By the time he joined the band that would become Herman’s Hermits, 15-year-old Peter Noone already was a veteran entertainer. He studied at the Manchester School of Music and Drama and starred on the British television soap opera Coronation Street. But Noone wanted to become a singer . He got the chance, one night in 1963, when he filled-in for the regular vocalist in a group called the Heartbeats.
Before long, the Manchester band had a management team, a record contract and a new name. The story is told that the managers saw a resemblance between Noone and a cartoon character named Sherman who appeared in a segment of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Sherman became Herman… and the band became the Hermits. Soon after the name change, they came to the attention of producer Mickie Most, who was impressed by the group’s clean-cut image and their bouncy, pop/rock repertoire.
Their first record, “I’m Into Something Good,” which was written by the veteran American songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King, was released in the summer of 1964 and rocketed to No. 1 in the UK and No.13 in the US. While they would never top the British charts again, Herman’s Hermits had two No. 1 hits in the States, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am.” Ironically, the groups two most “British-sounding” records were never released in the UK, and it’s said that the Hermits didn’t care for either one. “Mrs. Brown” was recorded in two takes with two microphones. Guitarist Keith Hopwood created the song’s distinctive, banjo-like sound by muting the strings with a cloth, and Noone sang the lyrics with an exaggerated Manchester accent.
While the Hermits were scoring hits, there was some question about the extent to which band members actually played on their records. Mickie Most was known to bring in the best studio musicians for most of the sessions he produced, and it was rumored that Herman’s Hermits didn’t add much to the backing tracks. But in later years, Most and the band members revealed that the Hermits did play on all of their major hits; and a listen to tapes of their live performances indicates that the entire band — Hopwood, lead guitarist Derek “Lek” Leckenby, drummer Barry Whitwam and bass player Karl Green — were more than competent musicians.
What was true was the Herman’s Hermits’ lack of control over their material. After “Mrs. Brown,” Most began to have them record novelty-type British tunes, like “Henry the Eighth” and “Leaning On A Lamp Post” in deference to their large American audience. It wasn’t until the Hermits released “No Milk Today” that they reached the UK’s Top Ten again.
And while their American audience was adoring, it proved to be less than loyal. In late 1966, NBC premiered “The Monkees,” a comedy series featuring a band that looked and sounded very much like Herman’s Hermits. The show became wildly popular with young teenagers — the Hermits’ own fan base — and by 1967, their US record sales began a steep decline.
None left the group in 1971. Since then, the Herman’s Hermits name has been assumed by a few different combinations of the original band, creating more than a little confusion. For much of the last 30 years, drummer Whitwam has been associated with the Hermits, as was Lekenby until his death in 1994.
Where Are They Now?
After leaving the Hermits, Peter Noone starred in ABC’s The Canterville Ghost and played Pinocchio in the Hallmark Hall Of Fame version of that story. He’s also appeared in many television series, including Married With Children, Quantum Leap, My Two Dads, Dave’s World, Too Close For Comfort, Laverne & Shirley and Easy Street. Noone also gained a great deal of exposure as host of VH1’s My Generation. And in March 2007, he appeared on American Idol. As a singer he had a hit with David Bowie’s, “Oh, You Pretty Things” and recorded an album for Beach Boy Bruce Johnston’s label, as well as an album fronting the new wave band “The Tremblers.” Noone, who lives in Santa Barbara, CA, now has a program on SiriusXM radio. His daughter Natalie is an accomplished singer songwriter.
Keith Hopwood started his own music company, Pluto Music, which produces commercial and animation soundtracks. The studio has provided services to many top acts including The Clash. Hopwood has released solo and band recordings.
Derek Leckenby died of cancer in 1994. He was a member of band “Sour Mash,” which recorded a country/rock album featuring his guitar and Dobro playing. Leckenby’s daughter Kara plays lead guitar for the band “Red Vinyl Fur.”
Barry Whitwam has continued touring in Europe as Herman’s Hermits starring Barry Whitwam. He continued to tour with Herman’s Hermits, joined by new musicians. As of December 2011, these included Geoff Foot, who has been associated with the band since Noone’s departure, as lead singer and bass guitarist, Kevan Lingard on keyboards and vocals, and Paul Cornwell on guitar and vocals. Noone eventually returned to touring and continues to play billed as “Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone”. Legal disputes between Whitwam and Noone have forced Whitwam to rename the band “Herman’s Hermits starring Barry Whitwam” when they tour in North America, but they remain billed as “Herman’s Hermits” in the rest of the world.
In 2014, Karl Green started touring again for the first time in 34 years, playing the music of Herman’s Hermits. His band included veteran musicians such as Bob Abrams formerly of The Buckinghams, Mike Bruccoleri, formerly of Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone, and Gina Knight of The Blooze Brothers.
In March 2015, the German label “Bear Family” released a 2-CD 50th Anniversary set containing 66 Herman’s Hermits recordings, 59 of them are in first-time-ever stereo.
One of the few videos of Herman’s Hermits performing live — “No Milk Today,” from 1966:
Here’s Peter Noone and his version of the Hermits performing live in California in 2014:
Herman’s Hermits Discography
Title | UK Charts | Release Date | US Charts
“I’m Into Something Good” #13 August 1964 #1
“Show Me Girl” – November 1964 #19
“Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat?” #2 January 1965 –
“Silhouettes” #5 January 1965 #3
“Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” #1 March 1965 –
“Wonderful World” #4 April 1965 #7
“I’m Henry VIII, I Am” #1 June 1965 –
“Just a Little Bit Better” #7 August 1965 #15
“A Must To Avoid” #8 December 1965 #6
“Listen People” #3 February 1966 –
“You Won’t Be Leaving” – February 1966 #20
“Leaning on A Lamp Post” #7 April 1966 –
“This Door Swings Both Ways” #12 June 1966 #18
“Dandy” #3 October 1966 –
“No Milk Today” #35 October 1966 #7
“East West” #27 December 1966 #37
“There’s a Kind of Hush” #4 February 1967 #7
“Don’t Go Out Into the Rain (You’re Going to Melt)” #18 May 1967 –
“Museum” #37 September 1967 –
“I Can’t Take Or Leave Your Loving” #22 January 1968 #11
“Sleepy Joe” #61 March 1968 #12
“Sunshine Girl” – July 1968 #8
“Something’s Happening” – December 1968 #6
“My Sentimental Friend” – April 1969 #2
“Here Comes the Star” – November 1969 #33
“Years May Come, Years May Go” – February 1970 #7
“Bet Yer Life I Do” – May 1970 #22
“Lady Barbara” – November 1970 #13