William Howard Ashton was born in Liverpool. After an apprenticeship at British Railways (later British Rail), he began a singing career as “Billy Kramer”. Shortly thereafter, a friend (John Lennon) suggested he add the “J”. Having become Billy J. Kramer, he acquired a manager (Brian Epstein, who had a great deal of success with some other performers from Liverpool).
Kramer’s manager put him together with a group from Manchester called “The Dakotas”, whose manager had given them that name because, for some reason, he wanted them to do a show dressed up like American Indians.
In 1963, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas recorded John Lennon’s “Bad to Me”. It reached #1 in the U.K. and #9 in the U.S.
Two years later, they had their last U.K. hit with “Trains and Boats and Planes”, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It didn’t do well in the U.S., losing out to the version by Dionne Warwick (born Marie Dionne Warrick in East Orange, New Jersey). But I think it’s worth hearing.