Herman’s Hermits are one of the popular acts to come out of the British Invasion and the of “beat music” scene of the 60s music era. In their peak years, they were led by Peter Noone (“Herman”). The Manchester combo scored several Top 20 and Top 10 hits in the UK and the US such as “I’m into Something Good,” “Can You Hear My Heartbeat,” “Silhouettes,” “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” and many other pop and oldies classics.
Formation and beginnings
Herman’s Hermits’ stardom rose from very humble beginnings. Keith Hopwood (guitars/vocals), Karl Green (bass/vocals), Derek “Lek” Leckenby (guitars/vocals) and Barry Whitwam (drums) started playing together as The Heartbeats in Manchester, England in 1963. Later that year they took on a 16-year old singer and former child actor Peter Noone when their original vocalist failed to show up one night. Like many other struggling bands, The Heartbeats played at local clubs and dances, hoping to get noticed by music bigwigs.
The band later first adopted the name Herman and the Hermits (most likely due to Noone’s resemblance to the character of the animated series Mr. Peabody & Sherman), and finally Herman’s Hermits.
Peak of their career
The group got their big break in 1964 when they came across renowned producer Mickie Most (who was also known for producing other internationally-known British acts such as Donovan, The Animals and Lulu) during their show at Mancheser. Most was impressed with Noone’s impressive singing and their overall squeaky-clean image, and he agreed to produce them. He arranged to have Herman’s Hermits signed to EMI-Columbia in the UK; their American releases would be released by MGM Records.
The group’s first single, released in 1964, was their cover of Earl-Jean’s “I’m into Something Good,” a Goffin-King composition. The group’s version, which sounded a lot more West Coast than English, made to Billboard’s Top 20 (#13) while it gave them their first and only #1 UK hit.
Despite Herman’s Hermits being able and competent musicians, Most engaged other musicians — including future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones — to play on the group’s records. Herman’s Hermits weren’t able to have a say over the choice of material that they recorded and released. In all of the group’s records during their peak, it was just Noone on lead vocals and his band mates would be relegated to become backup vocalists, if ever.
The band’s brand of innocent and pleasant pop-rock gave them a slew of transatlantic hits, but most of these bigger hits were charted in the US: “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” (#2 US), “Silhouettes” (#5 US, #3 UK), “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” (#1 US), “Wonderful World” (#4 US, #7 UK), “I’m Henry VII, I Am” (#1 US), “Just a Little Bit Better” (#7 US, #15 UK), “Listen People” (#3 US), “Leaning on the Lamp Post” (#9 US), “Dandy” (#5 US) and “There’s a Kind of Hush” (#4 US, #7 UK) and other minor hits on the both sides of the Atlantic. These singles sold millions of copies worldwide and made the group received gold records. In fact, the Hermits became the top-selling group in the US in 1965.Since being under MGM label in the US, Herman’s Hermits had also appeared on MGM films such as When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965) with fellow labelmate Connie Francis.
Herman’s Hermits tried to diversify their sound and perhaps to alter their image a bit, so they released their sixth studio album Blaze (1967) which included the psychedelic rock track “Moon Shine Man.” Although it received critical acclaim, it suffered poor sales on both sides of the Atlantic. It was around this time when everyone seemed to guess the inevitable.
1970 to present
The Hermits spent a couple of years more before Noone decided to leave the group in 1970. The group soldiered on, releasing a couple of records that received little notice. In 1973 Noone returned to the band, albeit only for a brief time, to take advantage of the rock and roll revival boom during that time.
Noone tried to re-establish himself as a rock and roll artist by forming his own group The Tremblers during the 1980s, but that didn’t become successful. He fared well in his stage role as Frederic in the Broadway and London’s West End production of Pirates of Penzance.
In 1994, Leckenby passed away at age 51 due to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Noone as well as the newer version of Herman’s Hermits have continued to performed, separately, on the oldies’ circuit. Whitwam is the only original member remaining in the Hermits’ current lineup, which also consists of Geoff Foot, Kevan Lingard and Paul Cornwell.