The Sensational 60s Experience is the name of the tour which brings The Marmalade, Herman’s Hermits, Chris Farlowe and Steve Ellis’ Love Affair to the City Hall on Friday.
It aptly describes life back then for Barry Whitwarm and his ilk. He’s the drummer and only remaining member of Herman’s Hermits from the time of their first hit, I’m Into Something Good, in 1964.
The five-piece from Manchester were part of the British pop invasion of America in the Sixties and a measure of their popularity was getting a personal invitation to go and meet Elvis Presley
“It all came about in the summer of 1965,” recalls Whitwam. “Herman’s Hermits had just finished a big tour of America in Hawaii at the Coliseum and we were booked to fly home the next day, but that night after the last show we got a telephone call from Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s manager, and he said that he would like to meet Herman’s Hermits on his film set the next day.”
While he and lead singer Peter Noone re-arranged their flights the rest of the band chose to go home - “missing the chance of a lifetime.” The King was filming Paradise Hawaiian Style and they were to meet him on the film set on the beach. When they got there they were told Elvis had gone out for a ride and the next thing they heard was a roar and gradually saw that 13 motorbikes were heading towards them in a line.
“What an entrance, as they say in show business. We found out later that Elvis had bought each of his friends their motorbikes. He was such a generous person. As Elvis approached us I was spell bound, it was as if God had come down from heaven. Altogether we had about two hours with Elvis and talked about our tour of America. He knew we had millions of fans there but I don’t think he really understood why! Elvis seemed to want to know what our secret was - how five young lads from Manchester could make such a big impact around the world.”
Noone left in 1971 to go solo but the band carried on and have been touring ever since, almost exclusively in the States from 1973-83 because the scene in the UK had changed with fewer recording opportunities and the closure of clubs like the Fiesta in Sheffield where the Hermits had once enjoyed a five-night run.
Sixties revival tours have created opportunities in the UK again. There was a legal dispute when Peter Noone wanted to reclaim the Hermits which went in Whitwan’s favour except when his band perform in North America they are Herman’s Hermits starring Barry Whitwam as distinct from Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone.