Herman’s Hermits

By Gary: “It is not always that easy to create a post, actually they all have a degree of difficulty.  If I really enjoy the group and their music, well it’s kind of a labour of love, Like “Buddy Holly & the Crickets”.  There has never been a question of where my music tastes are, but that aside I have to look at all groups, singers or musicians.  This group was not a huge favourite of mine, they were very successful and to be honest I did enjoy “Henry the VIII” and bought it.  They where very much controlled or created by Producer Mickie Most and never sang anything controversial and portrayed a clean cut, non-threatening image, I guess that turned me off a bit.  That aside they were absolutely huge in the mid sixties and sold millions of records.  So let’s look at the band from Manchester England –

 
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Herman’s Hermits
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Peter Noone
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Videos:

1965 / Henry the VIII /
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1965 / Can’t you hear my Heartbeat /
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1966 / I’m into something Good /
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1966 / She’s a must to avoid / Australia /
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1967 / There’s a kind of Hush /
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1973 / Midnight Special /
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2009/ Peter Noone / Epcot Centre / Wonderful World /
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Music:

Herman’s Hermits were an English pop band, formed in Manchester in 1963 as Herman & The Hermits. The group’s management and producer, Mickie Most (who controlled the band’s output), emphasized a simple, non-threatening and clean-cut image, although the band originally played R&B numbers. This helped Herman’s Hermits become hugely successful in the mid-1960s but hampered the band’s creativity, relegating Noone, Hopwood, Leckenby and Green’s original songs to quickly recorded B-sides and album cuts.

Their first hit was “I’m Into Something Good” (written by US songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King), which reached No. 1 in the UK and No. 13 in the US in 1964. They never topped the British charts again, but had two US No. 1’s with “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” (originally sung by Tom Courtenay in a 1963 British TV play) and “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am” (a British music hall song by Harry Champion dating from 1911). These songs were aimed at a US fan-base, with Peter Noone exaggerating his Manchester accent; the band was not fond of either song and they were never released as singles in Britain.

The Hermits appeared in several movies, including When The Boys Meet The Girls (1965) – and Hold On!(1966). They also starred in the film Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter (1968) and were one of the performers in Pop Gear (1965). They were on the MGM label, a company which often featured the musical performers they had signed to record deals in films.

Herman’s Hermits had three Top 3 hits in the U.S. in 1965, with the aforementioned #1 hits, as well as “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” (U.S. #2). They had the hits “A Must to Avoid” (U.S. #8), “Listen People” (U.S. #3), George Formby, Jr.’s “Leaning on a Lamp Post,” from Me and My Girl (U.S. #7), and “Dandy” (U.S. #3) in 1966; “There’s a Kind of Hush” was a Top 10 hit for them the following year. They appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show and The Jackie Gleason Show. Commercial success would prove elusive after the late ’60s and Peter Noone and Keith Hopwood left the band in 1971. The band reunited in 1973 to headline a hugely successful British invasion tour culminating with a standing-room-only performance at Madison Square Garden and an appearance on The Midnight Special (without Hopwood). Later a version of the band featuring Leckenby and Whitwam opened for The Monkees on a couple of reunion tours. Noone declined an offer from tour organizers to appear but later appeared with Davy Jones on a successful teen idols tour.

History

Original members were Keith Hopwood (guitar, vocals), Karl Green (guitar, vocals), Alan Wrigley (bass guitar, vocals), Steve Titterington (drums), and Peter Noone (lead vocals). Although the youngest of a remarkably young group, fifteen-year-old Noone was already a veteran actor, with experience on the British soap opera, Coronation Street. Derek “Lek” Leckenby (guitar, vocals), and Barry “Bean” Whitwam (drums) (born Jan Barry Whitwam, 21 July 1946, in Prestbury, Cheshire), joined later from another local group, The Wailers, Whitwam replacing Titterington, Karl Green switching to bass guitar to replace Wrigley, and Leckenby effectively taking Green’s position. After Leckenby joined, the group obtained a deal with producer Mickie Most and signed to EMI’s Columbia Graphophone label in Europe and MGM Records in the United States.

