Herman’s Hermits nearly didn’t come into existence, as the original band (with a different name) broke up.
The band, who play Preston Guild Hall on November 23 as part of The Sensational 60’s Experience, were originally called The Wailers, explains drummer and sole remaining founder member Barry Whitwam, second from right, above.
“We had taken the gamble of giving up our day jobs, but our records weren’t successful and we split up.”
“Then myself, Derek Leckenby and Ian Waller desided to rejoin on the proviso we change the name of the band.”
Thus Herman’s Hermits were born, with ex-Coronation Street actor Peter Noone fronting the band.
“He looked like a character from an American comic book called Sherman,” says Barry.
“We got Mickie Most to come and see us play at The Beachcomber Club in Bolton, and he signed us up.”
Things quickly got into motion for Barry and the boys.
“That’s right,” he tells me from his Manchester home.
“The next week, we were performing in Manchester and had learned ‘I’m Into Something Good’.”
“We drove overnight to London and got to the EMI Studios in London’s Manchester Square at 9.30am. We were set up by 10 and out at noon, having recorded that song and the flip side.”
But it nearly wasn’t released.
“No, Mickie wasn’t keen, it was his wife who really liked it.”
That was April 1964. By September it was number one in the charts.
That was just one of the highlights for Barry in the fifty-year career of Hermans Hermits, who are headlining the Sensational 60’s Experience tour touring the country from October all the way to next spring.
“There have been so many ups,” says Barry.
“We’d just done an American tour in 1965 and had finished up in Hawaii and we got a call from Colonel Tom Parker saying Elvis Presley wanted to meet us (Elvis was filming the movie Paradise Hawaiian Style at the time).
“Me and Peter spent two hours with him one afternoon.”
Barry laughs: “He wanted to know why five lads from Manchester were selling more records than he was.”
At the time, the band was even selling more records in the US than The Beatles.
Peter Noone went solo in 1971, but the rest played on.
“We can’t wait to get out on the tour and play.” says Barry.
“We have three singers in the band, so we have tremendous harmonies and we are still getting the 60’s sound – it’s important to have that sound.”
Also on the bill for the tour are The Swinging Blue Jeans (‘Hippy Hippy Shake’, ‘You’re No Good’), The Ivy League (‘Tossing and Turning’, ‘Funny How Love Can Be’), Dave Berry (‘The Crying Game’, ‘Mama’, Little Things’) and Union Gap UK (performing the hits of The Union Gap, such as ‘Young Girl’ and ‘Lady Willpower’).
This is the only 60’s package tour doing the rounds boasting its own compere, Alan Mosca of Freddie and The Dreamers, whose anecdotes are legendary.
“There’s a lot of travelling, but it’s great fun.” Says Barry of the tour.
“In fact, we enjoy it so much that we will also be on the next tour, which will take us into 2017.”
As to the continued popularity, he sums it up simply.
“The songs were popular and luckily we still look good. We play the songs well and the people really enjoy it.”
The Sensational 60’s Experience will be at Preston Guild hall on Sunday November 23.
Tickets (£23) are available from the Box Office on 0845 344 2012 and all the usual agencies.