Gary James' Interview With Karl Green Of
They became one of the top selling artists during The British Invasion and in all of Pop music history. In 1965 they sold more records than The Beatles! To date, they've sold more than 80 million records. They appeared on every top-rated television variety show there was, including Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, Dean Martin, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and The Midnight Special. They traveled the world; Tahiti, Fiji, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Cambodia, the Philippines, Europe and the U.S. They were awarded seven Gold albums and fourteen Gold singles for songs like "I'm Into Something Good", "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat", "Henry VIII", "Silhouettes", "Wonderful World" and "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter". We are talking of course about Herman's Hermits. Karl Green played bass for the Hermits and he's about to embark on a tour of the U.S. in March, 2015. We talked to Karl about that tour and so much more!
Q - Karl, you've got an upcoming tour that begins in March, 2015 and takes you right through the Summer of 2015?
A - Yeah. I think we're here March, April and then I go home for awhile. Then we come back in July, August I think. We play different territories.
Q - What kind of venues will you be performing in?
A - I think we'll be playing Rock clubs, some bigger venues, maybe fairs, playing with other '60s bands maybe. We're not entirely sure what our market is going to be. This is the first time I've been back here for so long. I came back in the Summer just for a bit of fun to play with some guys over here (the U.S.). I was amazed at the interest and the people who remembered the old stuff. I was under the impression that people didn't realize who we were. I was quite surprised at the reaction, so I thought this is great. It'd be nice to come back and do it.
Q - The last time I saw you was back on July 28th, 1974. You were playing with The Hermits on a Sunday night at a club called The Brookside in Syracuse, New York. More than 1,000 people showed up and paid $3 a ticket to see the band.
A - In '74, that must've been when I was fronting the band and singing lead, yeah?
Q - It must've been.
A - Was Peter with us?
Q - He was not.
A - In '74, it was with the '60s Invasion Tour, that Peter got back with the band just for that one tour and then in '74 we came back just as myself, Lek, Barry and a guy called Chris Finley playing piano. I took over fronting the band when Peter left.
Q - Barry Whitwam has his own band,
Peter Noone has his own band and now you're going to have your own band. How are you going to be billing the band? Is it going to be Karl Green's Herman's Hermits?
A - No, no. This is The Karl Green Band, KGB, and we do play some Herman's Hermits stuff, but we also play a lot of Rock. I love Rock music and I've been playing Rock for the last thirty-four years, since I left the band. I left the band to start a family. While I was bringing up my family I didn't want to go on the road. I'd just play local Rock clubs in and around where I lived, just outside London. I also went out as a sound engineer. I'm a qualified sound engineer. I do sound for really Hard Rock bands. I just did some work at Hard Rock Hell, which is a big festival in England, before I came over here. I work a lot at the festivals during the summer, just running sound for people like the Heavy Metal kids and a band called Glory Roads that had a couple of Gillan's band in it.
Q - I was wondering what you did after you left the Hermits. So, you didn't go on the road with these Rock groups, did you?
A - I just stayed around London. When I left the band I got out of the music business completely for a couple of years. I just wanted to get my mind right and start a family. Myself and my wife were having a lot of trouble keeping children. My wife had lots of miscarriages. So, I thought I'd come off the road, sleep in my own bed every night and we had these three lovely daughters and I thought the only way to treat kids is to be with them. I didn't leave them for a single day for the first fifteen years of their lives and helped bring them up. I started a tiling and plumbing business, would you believe. I started it just at the right time when all the English people were thinking about using Italian tiling instead of all the old English stuff, and it became a booming business, yeah.
Q - Are you telling me you did plumbing and tiling work yourself?
A - Oh, yeah. I went out myself and gradually employed more people. The business got bigger and I started employing a few people doing all the council work and things like that.
Q - Did anyone ever recognize your name or your face?
A - No. We were never as big in England as we were over here (in the U.S.). And I never went in and said, "I'm an ex-musician." I just went in as a tiler. They employed me as a tiler and I went in and gave them a quote. They accepted my quote. I ended up getting really good clients because I always thought whatever you do in life, try and be the best. So, I got my name in my area as being the best tiler, the best plumber. Because I couldn't find decent plumbers to work with me, I did it all myself. I started taking all the plumbing work.
Q - How did you know how to do that? You were a bass player!
A - Yeah. I taught myself. (laughs)
Q - You are a man of many talents!
A - I wanted to stay at home and that was the only way I could to it, by getting a job where I could go and sleep in my own bed at night. I could've carried on in the music business, but I just wanted to make a clean break for a while to sort of knuckle down and take care of my kids.
Q - Did you ever do any tiling or plumbing work for one of The Beatles or The Stones?
A - No. They lived on the other side of London from me. But I did lots of very, very wealthy people. My name got pushed around to lots of people that had massive, multi-pound homes and I would spend maybe two years working on one house.
Q - That must've been some house!
A - Oh, yeah. One particular house, they employed me to sort of oversee all the other workers 'cause I had a very good eye for detail and I wouldn't let things go. If someone did something wrong, I'd make them do it again. If you're paying the money these people were paying, they deserve the best.
