Billy J Kramer

Interview by Dennis Morgillo

Billy J Kramer 
- Dennis Morgillo

Madhouse: what was it like growing up in liverpool during the war and post world war II. 
Billy J Kramer: it was tough - liverpool was heavily bombed during wwii, the buildings were destroyed. i was just a kid but my parents told me most nights we would go to our air raid shelter in the yard. 

Madhouse: You started as a guitar player. who influenced you?
Billy: I didn’t think about that at the time? Just the older guys in the neighborhood. Then when I got a little older, it was Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino and Eddie Cochran.

Madhouse: What is Skiffle Music?
Billy: Skiffle is played with Acoustic Guitars, a Washboard and the Bass is a Broom Handle. It was very popular in England. The biggest was Lonnie Donngegan. But if you trace the music back, it goes back to the American Folk Music. 

Madhouse: How did your relationship with The Beatles come about?.
Billy J: I was playing at the same places as The Beatles. The cavern club and many other places. And then I got to know them and we became friends. 

Madhouse: What was it like to see The Beatles at the Cavern Club?
Billy J: I have said this many times. If you havent seen the Beatles at The Cavern Club, you havent seen the Beatles. There was no screaming kids, they would play for a long time. It was great to see and hear them. I was very fortunate. I worked for the Railroad and I would hop on a train to go see them. I always knew something big was going to happen with them. 

Madhouse: What was it like touring Hamburg?
Billy J: It was my first professional tour. I thought it was like a den of eniquity. I was a young kid from Liverpool and it was crazy. 

Madhouse: You shared the Beatles Manager of course, Brian Epstein. He was very important to you and your career. What did he mean to you? 
Billy J: I dressed very colorfully in my younger days. He took me to a tailor and bought me some suits. He was instrumental in what songs I sang, how I sang them and how I introduced them. He was a very nice man.

Madhouse: You were very instrumental in getting Brian Epstein inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame.
Billy J: Yes I wrote the song ‘To Liverpool With Love’. It was ridiculous to me that Brian brought us the biggest act the world has ever known and he wasn’t in the Hall of Fame. I am glad the Hall of Fame has since corrected that.

Madhouse: What was it like working with George Martin?
Billy J: I was very overwhelmed by it all. I was very lucky to have worked with him. John and Paul wrote great songs for me. I was intimidated in the beginning, but I learned a lot and grew past that. 

Madhouse: You were the first person to record a Beatles song.
Billy J: I had a #1 hit in England with ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ before the Beatles even recorded it themselves. I recorded ‘I Call Your Name’ a year and a half before they recorded it. 

Madhouse: In the U.S you were the only person to ever have both sides of a single in the top 10!
Billy J: That was ‘Little Children’ and ‘Bad To Me’. It was amazing and quite a feat. I was quite lucky. 

Madhouse: This was one of the most exciting times in Music History. Do you think there will ever be anyone like the Beatles again?
Billy J: No. I think it was just one of those freak things, and will never happen again. It was a phenomenon. 

Madhouse: You were the first British Artist of the time to tour the U.S.
Billy J: It was very exciting. It was a whole different world coming to America. 

Madhouse: The Beatles had each other when they toured, You were basically alone, because Brian Epstein put you together with The Dakotas who were strangers. 
Billy J: It was very hard. They hung out with people they know. I hung out with people I knew. It was a strange working relationship. But It was successful. It was very hard living and working with strangers. It was very frustrating.

Madhouse: What was it like doing the TAMI concert? 
Billy J: It was amazing. It was me, The Stones, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Miracles and others, all in one show. My heart went out to the Stones. The Stones closed the show after James Brown. Mick was terrified. I was glad I went on earlier. You can get that concert on DVD. 

Madhouse: Did you do all the TV Shows of the time? 
Billy J: Yes I did the Ed Sullivan Show, Hullabaloo, ShinDig, all the shows. 

Madhouse: Your latest CD is ‘I Won The Fight’. Tell us about that. 
Billy J: Life is basically a fight, Everyone has ups and downs. I thought I would just write ‘Liverpool with Love’ but it just took off from there. Other songs are ‘Breakfast in Marin’, ‘Sunsets of Santa Fe’.  I overcame a lot of struggles in life and I am in a good place now. That’s how I came up with the name. 

Madhouse: Your autobiography is called “Do You Wanna Know A Secret”. How did this come together. 
Billy J: I was talking to Frank Stallone and he asked me when I was going to do my autobiography. I said, I would love to but can’t find anyone to do it. So he introduced me to Alyn Shipton who did the Harry Nilsson book. It’s basically my life, Sex and Drugs and Rock n Roll. I think it’s a good story. I tried to give people some insight into myself.

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