Herman’s Hermits, one of the few bands to give The Beatles a run for their money in the mid 1960s; formed 1963, Manchester, England; membership: Peter Noone, voc. (b. Manchester, England, Nov. 5, 1947); Karl Green, bs. (b. Manchester, England, July 31, 1947); Keith Hop wood, gtr. (b. Manchester, England, Oct. 26, 1946); Derek “Lek” Leckenby, gtr. (b. Leeds, England, May 14, 1946; d. Manchester, England, June 4, 1994); Barry Whitwam, drm. (b. Manchester, England, July 21, 1946). Peter Noone’s father was a sometimes musician. Noone attended the Manchester School of Music and Drama. Initially, he took to acting, regularly appearing as a child in the long-running British soap opera Coronation Street as well as other English TV shows and plays. As a preteen, he turned down a role in a Hollywood film, which curtailed his acting career. By the time he was 16, he hooked up with a local band called The Heartbeats. They came to the attention of local managers Harvey Lisberg and Charlie Silverman who suggested they change their name. One of the band members remarked how similar Noone looked to the character of Sherman in the Mr. Peabody segment of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. He misheard it as “Herman,” however. The band became known as Herman and his Hermits and finally just Herman’s Hermits.
With Noone’s youthful good looks and track record, it wasn’t long before they were signed to EMI/Columbia in England by producer Mickey Most. In addition to the band, studio musicians like future Led Zeppelin members John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page were used. They went into the studio to record a Carole King/Gerry Goffin tune, “I’m into Something Good,” which former Cookie’s lead singer Earl Jean took to #38 earlier that year. The tune went up the charts to #1 in England, topping out at #13 in the U.S. Their next U.S. single, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat,” went to #2 in the U.S., their first in a raft of Top Ten singles for the year 1965. They released their first U.S. album, Introducing Herman’s Hermits. A deejay heard the tune “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” on the album. An antidote to Beatlemania, the song had come from a BBC television production of a few years previous, but sounded like something that might have been performed in the pre-war British music halls. This deejay started playing it, and got fantastic response. MGM released it as a single and it topped the charts for three weeks less than two months after their previous hit, and went gold.
The Hermits followed this in the U.S. with their second British single, a cover of The Rays’ “Silhouettes.” During a brief tour of the U.S., they performed in the Connie Francis movie When the Boys Meet the Girls and the movie Hold On. In the U.K., on a brief wave of Hermits mania, the film’s title tune rose to #3; in the U.S. it hit #5. On a similar note, they covered Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World,” which hit #7 in the U.K. and #4 in the U.S. But none of these matched “Mrs. Brown.” Seeking the music hall sound of that single, Most and the band dug into the real music hall repertoire and pulled out a tune that had been a hit on the circuit in 1911 for Harry Champion called “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” While the single cut too close to the bone for the U.K., the U.S. audiences ate it up. It went to #1 and went gold. The band finished off 1965 with the #7 “Just a Little Bit,” their sixth Top Ten hit of the year.
The Hermits kicked off 1966 with the #8 “Must to Avoid,” a jangly return to their quasi-Merseybeat roots, featured in Hold On. Less than two months later, they were at #3 with “Listen People,” the tune they performed in When the Boys Meet the Girls. They took anther music hallesque tune, “Leaning on a Lamp Post” (also from Hold On), to #9 in April, bringing them to a run of nine straight Top Ten songs. The streak ended, however, with “This Door Swings Both Ways,” which only managed to reach #12. This was the first sign that the band’s popularity was beginning to wane. They managed to score one final Top Ten U.S. single, 1967’s “There’s a Kind of Hush,” which rose to #4. The group placed three more singles in the Top 40 that year, including “No Milk Today” a track that featured a full orchestra, written by future lOcc member Graham Goulding, which hit #35 in the U.S., but went Top Ten in the U.K. All in all, by the time they had run their course in 1968, they had placed 18 hits in the Top 40 in a little under three and a half years.
The band continued playing together for another couple of years, eventually becoming “Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits.” Noone, in the meantime, started to flex his acting muscles some more. He starred in a film version of Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter and made cameo appearances in several other movies. The band moved to the Milwaukee and started playing around 200 gigs a year. By 1970, Noone had left, though they agreed to play together again for a sold-out British Invasion nostalgia concert at N.Y.’s Madison Square Garden in 1973. Noone took another role in Coronation Street for a while, hosted a show for VH-1 called My Generation early in the 1990s, and played venues ranging from oldies shows to cruise ships. Leckenby died of cancer in 1994.
Introducing Herman’s Hermits (1965); Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter (1965); Herman’s Hermits (1965); British Go Go (1965); On Tour: Their Second Album (1965); When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965); Both Sides of Herman’s Hermits (1966); Again (1966); Luckyl3 (1966); Hold On! (1966); There’s a Kind of Hush All Over the World (1967); X15 (1967); Blaze (1967); Most of Herman’s Hermits (1972); A Whale of a Tale (Hermits) Not Issued (1972); Golden Album Odeon (1973); Something Good (1982); Remember the…(1986); No Milk Today (1996). peter noone:One of the Glory Boys (1982); Pirates of Penzance (Original Cast) (1986); I’m into Something Good (1989).