The band played on many singles including “I’m Into Something Good,” “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” (1965), and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” The last was said at the time to be “the fastest-selling song in history.” Leckenby played the solo on “Henry,” while Hopwood contributed the rhythm guitar on “Mrs. Brown.” (Noone interview, Hopwood per. corres.)

Despite the group’s competent musicianship, some of their subsequent singles employed some session musicians, including Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, with contributions from the band, although the role of session players on Herman’s Hermits records has been exaggerated in the rock media and in inaccurate liner notes on the recent ABKCO Retrospective, which fail to credit the Hermits’ playing. Mickie Most did use session musicians on many of the records he produced, including on a number of Hermits singles, as was his (and, for that matter, industry) practice at the time, a practice that continues today. Even the Yardbirds were forced by Most to make do with session musicians (except for Jimmy Page) on their Most produced recordings. (see Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zepplin Saga by Stephen Davis). Continuing acrimony between former members of Herman’s Hermits has increased the misinformation about the group’s role on their records. Leckenby in particular was a gifted guitarist. Most commented on VH1’s “My Generation: Herman’s Hermits” episode that the Hermits “played on a lot of their records and some they didn’t.” The group did play on all their US and UK Number One hits as well as on a number of other singles including Graham Gouldman’s “Listen People” and most album cuts.

For a brief time the group rivalled the Beatles on the charts, and was the top-selling pop act in the U.S. in 1965 (see Billboard charts for verification). Green once said he preferred harder rock but was grateful for the hand he was dealt. (See VH1 My Generation-Herman’s Hermits) Moreover, while the band’s singles were written by top songwriters of the day, Noone, Leckenby, Hopwood, and Green contributed numerous songs such as “My Reservation’s Been Confirmed,” “Take Love, Get Love,” “Marcel’s,” “For Love,” “Tell Me Baby,” “Busy Line,” Moon Shine Man,” “I Know Why,” “GasLite Street,” and others. “I Know Why” even made limited appearance as an “A” side. (See EMI and MGM catalogs)

The group was nominated for two Grammy awards in 1965, both for “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.” According to Noone and Hopwood, the song was recorded as an afterthought in two takes, using two microphones, with Hopwood on guitar, Green on bass guitar, and Whitwam on drums. Noone and the band deliberately emphasized their English accents on the record, which was never intended to be a single. Hopwood recalls playing a Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar in the studio, with its strings muted in order to create the distinctive sound. When playing the song live, Hopwood often used a Rickenbacker guitar with a rag under the bridge to duplicate the sound-this technique can be seen clearly in old performance clips.

The 1967 album Blaze garnered critical acclaim, but barely made the Top 100 in the U.S., and was not released in the U.K. Highlights included original songs by Leckenby, Hopwood, Green, and Noone, including “Ace King Queen Jack” and the psychedelic “Moon Shine Man.” Ray Davies of the Kinks wrote “Dandy,” which was a #5 hit for Herman’s Hermits, and appears on their greatest hits album.

Post-Herman careers

Peter Noone (Herman)
Noone was born November 5, 1947. He starred in ABC’s The Canterville Ghost and played Pinocchio in the Hallmark Hall of Fame version of that story. His other TV credits include Married… with Children, Quantum Leap, My Two Dads, Dave’s World, Too Close for Comfort, Laverne & Shirley, and Easy Street, and he has a recurring role on As the World Turns. He also hosted VH1’s My Generation. In March 2007, he appeared on the top-rated show, American Idol. Noone maintains an extensive and successful live performance schedule.

