|Herman's Hermits Are Celebrating 50 years in Showbusiness|
Herman's Hermits will soon celebrate the 50th anniversary of their hit I'm Into Something Good reaching Number One in the British charts. Last year, I interviewed drummer Barry Whitwam who still tours with the band who recalled the time he joined the group...
|Barry Whitwam with Elvis|
“IT WAS a fantastic feeling doing something right for once in my life,” Herman’s Hermits drummer Barry Whitwam tells me as he recalls the point in 1964 when the Manchester band reached Number One in the UK charts with their debut single I’m Into Something Good.
Barry was 17 at the time and had only been a professional drummer for a year having previously juggled his career as a ladies hairdresser with playing in numerous bands
“In 1963 it was Herman and the Hermits and they’d been down to London to try and make a record with (producer) Mickie Most,” says Barry, “Mickie had said “You’ve got to find some more Hermits” and the manager Harvey Lisberg had already seen the band that I was in with Derek Leckenby.”
Harvey Lisberg approached Barry and Derek to back singer Peter Noone in the band. “We said “we’ve seen them and we don’t like them,” laughs Barry. “Harvey said ‘Well have a look at the diary’ and they were working seven days a week. I said I’m turning professional then, I’m having some of this!”
“We said, ‘Ok we’ll join them as long as you change the name to Herman’s Hermits’. Herman and the Hermits had a tremendous following and that’s why we changed the name so the fans knew it was something a little bit different.”
|Barry Whitwam in 2013|
So Barry on drums, along with Derek on lead guitar, joined Peter Noone and existing members Karl Green and Keith Hopwood to form the classic Herman’s Hermits line up.
Between 1964 and 1970 Herman’s Hermits scored a multitude of chart hits in Great Britain, including No Milk Today, There’s A Kind Of Hush All Over The World and My Sentimental Friend. Herman’s Hermit’s (whose Herman name was inspired by the Sherman character from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon series) had even greater appeal in the United States.
Their single Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter gained advanced sales of a million shooting it to no.1 in the Billboard charts. “We were the kids next door,” says Barry, “our fans were usually much younger than those of the Beatles and the Stones. The parents liked us as well, we were a different image.”
Herman’s Hermits also topped the bill on The Ed Sullivan Show and were one of the few British bands to get an invitation from Elvis Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker to meet the King of Rock N Roll.
“We’d just finished a tour of America in Hawaii and were going home the next day,” remembers Barry. “Elvis was there filming Paradise Hawaiian Style. Peter and I changed our air tickets and the other three went home and regretted that for the rest of their lives! We went down the following day and had a couple of hours with Elvis on the film set. The guy had so much charisma. We think Colonel Tom Parker wanted to know why five lads from Manchester were selling more records than Elvis, although we were about 10 years younger.”
Barry counts his meeting with Elvis as one of his personal highlights from his career with Herman’s Hermits. Another one was performing at the 1970 Royal Command performance which was a “nerve-wracking experience, because we were dancing as well as playing. We had 12 dancing girls on with us and did a theme on the musicals. We were on stage for about 12 minutes in front of the Royal Family.”
Despite changes in line ups (which have seen Peter Noone set up a US version of the band across the water) Barry has remained constant with Herman’s Hermits since the 1960s, and is currently celebrating the bands 50th anniversary.