Billy J. Kramer will perform at this year’s Fest for Beatles Fans in Rosemont.
The Fest for Beatles Fans
Billy J. Kramer; Chad & Jeremy; Joey Molland; Chas Newby; Freda Kelly
♦ Aug. 9-11
♦ Hyatt Regency O’Hare, 9300 Bryn Mawr, Rosemont
♦ Tickets: $34 Friday; $57 Sat.-Sun.
With 50 years in show business, Billy J. Kramer has been more than a rock ’n’ roll survivor. His new CD is called “I Won the Fight,” and that’s just how he’s feeling as he comes to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont tthis weekend as a headliner at the annual Fest for Beatles Fans.
“I said to myself if you’ve been in show business for 50 years and been through what I’ve been through, good and bad, you’ve definitely won the fight,” said Liverpool native and Beatles friend Kramer, who will be performing new songs and his ’60s hits at the Fest.
Other guests include British Invasion-era hitmakers Chad and Jeremy, making their first Chicago-area Fest appearance, Badfinger guitarist Joey Molland, original Beatles Fan Club secretary Freda Kelly, and Chas Newby, a temporary Beatle at four gigs in 1960.
In the early ’60s Kramer, played the same Liverpool clubs as the Fab Four. It was his friend John Lennon who came to a Kramer session at Abbey Road to introduce him to “Bad to Me,” which Kramer took to No. 1 in the U.K. and No. 9 in the U.S. His hits also include Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “I’ll Keep You Satisfied,” “From a Window” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret?”
In November 1963, when business took Beatles/Kramer manager Brian Epstein to New York, Kramer was the first artist Epstein brought to the United States.
“I think Brian thought I had this clean image that might be right for America,” said Kramer, a U.S. resident fornearly 30 years. “I did some local TV, I did some radio, and I saw the sights. We had a great trip together.”
Kramer wrote four songs on the new album (available at billyjkramersite.com/IWTF). His past, present and future intermingle as he rocks through “I Won the Fight,” “You Can’t Live on Memories” and “To Liverpool with Love,” with shoutouts to John and Paul and to his former manager (“Why isn’t Brian Epstein/In the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?)” “Sunsets of Santa Fe” was inspired by the view from Kramer’s house in New Mexico.
Kramer’s recording career was interrupted by Epstein’s death in 1967, but he persevered, playing cabarets, clubs and one-night stands in the U.K., Australia, Africa — anywhere people wanted to listen.
“When Brian died, it was a time when he was about to form his own label,” Kramer said. “I was going to record with Brian’s label, and my EMI contract was finishing. I tried to continue making records independently. But I didn’t have the big guns behind me. So it was very difficult.”
Did he ever tire of the old hits or say he never wanted to play them again?
“I NEVER said that,” he said emphatically. “I feel it’s an artist’s duty to the audience who came along to hear these songs to do them. I’ve done other material, but I’ve always included the old songs too.”
John Grochowski is a local free-lance writer.