In the wake of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones came many of the groups that had poured out of the British provinces and scored successes in their home country. Among the most popular of these were Herman's Hermits, who hailed from Manchester, England.
Peter Noone, vocalist for Herman's Hermits sold programs as a schoolboy at Manchester United soccer matches. He studied at the Manchester School of Music and Drama and appeared in the ITV soap Coronation Street, before being offered a part in a film starring Judy Garland in 1961, an offer that was scotched by his parents.
While already playing in a band in 1963, with bassist Karl Green and rhythm guitarist Keith Hopwood, Noone met lead guitarist Derek "Lek" Leckenby, who was at the time playing in a band called The Wailers, with drummer Barry "Bean" Whitwam, in the Cavern in Manchester.
The five teamed up and became the Heartbeats, with Noone using the name Peter Novak. They played at youth clubs and teen dancehalls and eventually signed on with managers Harvey Lisberg and Charlie Silverman. The group's name changed after Green noticed a likeness between Noone and the character Sherman in the TV cartoon, the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. "Sherman" became "Herman", and the band's name developed to Herman & His Hermits, then was later shortened to Herman's Hermits.
In 1964, Lisberg and Silverman sent producer Mickie Most a plane ticket and booked him into Manchester's Midland Hotel, before taking him to see the group on stage in Bolton, Lancs. Most saw a facial likeness between Noone and a young John F. Kennedy and decided that the singer's "little-lost-boy" look would make him the ideal frontman for a pop act aimed as much at mothers and fathers as at teenagers. The group was signed by Most, and via him to EMI's Columbia label. Herman's Hermits topped the UK charts with its debut single, "I'm Into Something Good," a cover of Earl Jean's U.S. hit. Like most of the records that followed, it included little of the Hermits themselves - Noone's vocals were backed by session men, such as guitarists Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan, with John Paul Jones (who later formed Led Zeppelin with Page), taking care of the bass and most of the arrangements. In December 1964, "I'm Into Something Good" climbed to No. 13 on the U.S. charts, and as a million seller, earned the group's first gold disc.
In January, 1965, Herman's Hermits visited the United States. One of the group's first appearances was a cameo in the teen movie When The Boys Meet The Girls, which starred Connie Francis and Harve Presnell. In the same very busy year, the group's single "Can't You
Hear My Heartbeat" hit No. 2 in the U.S. behind the Supremes' "Stop! In The Name of Love." It became Herman's Hermits second million seller. The group began its first U.S. tour, a 34-day trek on Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars.
Another single, "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter," earned a gold disc for a million-plus sales in the U.S. after entering the charts at No. 12, the highest first-week placing for a single in seven years, because of unprecedented airplay. However, the group chose not to release "Mrs. Brown" in the U.K.; they were not enamored of the song, and thought that the arrangement of it was too corny for the British market.
Noone was voted one of the ten best-dressed men in the U.K. at the same time that the group's second album, Herman's Hermits On Tour, hit No. 2 in the U.S.; the group's first album was still in the Top Ten. Other singles that hit within the Top Ten in the U.S. charts for Herman's Hermits include "Wonderful World," "I'm Henry VIII, I Am," "Just A Little Bit Better," "A Must To Avoid," "Listen People," "Dandy," and "There's a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)."
In November 1968, Noone married Mireille Strasser in London, on his 21st birthday. Shortly after, he entered into a partnership with Graham Gouldman, which included studio production work and the opening of a New York boutique named Zoo.
In 1971 Noone split from the group. He stayed in the U.K., while the Hermits moved on to the United States to work the nostalgia circuit. Noone's only solo hit, on the U.K. charts at No. 12, was his treatment of David Bowie's "Oh You Pretty Thing." The Hermits, with new lead singer Peter Cowap, signed to RCA Records and released "She's A Lady." The group continued to perform with another new "Herman," Garth Elliott, for several years, until Green moved on to run his own business, and write songs.
Noone reunited briefly with the Hermits in 1973, to top the bill of the "British Invasion" nostalgia concert at New York's Madison Square Garden, before 13,000 people. Other popular bands who played at the concert were the Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders. Noone and the group parted company permanently later on that year, with Noone continuing his career in cabaret and theatrical stage roles.
Both the Hermits, lining up as Leckenby, Whitwam, Geoff Foote and Rod Gerrard, and Noone have continued to perform separately on the nostalgia circuit. Leckenby died in 1994 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Manchester, after playing his final gig with Herman's Hermits in Moses Lake, Wash.
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