The day I discovered “From a Window” I played it on repeat for hours. Billy J. Kramer’s voice had a unique combination of tenderness, refinement and vigor, gently emphasized by the unmistakable beat of a Lennon/McCartney creation. Smiling confident, the 20-year old Billy J. Kramer is offering a touchingly brilliant performance. No wonder the fans that are shouting louder and louder, in the background, at each twist of tone. Later on, I found other covers of this song, but none of them surpassed the verve and intensity of Billy J. Kramer’s voice.

50 years had passed and this recording is still mesmerizing hundreds of people. This afternoon, with the song’s good vibes filling the room, I was eagerly waiting for the phone call of … Billy J. Kramer! He kindly agreed to offer me an interview, about his career and future plans. Billy J. Kramer is launching his new album, “I Won The Fight”. This CD contains 10 brand new songs, 4 of which were written by Billy.

Billy J. Kramer (born William Howard Ashton) is a Liverpool legend, managed by Brian Epstein, who also promoted The Beatles, Gerry & the Pacemakers or Cilla Black. He recorded several original Lennon and McCartney compositions. With record producer George Martin, the song “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” was a number 1 UK Singles Chart hit in 1963, and was backed by another tune, “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. [Source: Wikipedia]

OldiesMusicBlog: How did you choose your name? I’ve read that the name Kramer was chosen at random from a telephone book. Is it true or it’s just a legend?

Billy J. Kramer: Yes, it’s true. And just before I released my first record, Brian Epstein said: “John [Lennon] has an idea. He says you should call yourself Billy J., to add a little bit of sound to it”. And it was a great idea!

OMB: How did you meet Brian Epstein?

I met Brian Epstein as I was popular in Liverpool. I met him during a concert and he started to use me in shows before The Beatles. He eventually asked me if I would like him to manage me.

OMB: Do you remember your first performance? How old were you?

I would say I was 7 years old and I sang in the choir.

OMB: I’m sure you get this question all the time. How were The Beatles?

I liked them all, I thought they were all wonderful people. I got on very well with them, with John, Paul and George and then with Ringo. At first, I didn’t know him very well, but I got to know him. They were all great people, they were wonderful to work with!

OMB: Were you close to all of them?

I still see Ringo, I still see Paul from times to times. They are not The Beatles to me, they are the people I knew when I grew up in Liverpool, we were all in the same position. I am very pleased I was there in those years, it was a fantastic experience!

OMB: What was like to be part of the British Invasion phenomenon?

The British Invasion was something that the press invented and I was proud to be a part of it.

OMB: What about the fans, how were they treating you?

They tore my clothes off! [laughing]

OMB: I consider that, back then, fans were more passionate. They were screaming, they were shouting. How about now?

They are older now and they listen to the music and that’s a great thing. Fans have grown with the music.


OMB: What do you consider to be your greatest hit?

Some people say “Bad To Me”, some people say “Little Children”. But to me, to have a record with double A-side, like “Little Children”, was fantastic!

OMB: As far as I’m concerned, my favourite song is “From a Window”.

“From a Window” is a good record. But, you know, the thing is that “Bad To Me” will always have a place in my heart. It was the song that John Lennon played to me in a small room, on his own. It was such a great experience! He played me the songs “Bad To Me” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” – I was one of the first people in the world who ever heard that song.

OMB: Can you tell me more about “Bad To Me”?

John told me about this song on my 20th birthday. What more could somebody ask than to have John Lennon sing and write a song for him! That was a big honour!

OMB: Looking back to all these years, what was the greatest recognition that you ever received?

It’s a great honour when you’ve got very high, when you’re in newspapers or stores. But to me the best thing is to be yourself. The early days were consumed by my career. Rock ’n’ Roll is a fantastic thing. As time goes by, you have both ups and downs, but you have to keep your feet on the ground, to be a good person. Now, I feel very good about myself, I still work, I’m still able to sing well. I thank the Lord for the things I can do, I still perform and I’m making a new album.


OMB: What can you tell me about your new album?

I like it very much, I think it’s different from my “Bad To Me” days. I hope the fans will really enjoy it! I’ve worked on it very hard for the last 7-8 months. Some of the songs are songs I always wanted to record. I am very pleased. The album is going to be officially released at The Feast for Beatle fans, on the 6th of April. I will perform my songs and I will also perform the Lennon/ McCartney songs as well.


OMB: The name of the album is “I Won The Fight”. What fight did you win?

We all have different fights, in different ways. I feel that now I am very comfortable with myself, which I was not before. In my early days, I loved the success, but it was something that was very hard for me to cope with. And now I just feel I won the fight!

Categories: Interviews, The Beatles

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