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Monday, August 19, 2013
August 19: British Invasion/Merseybeat singer Billy J. Kramer – “Bad to me,” “Little Children” - is 70-years-old today.
Billy J. Kramer was born William Howard Ashton, on 19 August 1943 in Bootle, Lancashire, England. After receiving an engineering apprenticeship with British Railways, in his spare time played rhythm guitar in a group he had formed himself, before switching to become a vocalist. His performing name "J. Kramer" was chosen at random from a telephone directory.
After he came to the attention of Brian Epstein, Billy turned professional. His then backing group, the Coasters, were replaced by a Manchester-based group, the Dakotas. The group was named Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas to keep their own identities within the act.
Kramer was offered the chance to cover "Do You Want to Know a Secret?,” first released by the Beatles. With record producer George Martin, the song became 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.
Kramer was then given a series of songs specially written for him by John Lennon and Paul McCartney; "I'll Keep You Satisfied,” "From a Window,” "I Call Your Name" and "Bad to Me" and was rewarded with appearances on the television programs, Shindig!, Hullabaloo and The Ed Sullivan Show.
It was then thought that Kramer would always remain in 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. In the U.S. this was followed up with "Bad to Me.”
Kramer’s second and last UK single of 1964, the Lennon–McCartney composition "From a Window,” reached the top ten list. After releasing "We're Doing Fine,” which also missed the charts, the singer and group parted company.
Kramer then embarked on a solo career over the next ten to fifteen years or so working in cabaret and television with his new band. Around 1983, Kramer released a solo single called "You Can't Live on Memories"/"Shooting the Breeze" which failed to chart.
In 2005, Kramer recorded the song "Cow Planet" for Sandra Boynton's children's album, Dog Train.
In late 2012, Billy went back into the studio for the first time in years to record a CD to be released in early 2013. The CD is entitled "I Won the Fight" and features some new songs written by Billy as well as some covers.