As a singer he had a hit with David Bowie’s, “Oh, You Pretty Things”, and scored a minor Adult Contemporary hit in America on the Casablanca label with “Meet Me On The Corner Down At Joe’s Cafe” in the mid-seventies. Later, Noone recorded the album “One of the Glory Boys” for Beach Boy Bruce Johnston’s label, as well as an album fronting the new wave band “The Tremblers.” His song “God Knows” was also recorded by Debbie Boone. He has also released several live and studio recordings of old Herman’s Hermits material taken from his post-Hermits solo performances. Noone’s daughter Natalie is an accomplished singer and songwriter.

Keith Hopwood
Hopwood left as well, starting his own music company, Pluto Music, with Leckenby. As of 2008, Pluto Music is still in business, and works primarily on commercial and animation soundtracks. Hopwood has composed the scores to numerous tv and film projects. Among other soundtrack work Hopwood contributed to the hugely successful Bob the Builder series. The studio has provided services to many top acts including The Clash. Hopwood has released several rare solo and band recordings (not with Peter). The CDs Vault 69 and Waterloo Road contain original songs written during Herman’s Hermits’ existence. Both are available from Pluto Music.

Derek Leckenby
Derek Leckenby was extremely close to his fellow Hermits. Even after their split he spoke fondly of Peter. (Lek pers. corres.). He also tried hard to set the record straight in the rock media regarding his playing on Herman’s Hermits records. “Lek” died of cancer in 1994. His final performance was just five days before his death. As part of the band “Sour Mash”, Leckenby recorded an album with the former Hermits and Peter Cowap for RCA records, featuring Leckenby on dobro and guitar. The album is country-flavored rock, far from the earlier Herman’s Hermits material. Leckenby’s daughter Kara plays lead guitar for the band Red Vinyl Fur (for more information see http://www.redvinylfur.com).

Barry Whitwam
Barry Whitwam has continued touring in Europe with a band under the Herman’s Hermits starring Barry Whitwam name.

Karl Green
As of 2001, Karl Green manages sound systems for the Queen Elizabeth and Festival Halls on London’s South Bank.

Herman’s Hermits after 1971

When Noone left the group, the Hermits continued on, first with Peter Cowap. They signed to UK RCA and recorded two singles, as “The Hermits” (both recorded at Strawberry Studios), an unreleased album (under the name “Sourmash”, produced by Eric Stewart). They subsequently cut singles for Buddah, Private Stock, and Roulette, with only minor success in Europe. Personnel for these singles included Leckenby, Green,and Whitwam, together with either Peter Cowap, John Gaughan, and Frank Renshaw. Hopwood contributed keyboards and backing vocals on some recordings.

Since the mid-1970s there has been significant conflict over the use of the name “Herman’s Hermits”. Between 1974 and 1994, Whitwam and Leckenby toured with versions of the band that at times included original member Green and newer members such as former Toggery Five guitarist, Frank Renshaw (www.frankyoung.info), and Peter Cowap. After a show in 1985, Leckenby confided that he missed working with Peter. (Leckenby pers. correspondence). Numerous “Hermits” records of dubious provenance exist, frequently sold as compilations of Hermits’ hits. (See Listings on Amazon.com) Moreover, several small labels have hired musicians to re-record Hermits’ records.{See Label Listings on Amazon.com}. All original recordings will be released either by EMI or its subsidiaries outside the U.S. (many are available as imports in the U.S.), and ABKCO in America (MGM, the band’s original American label, lost the America distribution rights to the group’s material in the early ’70s and has since been absorbed into Universal Music, although original Herman’s Hermits vinyl recordings on the MGM label still turn up for sale as used records). Additionally, former band members and Noone have each separately re-recorded old Hermits material. (Noone and Hopwood Pers. corres.) New issues from Peter Noone will clearly indicate that the releases are new recordings.(Noone interview). Noone continues to tour worldwide to great success and often fondly speaks of Leckenby’s and Hopwood’s work with the Hermits.(See PeterNoone.com)

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