Originally created 01/12/06

Herman's Hermits singer says group was under influence of country music



Sixties rocker Peter Noone, the Herman of Herman's Hermits, said his group didn't know when they formed that much of their musical influences were country music stars.

Those influences led Herman's Hermits to sell more than 60 million copies of their recordings, including such hits as I'm Into Something Good, Can't You Hear My Heartbeat, There's a Kind of Hush, I'm Henry VIII, I Am and Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter.

"You know, if you listen to our first records, all of the guitar solos are kind of country-influenced," Mr. Noone said in a recent phone interview from his Santa Barbara, Calif., home.

"Buddy Holly was country, the Everly Brothers were country, and Ricky Nelson was country. It just depends on what you called country. We called it all rock 'n' roll.

"So we didn't know that Carl Perkins was a country guitar player. We thought he was a rock 'n' roll guitar player. We thought Elvis was rock 'n' roll. We didn't know that Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash weren't rock 'n' roll singers. We were confused.

"We did black music. We did white music. We did country music. We did every kind of music. We did whatever appealed to us."

One of the American country recordings that had appealed to Mr. Noone since he was 12 was End of the World, by Skeeter Davis. Years later, the Hermits would turn it into an international rock hit single.

It was 40 years ago that I crossed paths for the first time with Mr. Noone, in Atlanta, where Herman's Hermits was headlining a Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tour. Their Atlanta appearance in 1967 would find an upcoming British band called The Who opening for them.

Mr. Noone was just approaching his 17th birthday when the Hermits did their first American concerts in late 1964.

"It was different because we played all these little places," he recalled. "It was before we broke and then had just one hit, I'm Into Something Good. Then we came back in '65 on that Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tour, and it all opened up."

His 1965 U.S. tour led to a friendship with Johnny Cash.

"I met him on that tour in Nashville, and we went out drinking and became friends. Every time after that when I saw him in an airport or somewhere, he would come over and say something to me. He was a very nice guy, and his wife (June) was a nice lady also," Mr. Noone said.

Mr. Noone, whose father was an accountant and mother was CEO of a company that made neon advertising signs, already had been a child star in England on a TV soap opera called Coronation Street.

"I had a typically English background," he said. "A working-class family that made good. They made money and lost money and made money and lost money. I went to a good school. My dad always said, 'If you ever think you're really hot, just remember your grandfather going to work.' Because, in my grandfather's days, people worked 10 hours and didn't have time to go to the gym to get fit. They came home nearly exhausted. My grandfather cycled to work all of his life, working in an iron foundry and some other things."

Mr. Noone joined a Manchester band in 1963 called The Heartbeats, but that changed after he was told that he resembled the cartoon character Sherman in the TV series The Bullwinkle Show. He mistakenly heard the name as Herman.

The rest of the band's name came when he told the owner of the place where they were rehearsing that they wanted to be called "Herman and something." The owner replied, "Call yourselves The Bloody Hermits because you look like hermits."

Today, Mr. Noone divides his time between homes in Santa Barbara and London. He has been married for 37 years.

In the past decades, Mr. Noone has blended his love of music with his first love of acting. He has appeared on such TV series as Married ... with Children, Dave's World, My Two Dads, Too Close for Comfort, Quantum Leap, Laverne & Shirley and the soap opera As the World Turns.

He did a national tour of America in the starring role of Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance, and he plans to perform about 150 dates this year with the current version of his band Herman's Hermits, including four days in June at Disney World in Florida.

Don Rhodes has written about country music for 35 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at don.rhodes@morris.com.