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When Herman Met Elvis

03 Feb 2011

WHEN HERMAN MET ELVIS

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El dodged disc questions

By Norrie Drummond

"EVERY time I mentioned records to Elvis , he seemed to dodge the question," said Herman, when I spoke to him this week. "I told him that many people in Britain wondered why an old disc like 'Crying In The Chapel' had been released, and I asked him about this, but he avoided answering."

Herman had just returned from a hectic three-week tour of the U.S. "It was great!" he said, enthusiastically. "At the Pasadena Rose Bowl we played to a crowd of 34,000! Only thing I hated was the travelling. I don't really like flying, but it's the only way to go in the States."

How was his meeting with Elvis arranged? "I told Sam Katzman, who was producing the film were we in, that I would love to meet El. It turned out that he was also producing Elvis' picture. So he arranged that we should fly to Hawaii, where the film was on location.

"I had always wanted to meet Elvis, and I was absolutely thrilled at the prospect.

"But when we eventually met, I didn't feel at all excited. I expected him to be a bit moody, but he was a really nice guy.

"He said how much he liked our recordings of 'Mrs. Brown' and 'Henry VIII.' Colonel Tom Parker chipped in and said that his wife was always singing 'Henry VIII.' He was a nice guy too."

Was Herman disappointed or surprised when he first met Elvis?

"No," he said, emphatically. "He looks EXACTLY like he appears on films and was perfectly natural, apart from the fact that he was wearing his film make-up."

"He is about the same height as I am, possibly an inch or two taller, and he was wearing the type of clothes that Tom Jones usually wears.

"An open-neck, white shirt; tight-fitting black trousers and high-heeled boots. He's got a very broad Tennessee accent, and his favourite expressions are 'Why, sure!' and 'Yes, sir' "

Sideburns

Herman asked Elvis about long hair, and why he didn't let his grow. To this El reminded Herman that ten years ago, when he first started singing, he had long sideburns. "It was difficult for me to realise that he was that old," said Herman.

"We talked for about an hour," Herman continued, "about an awful lot of things, but there were times when neither of us knew what to say. Colonel Parker always came to our aid and managed to think of something.

"Elvis said how much he liked British groups, particularly the Beatles and the Stones, and said that he was sorry he couldn't meet the Beatles.

"There are always a lot of people with Elvis. There are five blokes - not really bodyguards - who are always around. But Colonel Parker told me that sometimes Elvis disappears for two or three days without telling anyone, and they never know where he's been."

I asked Herman if he talked to Elvis about his films. "I did ask him a few questions about films, but he discreetly avoided answering.

"Colonel Parker protects him all the time. He listens to everything Elvis says, and he won't let him be photographed except by his own photographers. We also talked about touring, and Colonel Parker told us about the time when Elvis used to tour.

"He used to play on the same bill as Irish tenors and jugglers. Once he even appeared with a performing elephant!"

"Does Elvis appear to be a lonely person?" I asked Herman. "Not really," he said. "He appears to enjoy his success. He asked us to go to a party with him that evening, but we couldn't as we had to fly back to London to do 'Top Of The Pops.' "

While they were in America, Herman's Hermits appeared on the Danny Kaye TV show. Said Herman: "We went to Danny's house after the show to swim in his pool. He was really dead nice."

Highlight

But without doubt the highlight of Herman's tour was his Presley meeting. What, I asked Herman, were the chances of Elvis coming to Britain?

"Naturally, I asked him this," he said. "Elvis said that he really wants to come, but he would have to go all over Europe and Australia, too, if he did.

"But the thing is that Colonel Tom couldn't go at present. He's been very ill. At the moment he has to wear a steel brace in his back, and he could not undertake such a long tour. Elvis says that he would not go anywhere without him. So we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed."

New Musical Express, 1965


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