Chris Curtis, original drummer of 1960s pop group The Searchers, has died at the age of 63 after a long illness.
Chris Curtis (far left) was part of the original Searchers line-up
Named after the 1956 John Ford western, the Liverpool-based beat combo were formed in 1960 and sold millions of records in their heyday.
Their hits included Needles and Pins, Sugar and Spice and their cover of The Drifters' Sweets For My Sweet.
Curtis - real name Christopher Crummey - stayed with the group until 1966 when he was replaced by John Blunt.
Curtis, from Oldham, was part of the original line-up, which also included Mike Pender, Tony Jackson and John McNally.
Original bassist Tony West said Curtis "was the epitome of the group itself".
"He contributed an awful lot to the vocals and the harmonies - his was the distinctive high voice. He was also a very good drummer.
"I will remember him as full of life and enthusiasm. Although he left the band, he never fully left the musical scene."
Decline in fortunes
The Searchers were signed to Pye Records in 1963 and had their first number one the same year.
The band was rocked in 1964 when Jackson quit the band, to be replaced by Frank Allen, a close friend of Curtis.
But while they had further hits with Love Potion Number 9 and He's Got No Love, the band's fortunes declined after Curtis' departure.
In 1967, Curtis reached number four in the UK with Let's Go To San Francisco, recorded under the alias of The Flowerpot Men.
He then formed Roundabout - the band that went on to become Deep Purple - with his brother Dave, though both dropped out long before the group hit the big time.
Curtis produced records for other performers, notably Paul and Barry Ryan, but his music career faltered and he eventually took a job in the civil service.
After ill-health forced him to retire, he made a belated return to performing and recently sang with charity group The Merseycats.
The Searchers continue to perform on the cabaret circuit, though the line-up has changed over the years.
Pender left the group in 1985 and set up an alternative Searchers, prompting his former bandmates to take legal action over the name.
Tony Jackson died penniless in Nottingham in August 2003 at the age of 63.