Brian Epstein and Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas Sept 6, 2010 16:50:26 GMT -5
Post by yerblues1968 on Sept 6, 2010 16:50:26 GMT -5
Billy J. Kramer
BILLY J. KRAMER
Billy J. Kramer (born William Howard Ashton, 19 August 1943, Bootle, Liverpool, England) is a former British Invasion / Merseybeat singer. In sharing Brian Epstein as a manager with The Beatles he enjoyed access to the songwriting of Lennon and McCartney, recording several of their original compositions.
He grew up as the youngest of seven siblings and attended the St. George of England Secondary School, Bootle. He then took up an engineering apprenticeship with British Railways and in his spare time played rhythm guitar in a group he had formed himself, before switching to become a vocalist. The performing name Kramer was chosen at random from a telephone directory. It was John Lennon's suggestion that the "J" be added to the name to further distinguish him by adding a 'tougher edge'. Kramer soon came to the attention of Brian Epstein, ever on the look-out for new talent to add to his expanding roster of local artists. Kramer turned professional but his then backing group, the Coasters, were less keen, so Epstein sought out the services of a Manchester-based group, The Dakotas, a combo then backing Pete MacLaine.
Even then, The Dakotas would not join Kramer without a recording contract of their own. Once in place, the deal was set and both acts signed to Parlophone under George Martin. Collectively, they were named Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas to keep their own identities within the act. Once the Beatles broke through, the way was paved for a tide of Merseybeat and Kramer was offered the chance to cover Do You Want to Know a Secret?, first released by the Beatles on their own debut album, Please Please Me. The track had been turned down by Shane Fenton (later known as Alvin Stardust) who was looking for a career reviving hit.
With record producer George Martin, the song Do You Want to Know a Secret? was a number two UK Singles Chart hit in 1963, and was backed by another tune otherwise unreleased by The Beatles, I'll Be on My Way. After this impressive breakthrough another Lennon/McCartney pairing Bad to Me c/w I Call Your Name reached number one. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. I'll Keep You Satisfied ended the year with a respectable number four placing.
Kramer was given a series of songs specially written for him by John Lennon and Paul McCartney which launched him into stardom. I'll Keep You Satisfied, From a Window, I Call Your Name and Bad to Me earned him appearances on the television programmes, Shindig!, Hullabaloo and The Ed Sullivan Show. (Kramer had also been offered Lennon-McCartney's I'm In Love, and recorded a version in October 1963. In the end, it was shelved and the song was instead given to The Fourmost. In the 1990s, a Kramer CD compilation album included Kramer's version, and included some recording studio banter on which John Lennon's voice could be heard).
The Dakotas, meanwhile, enjoyed Top 20 success in 1963 on their own with Mike Maxfield's composition The Cruel Sea, an instrumental retitled The Cruel Surf in the U.S., which was subsequently covered by The Ventures. This was followed by a George Martin creation, Magic Carpet, with a echo laden piano, playing the melody alongside Maxfield's guitar. But it missed out altogether and it was a year before their next release. All four tracks appeared on a EP later that year.
The three big hits penned by Lennon and McCartney suggested that Kramer would always remain the Beatles' shadow, unless he tried something different. Despite being advised against it, he turned down the offer of another Lennon/McCartney song, One and One is Two, and insisted on recording the Stateside chart hit Little Children. It became his second chart topper and biggest hit. It was Kramer's only major hit outside of the UK. In the US, this was followed up with Bad to Me which reached number nine. Despite this success Kramer went backwards with his second and last UK single of 1964; another Lennon/McCartney composition From a Window, which only just became a Top Ten hit.
Billy J. Kramer sings, "Do You Want To Know A Secret?"
with The Dakotas. (2:01 minutes)
Billy J. Kramer sings, "Bad To Me," with The Dakotas. (2:22 minutes)
Billy J. Kramer sings, "I Call Your Name," with The Dakotas. (2:04 minutes)
Bill J. Kramer sings, "I'll Keep You Satisfied," with The Dakotas. (3:23 minutes)
Billy J. Kramer sings, "From A Window," with The Dakotas.
[Images of Brian Epstein in this video with other artists.] (2:01 minutes)
Billy J. Kramer sings, "Little Children," with The Dakotas. (3:24 minutes)
See Billy J. Kramer interview at website.
More information on Brian Epstein.