Fans of the English pop music that dominated the American charts in the mid-1960s can get into something good in Atlantic City this weekend. Peter Noone, the artist formerly known as Herman, headlines a trip down memory lane at Resorts Hotel & Casino with shows on Friday and Saturday.
Herman's Hermits' contribution to the British Invasion included 11 records that were Top-10 hits in America, beginning with the Carole King-Gerry Goffin song I'm Into Something Good in 1964 and continuing with Can't You Hear My Heartbeat, I'm Henry the VIII I Am, Dandy and Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter.
Like many of his contemporaries, this performer acknowledges the importance of the Beatles, who opened the doors of the American market for the wave of British acts that followed them to these shores.
"Absolutely," Noone said in a telephone interview.
The singer was in Las Vegas for a show at the Las Vegas Hilton and to work on a television special for the PBS network that will include such blasts from the past as Bobby Rydell (Wild One, Forget Him) and Lou Christie (Lightning Strikes).
"Aside from what they did musically, the Beatles were great ambassadors," continued Noone. "They made everything English very cool at the time. By the time we got (to America), everyone was ready for us. Just the fact that we were English opened every door for us. Murray the K even met us at the airport."
Murray Kauffman, a popular disc jockey in New York, was somewhat instrumental in publicizing the arrival of the Beatles in 1964. Many other British acts soon followed, most of whom had a few hits and then disappeared from the charts. Herman's Hermits had a little more staying power than some of the other groups.
Born in Manchester, England, in 1947, Noone began his career as a child actor in the British television soap opera Coronation Street. He appeared in countless other TV and stage productions before he enrolled in the Manchester School of Music & Drama, where he hooked up with a band called the Heartbeats.
With Noone as its lead singer, the group changed its name to Herman & the Hermits and then Herman's Hermits. The other members were Derek Leckenby and Keith Hopwood on guitars, Karl Green on bass and Barry Whitwam on drums.
"When I went to a college of music, it was just sort of a natural progression (to become a singer)," he said. "Everybody was in a band in those days, and my father was a professional musician, so it was kind of expected that I would become a musician."
Upon arrival in America, Herman's Hermits appeared on all of the musical variety shows on television at the time, including Hullabaloo, Shindig, The Ed Sullivan Show and Hollywood Palace.
After the initial splash, the hits continued in the United States into 1967 with Listen People, There's a Kind of Hush (All Over the World) and Don't Go Out Into the Rain. The band had a few more hits in England after that, but Noone left in 1971 and resumed his acting career.
"Everybody gets to a stage when it's time to move on," he said. "I was bored, and the band wasn't going anywhere, so I left. I did a couple of shows on Broadway and some other things. I was busy. I just wasn't making records."
His most notable appearance on Broadway was in The Pirates of Penzance. In the 1980s, he returned to the recording business briefly with a band called the Tremblers.
"That was great," said Noone. "I had a lot of fun with that. We made an album with Tom Petty and Elton John. We were just a bunch of guys having fun in a studio, and we got a good response from the audience, so we took it out on the road."
Like many of his contemporaries, Noone took to the road in recent years to cash in on the resurgence of 1960s music. Baby boomers have an insatiable appetite for the sounds of that era, and Noone, who is booked through February, expects to do about 200 shows this year.
And he's taken advantage of the new technology to build his fan base with a Web site, www.peternoone.com, which he updates daily.
"It's been a way to keep in touch with my fans more than anything," Noone said of the site. "I kind of developed it to do exactly what it's doing. If you want to know anything about Herman's Hermits or where I'm appearing, you can go to my Web site."
An added bonus for more ardent fans is the opportunity to join Noone's fan club and meet the artist on selected dates, one of which is scheduled for Saturday in Atlantic City. Club members, who are called "Noonatics," will have afternoon tea and crumpets with the singer.
"We asked the fans what they wanted, and this is what they said," explained Noone. "When most artists have a meet-and-greet (session) after a show, fans might get a minute to say 'Hello' and maybe take a picture. This goes beyond socializing. We have tea. It's an English thing. And the band members bring their guitars along, and we do some songs."
Visit Peter Noone's Web site.