There was more to British mop tops Herman’s Hermits than just adorable, snaggle-toothed Peter Noone (aka “Herman”). The band – then called The Heartbeats -- were already a local force on the Manchester, England teen scene before Noone was drafted into their ranks, explained Karl Green, who played bass and sang backing vocals and harmonies with Noone during the British Invasion-era.
“I played guitar when the band first got together and I really didn’t want to sing lead, so we decided to find a singer. We knew we wanted a good looking face up there in front of the band,” recalled Green, who co-founded The Heartbeats/Hermits with guitarist Keith Hopwood.
“We were told about this young singer and went to see him. He was really good and the girls loved him. It was Peter of course. We asked him to join and with him upfront, we became Peter Novak & The Heartbeats because ‘Novak’ was Peter’s stage name at the time.”
That changed to “Herman” after Noone put on the big black horn-rimmed glasses of the group’s former keyboard player during a show. Green told Noone he looked like “Sherman” from the “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” cartoon segment of “The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show” when sporting the glasses. Soon after ‘Sherman’ morphed into ‘Herman’ which sounded more Americanized and the band became The Hermits. “The rest is as they say is history,” he said.
Green switched to playing bass after producer Mickey Most told Green, Hopwood and Noone to replace the original Heartbeats rhythm section. “We already knew (drummer) Barry Whitam, but couldn’t find a bass player, so I switched to bass and we added (guitarist) Derek “Lek” Leckenby.”
Herman’s Hermits charted about 20 U.S. singles during the 1960s, appeared on all the TV shows of the era and became one of the best selling of the Brit bands that flooded America’s shores in the wake of The Beatles. Disbanding in 1971, the original Herman’s Hermits regrouped once for a mid-'70s nostalgia tour, after which Noone opted out and the rest of the group carried on until 1980 when Green decided to get off the road and raise a family.
Away from the performing side of the concert stage for 36 years, Green is now once again singing those beloved old Hermits songs – “There’s A Kind of Hush,” “Dandy,” “I’m Into Something Good,” “Henry The 8th” -- among others in his second invasion of America.
Green raised three daughters after finding success in the plumbing business, but kept his hand in music as a live sound engineer. “A lot of the bands I’ve worked with are pretty heavy musically. I have a lot of gear and I really enjoyed being on that side of the business,” he added.
With 2014 marking the 50th Anniversary of Herman’s Hermits formation and invasion of America, local Hermits fan Connor Mahoney, of Chesterton, shot Green a Facebook message about coming to sit in on some shows with a regional band he knew that played Hermits songs and other Invasion-era songs. To his surprise, Green replied – “Sure!” – then earlier this summer flew from his home in England to meet the Northwest Indiana-based band which consists of guitarists Bob Abrams (formerly of The Buckinghams) and Mike Bruccoleri (sideman to Jimy Sohns) and drummer Gina Knight. Mahoney now serves as road manager.
“This is a really rockin’ band with lots of energy,” commented Valparaiso resident Bruccoleri. “The Hermits did softer, quieter songs, but I’ve always loved the more rock stuff. Growing up, I was a fan of Big Bill Broonzy, Chuck Berry and especially Little Richard. I loved the screamers,” said Green.
With the Karl Green Band or K.G.B. as he likes to call it, the audience hears all the Hermits hits, but being a hard rocker at heart, Green supplements those tunes with edgier personal favorites made famous by old friends like The Kinks, The Who and Joe Cocker. “I really love American Southern Rock,” he added in a fake southern accent. “So y’all will hear some Lynyrd Skynyrd too!”
Green said the handful of intimate club dates booked during his current visit is to rehearse the band in front of live audiences for a planned national tour in Spring 2015 that will find K.G.B. rocking the Southern states before doing gigs up and down the Eastern seaboard, and then wrapping with more Midwest dates in larger venues.
See The Karl Green Band on Dec. 1 at Chappy’s Stadium in Michigan City; Dec. 4 at Suparosse in Woodridge, Ill.; and Dec. 5 at the Lockport Moose Lodge in Lockport, Ill. More info: facebook.com/karlgreenofficial?pnref=story
• After two consecutive sell outs “The Signal,” a docu-musical about Gary’s music scene from the 1950s thru the 1970s -- written by Gary native Henry Farag -- returns Dec. 14 to Acorn Theatre (107 Generations Ave.) in Three Oaks, Mich. for a 5 p.m. performance.
“This time, in addition to the riveting story and doo wop oldies, there is a bonus. We’ve added several memorable Christmas tunes,” said director/performer Farag of his show, starring regional music icons The Spaniels, Willie Rogers of The Soul Stirrers, and veteran acappella group Stormy Weather. One of Farag’s original songs from this play – “A Street Carol” -- is featured in the new indie film, "Jingle Bell Rocks" due out this Thanksgiving. Tickets ($25) and info: acorntheater.com or (219) 756-3879.
• Chicago singer/songwriter/recording artist Al Rose stops in for a chat and in-studio live performance at 6 p.m. Tuesday on 89.1FM-Lakeshore Public Radio’s “Midwest BEAT with Tom Lounges. Find out more about Rose online at: alrosemusic.com. Stream the “Midwest BEAT with Tom Lounges” live in real time each week at: lakeshorepublicradio.org/radio.