How Do You Do It?.
And, of course, the song that's now become something of a British anthem - You'll Never Walk Alone.
"When I first heard it, I thought I want to record that song. Little did I know that it would become as massive as it is," says Marsden. "When I hear it at a football game, it still gets my hair standing up on the back of my neck. And, I still get a buzz from singing it in front of 80,000 or 90,000 people. Very proud."
Marsden is also proud of the legacy he's left behind for the next generation of boy bands and gets a kick out of seeing groups like One Direction experiencing the same teenage adoration Gerry and the Pacemakers did all those years ago.
"It's good because pop is for the kids and kids want idols. It's great to see the new bands doing it and seeing the kids screaming and chasing them. I want them to stay in the business," he says.
And he's got some good advice to help them do so.
"Get on the stage and work as hard as you can but enjoy it. Don't be doing anything false because you think it looks good, just enjoy the music and it will come across to other people. If you do that, you ain't got a problem."
It's the simple act of enjoyment that's kept Marsden in the business for so long and even though he's calling an end to the days of gruelling multi-stop tours, it's guaranteed you'll leave a Gerry and the Pacemakers concert with a beaming smile on your face.
"We have a chat and a giggle, the audience will join in and sing along. It's great to remember their youth, their first kiss in the car, or in the bus, and that takes them back and that's what it's all about," he says. "It's the second joy of my life, the first is my family and the second is being on stage."
Gerry and the Pacemakers tour starts in Christchurch on March 27 and ends in Auckland on April 7. For bookings go to eventfinder.co.nzBy Paula Yeoman