Q - If you and Peter and Barry all got together and went out as Herman's Hermits, that would be a very lucrative tour, wouldn't it?
A - It would be, yeah. I've put it on record that if the others want to get together, I'm up for it. That's how this whole thing started. My tour manager got in touch with me on Facebook and said would I be interested in getting back together with Pete, Barry and Keith and someone else on guitar? Maybe Lek's daughter could play guitar. I said, "Yeah, sounds great." But a couple of the other guys have issues and I don't even think they talk to each other. I speak to Pete now and then. I speak to Keith all the time. Keith is still a good friend, but I think Peter and Barry have got issues and they don't talk to each other. So, I can't honestly ever see it happening. If it did, I'd be in, in a flash, and have a bit of fun. I'd do it for the fun and the fans. The fans deserve it after all these years. They've supported the various bands I was in back in the '70s, Peter's band and Barry's band. They're all earning money from the name.
Q - 1965 was probably the year for Herman's Hermits, wasn't it?
A - Oh, definitely. It was by far our biggest year. It would actually be nice to get together with the other guys in 2015, fifty years after that great year we had. We sold so many records in '65. I think we outsold most people here in the States.
Q - You outsold The Beatles that year, that's for sure!
A - Yeah.
Q - Is it difficult to make the transition from being a headlining act to performing in a club?
A - I'd play anywhere as long as people want to come and watch the band. The money's okay. The money's nice, but I don't do it for the money. I do it because I love doing it. If I can earn a few bob doing it, fine. (In) my band, we don't play all Herman's Hermits stuff. We play Rock by people like Joe Walsh, Joe Cocker. We do ZZ Top numbers. We do Bad Company stuff, Free. Doobie Brothers songs. We just enjoy ourselves and have a ball. We all enjoy playing.
Q - Will you be selling your own product at any of your up-coming gigs?
A - We're hoping before we start the tour next year to cut an album with The Karl Green Band with new stuff that we've been writing. It's all in the process at the moment. We're busy writing and trying to get time in a studio to make an album. That would be on sale next year (2015) hopefully.
Q - In 1965, American musicians were looking at Herman's Hermits and saying they've got a record deal, they've got hit records and the girls are just screaming their heads off. But was there a down side to being in Herman's Hermits?
A - The downside was we never earned any money. Everybody earned money apart from the actual band. We were busy on the road, playing the gigs while other people were siphoning off the money. We didn't see much of it 'cause we were very badly managed at one point. We were working on the Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars. We did that for $200 a week I think, with two records in the charts, two records in the national charts. And we were working for $200 a week.
Q - That's for the whole band?
A - Yeah. We had our hotel paid and our expenses paid, our travel, but we came out with very, very little after touring for so many weeks with two records in the Top Ten because our management didn't think to put a record clause in the contract.
A - Oh, we should've had Andrew Oldham definitely because he actually fought with us over a Stones gig on that tour. The Stones were on one of our gigs or we were on one of their gigs. Andrew Oldham just beat our management into submission on every count. But we knew Andrew as well. He was our publicist for awhile. A very good manager. Very good.
Q - When you joined the Hermits, did you have any idea how famous the band would become?
A - No idea at all. We dreamed obviously. That's when we formed a band called The Heartbeats. It was called The Heartbeats before the band was Herman's Hermits. We were all dreamers in those days. Myself and Peter were maybe fifteen years old when we started playing in The Heartbeats and we always dreamed about making records and going to the States. All the music from the States is what we loved and that's what The Beatles loved. We grew up on all of the American music and we kind of recycled it and sold it back to you. Herman's Hermits found a little niche with Peter's cute face and the English type songs that were very successful over here.
Q - And the records were always very well produced.
A - Oh, yeah. Mickie (Most) was a superb producer. His talent at finding songs and putting them with a specific artist that suited the songs was unrivaled. It was terrific and he was a very good producer in the studio. A lot of people don't realize he produced bands like The Nashville Teens, Lulu, CCS (Collective Consciousness Society), which is a great rockin' band. He did some really great stuff over the years. He's now no longer with us unfortunately.
Q - We had this idea in America that everybody in England was in a band in the early 1960s. Did you hear about The Beatles or The Stones? Were they in the papers?
A - Oh, yeah. The Beatles were big before Herman's Hermits made it. Definitely. The Stones were sort of around at the same time we started as The Heartbeats, which became Herman's Hermits, which became Herman And The Hermits, which became Herman's Hermits. I was in a band from '62 onwards. Basically we would listen to Chuck Berry, Little Richard and all that sort of stuff, the same as The Stones listened to. The Stones' style came from Chuck Berry. Their first record was "Come On", which was written by Chuck Berry. The Beatles used to do a lot of Chuck Berry stuff and Little Richard stuff. They were all influenced by the Americans.
Q - Did you hear Bobby Keys passed away today?
