Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas

BiIlyJ. Kramer (William Ashton) vocals
Mike Maxfield lead guitar
Robin Macdonald rhythm guitar (switched to bass August'64)
RayJones bass guitar (left August'64)
Tony Mansfield drums
Mick Green rhythm guitar (joined August'64)

Billy J. Kramer, who like Gerry Marsden made his living working for British Railways, and originally played guitar in a group during the skiffle boom of the late Fifties, was lead singer of a Liverpool group called the Coasters when Brian Epstein saw them perform in 1963. He didn't like the group, but he liked Billy, and having signed him to an exclusive contract, placed him in front of the leading Manchester group The Dakotas and had him record a new Lennon-McCartney composition 'Do you want to know a secret?'.

Kramer's soft, straightforward singing suited the song well, and it quickly became the third No. 1 with Liverpool connections, confirming the arrival of Merseybeat as a nationwide craze - the Dakotas' non-Liverpudlian origins were not stressed. (The Coasters, incidentally, carried on in the 'Pool as backing group forthe boy singer Chick Graham.)
The follow-up, 'Bad to me', was another No. 1, and an instrumental by the Dakotas, 'The Cruel Sea', made the Top Twenty at about the same time.

Four more reasonably big hits followed, the most successful being 'Little Children' by the American song writers Mort Shuman and John Leslie McFarland, which gave Billy J. Kramer his second million-seller (March 1964). After that the group seemed to lose its grip on the public. Billy was essentially an unexciting singer, especially in live performance, and his record success:,depended on strong material.

The group were unable to write hit songs themselves, and they only made the Top Twenty once after the summer of 1964 (with a Burt Bacharach song 'Trains and Boats and Planes'). Kramer himself failed to establish an image, and attempts to make a come-back have not been widely successful in terms of the charts, although he still plays the variety-club circuit.

SINGLES

  • April  1963   Do you want to know a secret?/I'll be on my way 1
  • July   1963   Bad to me/I call your name 1
  • Oct   1963   I'll keep you satisfied/ I know   4
  • Feb   1964   Little Children/They remind me of you  1
  • July   1964   From a window/Second to none   10
  • Jan   1965   It's gotta last forever/ Don't you do it no more
  • May  1965   Trains and Boats and Planes/ That's the way I feel  12
  • Nov   1965   Neon City/I'll be doggone
  • Feb   1966   We're doing fine/ Forgive me 
  • Aug   1966   You make me feel like someone/Take my hand

Billy J. Kramer

  • Jan   1967   Sorry/Going Going Gone
  • Apr   1967   Town of Tuxley Toymaker part one/ Chinese girl

The Dakotas

  • July  1963   The Cruel Sea/The Millionaire    18
  • Sept  1963   Magic Carpet/ Humdinger
  • Nov  1964   0yeh/My girl Josephine

EPs

  • Sept 1963 The Kramer Hits
    Do you want to know a secret?/ I'll be on my way/
    Bad to me/I call your name
  • Dec 1963
    I'll keep you satisfied/ I know/ Dance with me/It's up to you
  • May 1964 Little Children
    Little Children/They remind me of you/ Beautiful Dreamer/ I call your name
  • Nov 1964
    From a window/Second to none/ Dancewith me/Twelfth of never
  • Feb 1965   Billy J. plays the States
    Sugar Babe/Twilight time/ Tennessee Waltz/ Irresistible you

The Dakotas

  • Oct  1963
    The Cruel Sea/ Magic Carpet/
    The Millionaire/Humdinger

LPs

  • Jan  1964  Listen
    Dance with me/ Pride (is such a little word)/
    I know/ Yes/ Twelfth of never/Sugar Babe/
    Da doo ron ron/ It's up to you/ Great balls of fire/
    Tell me Girl/ Anything that's part of you/
    Beautiful Dreamer/ Still waters run deep/
    I call your name

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