William Howard Ashton, also known as Billy J. Kramer, was born in Bootle, Lancashire and raised in Liverpool. He was another Brian Epstein “Merseybeat” act whose biggest success was with songs written by Lennon-McCartney and produced by George Martin. Billy’s website informs us that he was the first person to record a Lennon-McCartney tune, “Do You Want To Know A Secret?”, which he recorded before The Beatles did on With the Beatles (released in the US on Vee-Jay Records as Introducing… The Beatles). The song reached #2 on the UK charts. We also learn from his site that John Lennon suggested adding the “J.” to his name, saying it would “have more impact on the record-buying public.” Billy had modest success in the US, with six songs making the Hot 100. I have to confess, though, until I heard the songs for today, I had a hard time placing him…
Our first song is a John Lennon tune (credited to Lennon-McCartney), “Bad to Me.” It was recorded by Billy and his band, The Dakotas, and released in the UK in 1963, where it reached #1. It was released in the US as the B-side to “Little Children,” coincidentally our second tune, and reached #9 here. Our second tune, “Little Children,” was released in the UK in 1964 and reached #1 there in 1964. It reached #7 in the US later that year, concurrently with “Bad to Me.”
Billy completed a “British Invasion” tour earlier this year with Peter Asher of Peter & Gordon, Chad & Jeremy, and others, and also completed a UK tour with his current band, The Rising. His latest album is I Won The Fight, released in February 2014. A lot of his earlier music is available on YouTube.
Billy J. Kramer, your Two for Tuesday, June 9, 2015.