A - Well, Bobby was on the '65 Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars tour. He was the sax player for
Bobby Vee's band, The Cadettes, that were headlining the show when we joined. We were sort of an unknown act really when we were booked. Then "Mrs. Brown" went into the charts. We already had "I'm Into Something Good" in the charts. Suddenly, we were hot property, you know. Bobby was very gracious when the promoter said, "Herman's Hermits are going to go on last. They're now top of the bill." Bobby just took it very nicely. A very, very nice man.
Q - Did you realize in the mid-'60s you were in the center of the universe? If you were a British Rock musician, you got all the attention.
A - I think the '60s was iconic in itself. It's when teenagers became sort of accepted. Before the '60s you were either a kid until you became 25 and then you became an adult. Teenagers had a revolution in England and became teenagers. We had lots of fun. I personally think the '60s was one of the best decades ever. We changed the world. I don't think it was for the better, but we definitely changed the world. Young people got a voice.
Q - In 1970, Herman's Hermits were still touring.
A - Yeah. When we first started and got success, we all sort of said, "How long is this going to last?" We had no idea. I had no idea that fifty years later people would still be listening to our songs. It's amazing. Absolutely amazing. Fifty years later, people are still lapping it up. The concerts we've been doing here, we've been doing some small concerts to sort of rehearse the band and tighten up for the summer and I'm amazed at how many people sing along with us. We stop playing and the audience carry on singing "A Kind Of Hush", "Henry VIII", "Mrs. Brown". They all know the words. They know the words better than I do. I haven't played those songs for thirty-four years.
Q - When "Mrs. Brown" came out, there was a Syracuse, New York disc jockey who said, "What's he (Peter Noone) singing?" The lyric was Girls as sharp as her...
A - That's right.
Q - We had a store called Shopper's Fair. The DJ thought he was singing the name of the store.
A - (laughs) We used to get that with "A Must To Avoid" as well. People thought it was called "She's A Muscular Boy". (laughs) They got the words eventually.
Q - And then there's your song, "I'm Into Something Good". Peter sings I walked her home and she held my hand. I thought he was singing I moved to hold and she held my hand. When I told that to Peter, he liked that lyric and said he was going to try and sing it.
A - We were one of the few bands from England that actually sang with English accents because Rock traditionally at home is sung with an American accent because I think an American accent leads itself more to the sound, the vowels of Rock. It's always with an American accent and lots of Herman's Hermits' stuff is sung with an American accent in bars. "Henry VIII" was recorded specifically with an English accent because we thought it was very English, a very English song. And "Mrs. Brown" also. We did "Mrs. Brown" as a joke. We used to have a laugh doing it. Peter used to dress up as a young school boy when he sang it. And Mickie needed an extra song for our first album. He said, "Play a song from your stage act. We need an extra song for the album." So, we played him "Mrs. Brown". He said, "That's great" and it went on the album.
For more, be sure to read Karl Green Interview Part 2
The following is Gary James' review of a Herman's Hermits concert he attended at The Brookside in Syracuse, New York on July 28th, 1974.
Good spirits and high energy prevailed at The Brookside where one of England's most famous pop groups - Herman's Hermits concluded their 9 week tour of the U.S. More than 1,000 people turned out paying between $3- ( Advance Sale tickets) $4 to witness the memorable event Sunday night. Although former lead singer Peter Noone was absent from the group ( having left 3 years ago to pursue a solo career) The Hermits sounded as good as ever!
Opening up with "I'm Into Something Good", The Hermits proceeded to play a good deal of Rock 'n' Roll which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed and managed to successfully bridge the gap between the music of the '60s and the '70s without sounding old fashioned or out of date. Songs performed by the group included " She's A Must To Avoid", I'm Henry The VIII I Am", "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter", " Just A Little Bit Better", "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat", " Wonderful World", "Lucille", "She Loves You", "Jailhouse Rock", "Jet", and "There's A Kind Of Hush ( All Over The World").
There are three original members left in the new Herman's Hermits line-up - Karl Green (who doubles on both Rhythm and Bass Guitar); Barry Whitwham (Drums), Derek Leckenby (Lead Guitar), and the newest member - Chris Finley, introduced by Karl Green as "the baby of the group", at 25 years old who plays Bass and Keyboards.
Part of The Hermits performance consisted of audience participation, clapping and singing to such songs as "Mrs. Brown" which began by Karl Green thanking everyone who ever bought the record. At one point someone requested the song "Jezebel" and group spokesman Karl Green replied they hadn't done that number in 7 years but promised they'd learn it the next time around. The crowd cheered.
After the show I spoke with Hermit Derek Leckenby and asked what the future held for the group. "Right now we're negotiating for our own label to be distributed by Brunswick Records and hope to have a lot of new
original material." I also asked if he felt the audiences had changed - were they more demanding today? To which he replied, "The audiences have changed no more than we have I guess".
In chatting with Drummer Barry Whitwham he told me the group had been performing "mostly clubs nowadays". Was the enthusiastic reaction to The Hermits music typical of other places they've played? "Yeah, I'd say so", Barry replied. The point that should be made about Herman's Hermits is they're not cashing in on any nostalgia craze. They are every bit as entertaining today as they were 10 years ago. "Hermanmania" still reigns!!!!!!