Billy J. Kramer
By Bill Harry
Billy vividly remembers his first
realization that the Beatles were something special.
"The first time I heard of them was when they played at Litherland Town Hall. I remember Cliff Roberts & the Rockers were on at the time, but the only group who knocked me out were Kingsize Taylor & the Dominoes. I was a group freak.
"Bob Wooler announced that the next week they would be presenting a group just back from Hamburg: the Beatles. I stopped in my tracks, I thought 'I must go and see them.'
"The Beatles had Stu playing bass on that occasion. McCartney had a black and green Rosetti guitar, Lennon had a Rickenbacker and George had a Gretsch. That was during the time when guitars were displayed in glass cases, not just hung up on the walls like they are today. I remember going into Rushworth's and being awed by the guitars in the cases.
"When the Coasters had been given an audition by Brian Kelly at Aintree Institute, the venue opposite the Coronation pub in Linacre Lane, we had to travel to the gig by 61 bus, me, the boys and all our gear. That was when I had my first meeting with Lennon.
"He was just lounging about in the dressing room and I asked him about his Rickenbacker guitar and he let me have a go on it. I'd seen the Fender guitar and the Gibson and the Gretsch, but I hadn't seen a Rickenbacker. The fact that he had one must have put him on the market. Paul was there with his Rosetti, unplugged and with strings missing!
"I also remember them on the Bluegenes night at the Cavern. They'd come back from Hamburg and Stu had left. I was freaked out by the whole band when I saw them at the Cavern. McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Pete Best. McCartney was playing bass and they were into leather. It was a lot slicker, the space between numbers had been tightened up a lot and the vocal backings and everything, the whole thing flowed better. They had a restricted repertoire, but I
realized that Lennon and McCartney had character.
"As far as the Pete Best situation is concerned, I don't think the Beatles were any better with Ringo Starr, despite the things that were said in the press at the time.
"I remember one gig when there was a 'battle of the bands' between the Beatles and the Strangers and when Bob Wooler said, 'Let's hear it one more time with John, Paul, George and.....Pete Best!', the kids just freaked out when Pete's name was mentioned.
"I never doubted Ringo's ability as a drummer. He was perfect for what the Beatles did on record, but I thought they were a lot more raw and raucous with Pete Best. I was there that night at the Cavern when everyone was chanting 'we want Pete!'"
Billy's reflections flit around, not keeping to any chronological order, and he mentioned, 'I remember them being interviewed on TV after Beatlemania had happened. They said 'We've done as much as we can on the road, we're going to go into the studios to find out just how far we can go.'
"I know that Brian always had doubts about their musical ability on their instruments but I always thought Paul McCartney a unique player on bass. He had a completely different style of playing, very simple but very impressive.