Wild times stories show that Barry was no hermit

Barry Whitwam, drummer with Herman's Hermits
Barry Whitwam, drummer with Herman's Hermits
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Barry Whitwam has been told he should write a book so many times, he’s finally doing it.

It seems a sensible idea for he has plenty of material to fill it with. Take the anecdote about Keith Moon’s 21st birthday.

“We invited The Who to be support act on our tour of America and Keith’s birthday fell while we were in Michigan,” said Barry, drummer in Herman’s Hermits, reminiscing about the summer of 1967.

“We ordered 100 cakes and the bands and their whole entourages gathered to view this pretty impressive sight.

“Keith was a lovely fella but he was like Jekyll and Hyde, after a few beers he would turn into somebody else. So he suddenly decided to flick cream at our bass player Karl Green.

“Karl flicked some back and then all hell broke loose. Everyone jumped in and it turned into a gigantic food fight. Within minutes the whole room looked like the inside of a cake and in the midst of it Karl pulled Keith’s trousers and underpants down.

“A police officer saw Keith’s private parts, pulled out a revolver and tried to arrest him for public indecency. We pushed Keith out of the fire exit, he tripped on the pavement, smashed two front teeth and spent the rest of the night in the emergency dental hospital. We had to slip the police officer a few hundred dollars for not arresting Keith.

“The next morning our tour manager had to pay $25,000 damages. We were saying ‘it can’t be that much’, then he pointed to the hotel pool and there was a car in it.”

The Hermits were huge in the 60s and had massive success in America. After finding fame with I’m Into Something Good, they had hits galore and appeared in films.

“I was an 18-year-old lad from Gatley and the first thing I did with my money was buy my mum and dad a house,” said Barry. “Then I started buying cars. I’ve had about 50 or 60 over the years. By the time I was 21, I owned an Aston Martin, a Jaguar and a Mustang.”

Half a century later and the Hermits – or at least a version of them – are still going.

Barry is the only original member remaining (though Peter Noone has his own Hermit’s band in the US) and tours all year. “I take three months off in May but that’s about it,” he said.

There’s a chance to see Barry’s Hermits in action on Sunday when they play at Preston Guild Hall. They are appearing in a show called The Sensational 60s Experience, which also features sets from The Marmalade, Chris Farlowe (of Handbags and Gladrags fame) and Freddie and The Dreamers.

And, reckons Barry, it still feels as good as it did in the old days.

“It is the same. The audience still gets off on it and goes wild, though there’s no one jumping on stage any more. If they do come towards the stage we have to help them on!,” he joked. “I love being on stage and I love playing Herman’s Hermits songs. It keeps me young.

When he’s not performing Barry is writing an autobiography that contains tales just as good as the Keith Moon story (like being invited to meet Elvis Presley and being blown up on stage – “someone put gunpowder under my drumkit on the final night of a tour; it burned all my hair off, took two weeks to grow it back”)

Hopefully there’ll be none of that on Saturday. Tickets are £22.50 and available from www.prestonguildhall.com