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keith hopwood

Keith Hopwood had the good fortune to be associated with one of the biggest selling bands of the 1960s - Herman’s Hermits.


Born in Manchester, England in 1946, he attended Urmston Grammar School, and while there formed his first band The Falcons with drummer Malcom Rowe, (later to become his business and writing partner.) He was an early fan of American blues singers such as Jimmy Reed and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and avidly followed guitarists such as Chet Atkins, and of course, Chuck Berry.


A rival group, Pete Novak & the Heartbeats poached Hopwood for lead guitar duties, and in September 1963 they changed their name to Herman’s Hermits. By the Spring of 1964 they had been joined by Derek ‘Lek’ Leckenby and Barry Whitwam, and along with a young Peter Noone and Karl Green the band were hot stuff around the North West of England, regularly playing the Cavern in Liverpool.


After his initial success recording the Animals Mickie Most came on board as producer, and over the coming years was responsible for their many huge hits, even outselling the Beatles in the US in 1965. One song in particular was an unstoppable smash in the US. Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter was a song originally written for a TV drama, released as a single by Tom Courtenay and only reluctantly recorded by the band who felt it was strictly a live number. Many US DJs disagreed, and eventually MGM were forced to release it as a single where it spent weeks at No 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

While on the road Hopwood and Leckenby wrote many songs, culminating in B sides or album tracks and in 1968 they formed their production company Pluto Entertainments. Their first studio was located above Strawberry Studios, home to be of fellow Mancunians 10cc. One of their members, Graham Gouldman had already written many hits such as No Milk Today and East West for the band. Herman’s Hermits continued to tour the US and the rest of the world but by the late 60s were increasingly entering the world of ‘cabaret’, topping the bill at venues such as the London Palladium. This was Peter’s preferred route and in 1971 he embarked on a solo career. 


With an old friend Peter Cowap on lead vocals, the rest of the guys penned their debut album and recorded it with Eric Stewart’s help. With the name Herman’s Hermits or Hermits being so strong they changed their name to Sourmash and prepared to ‘start again’. Unfortunately, record company politics got in the way and although they released a couple of singles, Whale of a Tale was shelved. 


At this point Hopwood decided to cut loose and concentrate on his company Pluto. His earlier pal Malcolm Rowe had replaced Lek at the company, and between them they built a sizeable business, writing for commercials, soundtracks etc, eventually leading to a meeting with Mark Hall & Brian Cosgrove of Cosgrove Hall Films. This was to be the start of a very fruitful relationship. Hopwood and Row co-wrote and produced the music for the classic Wind in the Willows (feature film and series), and the 1989 film adaptation of Roal Dahl’s The BFG. Other Cosgrove Hall shows he composed for were Creepy Crawlies, Alias the Jester with Rowe, Foxbusters, and Andy Pandy with Phil Bush, and Albie, alone. Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music, from Discworld provided Hopwood and Bush with the perfect opportunity to write songs tracing the history of rock, and produce a subsequent soundtrack album.


1978 saw the opening of a 5000 sq ft multi studio facility in the centre of Manchester, catering for commercial band recordings, voice recordings, rehearsals etc. During their time there the studio was host to, among others, The Smiths and The Clash, and most of the North West’s punk bands. Hopwood’s publishing company Pluto Music was responsible for developing among others, singer/songwriter Helen Watson, culminating in two albums, produced by Glyn Johns


After 10 successful years, and with the imminent re-development of the studio building Hopwood moved again, and built his third studio, this time a private facility in a 250 year old barn deep in the countryside. Here he continued to write for children’s animation projects, notably 7 years on Bob the Builder, a remake of the classic Pingu, and most recently over 100 episodes of Daisy & Ollie, featuring Jason Manford.


In 2021, in the grip of Covid lockdowns his son Dan, also a composer and producer, pitched him the idea of finishing off all the songs which had been started but never completed, as an album project. It was perfect timing, and the result Never Too Late, was released February 1st 2022.

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