Do you want to know a secret? Like how Billy got his name

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Do you want to know a secret? Billy J Kramer is heading back to the UK for his first British tour for 18 years, and he’s bringing some friends with him.

Yes, it’s the annual Solid Silver 60’s Tour celebrating its own little 30 year milestone. Organisers have pulled out all the stops to make this year’s tour even more memorable.

With Billy, will be his own band The Rising, and the rest of the bill is made up of some of the stellar names of the decade.

Mike Pender was the original voice of The Searchers and his is the voice we heard on all the bands’ hits, including ‘Sweets For My Sweet’, ‘Sugar and Spice’ and of course ‘Needles and Pins’.

Chris Farlowe will be entertaining us with that legendary blues voice with hits like ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ and ‘Out of Time’.

P P Arnold, whose voice graced such classics as ‘Angel of the Morning’ and ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’ will also be on stage; all backed by The New Amen Corner (‘If Paradise is Half as Nice’, ‘Bend Me Shape Me’).

And special guests The Merseybeats will perform their own hits, which include ‘I Think of You’, ‘Don’t Turn Around’ and ‘Wishin’ and Hopin’’.

But much excitement heralded the announcement that Billy J Kramer would be performing.

“Firstly, it was the scheduling that made it difficult for me to come over to tour as often as I’d like.” Billy tells me from his home in the US.

“Also, I didn’t want to be one of those artists who did tour after tour and people getting fed up of them.

“I don’t want to be a mouse on a wheel.”

Billy, with his original band The Dakotas, was at the forefront of the Beat Music scene, first charting in May 1963 with ‘Do You Want To Know a Secret’ which got to number two in the charts.

He followed it up with the chart-topping ‘Bad To Me’, ‘I’ll Keep You Satisfied’ (4), the classic ‘Little Children’ (another number one), ‘From a Window (10) and ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ (12).

Hailing from Bootle on Merseyside and managed by Brian Epstein, Billy tells me how he got his name.

Born William Ashton in 1943, he formed his first band when in his teens, and he was always known as Billy, but Brian Epstein thought he needed another name to go with ‘Billy’.

“They made a list and of all the names on it, they thought that ‘Kramer’ was the best.” Billy says.

“To be honest, I thought it was just a novelty and wouldn’t last long.”

“Then of course, John Lennon suggested the ‘J’.”

This won’t be the first time in the UK for his band The Rising.

“No, we came to Liverpool three years ago and did a few shows, but you couldn’t call it a tour.

“They’re a very good band and we’ve been together a while now so we’re like a family. They’re all great musicians.”

Billy has recently released a new album, entitled ‘I Won The Fight’, it’s his first studio album in 30 years and is also autobiographical.

“That’s right,” he states. “It’s been 50 years in the making really.”

“My first albums weren’t artistically developed, I was just singing songs. But then I started writing a couple of songs and it evolved.”

One of the tracks is very special to Billy, so special that there’s two versions of it on the album.

“It’s called ‘To Liverpool With Love’ and I wanted to write something about the city and my feelings to it. I also added some words about Brian Epstein as he was my mentor and I thought he’s been left out in the cold.”

How so?

“Well, he brought the biggest band in the world up and he had never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

“Then when it was announced that he would be inducted in 2014, I recorded a new version.”

“I sent a copy of the song to Paul McCartney and he told me that it really captured the period.”

So as well as a few tracks from his new album, Billy says he’ll perform what everybody wants to hear.

“Yeah, you’re gonna hear all my hits.”

Of all his hits, I wondered if there were any that gave him a feeling of pride.

“Well, ‘Little Children’ gives me a lot of pride, as well as ‘Bad To Me’, after all, it was my first Number One and a John Lennon song. In fact, I’m proud of all my records.”

Although he is looking forward to the whole tour, he singles out one particular place.

“I’m really looking forward to Liverpool, my home town.” And of the fans who come to see him play he is very appreciative.

“It’s wonderful that all these people have given me a great life and a great career, I’m very grateful for it, and I’m grateful in being able to do it.”

The 30th anniversary tour of The Solid Silver Sixties Show, with Billy J Kramer & The Rising, Mike Pender, Chris Farlowe, P P Arnold, The Merseybeats and The New Amen Corner will be appearing at The Victoria Theatre, Halifax on March 26th.

Tickets are available from the Box Office and all the usual agencies.

Next Week: The chance to win one of six sets of tickets in our Dreamboats and Miniskirts competition.