On the surface, Peter Asher was not unlike many of the other young men in Great Britain in the early 1960s. Back then, if you could strum a few chords and carry a tune — and if you had a cockney accent — chances are you’d be given a chance to make a record.
Those were the years of the British Invasion, of course, when American music fans fell in love with the English sound, the residue of Beatlemania.
“We idolized America. Of course, I wanted to come to America,” Asher recalled.
Asher did in fact live the dream, as a member of Peter and Gordon (Waller). The duo had a pleasing vocal sound reminiscent of the Everly Brothers and a hot song that received extensive airplay. “We made a record, and it was very successful,” he said.
The record was “World Without Love,” and it wasn’t just a coincidence it followed “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles to the top of the charts: Paul McCartney, a family friend, penned the tune for Peter and Gordon.
Asher recalled touring America many times. “We got chased around New York by girls. It was all very exciting,” he said.
The group appeared on “Hullabaloo,” “Shindig,” and even “The Ed Sullivan Show” and had a string of hits, most notably “I Go To Pieces” and “Lady Godiva.”
As it turned out, Asher was a lot more than a kid looking to get chased around by groupies. His father, a medical professional by trade, and mother, a music teacher, were both professional musicians. They had instilled a firm foundation in the arts in their children. Peter was a child actor of some renown — his sister Jane, who later dated McCartney, was as well — and a brilliant student.
When McCartney and the Beatles formed Apple Records, they asked Asher to come aboard. Coincidentally, a friend of his guitar player, Danny Kortchmar, was coming to Europe from America, and asked Asher to look out for the friend. That was James Taylor, an unknown, who had been in a short-lived band called “The Flying Machine” with Kortchmar.
Taylor was a singer-songwriter. “I was enthralled and amazed,” Asher recalls, and signed Taylor to Apple. The album went nowhere, and Taylor returned to America to try his luck in Los Angeles, and the burgeoning soft rock music scene.
“I became his manager,” Asher said, noting he had no background in the field. But the product, Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” album, became one of the hottest in the world. Asher decided to sign another client, and that choice panned out nicely as well: Linda Ronstadt become rock’s reigning queen, like Taylor, a platinum-selling superstar.
Asher became head of A&R Records and worked with the likes of Cher and Diana Ross.
But the Peter and Gordon sound was always in there, albeit on the backburner. “I enjoy it very much,” he said of performing live. The duo reformed and played intermittently until Gordon died in 2009.
Chad and Jeremy were peers of Peter and Gordon, so much so they were sometimes confused with each other. “When we were on ‘Sullivan,’ people were congratulating them. When they were on ‘Patty Duke,’ people congratulated us!”
Chad and Jeremy rode the coattails of a fabulous debut album, “Yesterday’s Gone” to stardom and churned out a number of hits before taking a hiatus. They reformed and played on and off for a half-century: Chad Stuart retired in 2010, but Jeremy Clyde still relished performing live. A pairing with old friend Asher seemed like a perfect match.
“We were always confused with each other anyway,” Asher said with a laugh. “We’re both accomplished storytellers on stage and we’ll get a chance to sing each others’ songs.”
The revamped duo comes to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center Saturday, June 15, for an 8 PM concert. Don’t be surprised if some of the tunes sound Beatlesque: it turned out the boys from Liverpool quietly penned several songs for Chad and Jeremy, just as they had done for Peter and Gordon those many years ago.
The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is at 76 Main Street. The box office number is 631-288-1500. Tickets are available online at www.whbpac.org.