Singers Tommy Quickly and Billy J. Kramer were two of Merseybeat’s rising stars back in November 1964.

Both were part of Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein’s growing stable of performers and were being carefully groomed for success in the UK hit parade.

Kramer had teamed up with Manchester band the Dakotas to top the charts with Bad to Me and Little Children in 1963, while Quickly had released the Lennon and McCartney single Tip of My Tongue.

Fans try to reach Tommy Quickly at the Liverpool Christmas lights’ switch-on, November 1964

Fans try to reach Tommy Quickly at the Liverpool Christmas lights’ switch-on, November 1964

So it was no surprise when the pair were asked to switch on the Christmas lights in Liverpool city centre to mark the start of the 1964 festive season.

The only problem was that Kramer arrived too late so Quickly had to fly solo in front of hundreds of delighted fans.

But the duo were united when they decided to donate their appearance fee to charity. Our picture shows them proudly presenting a cheque to Miss K.M. Sabin, Matron of the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital, for the Christmas toy fund.

Tommy Quickly waves to the crowds after switching on Liverpool’s Christmas lights, November 1964

Tommy Quickly waves to the crowds after switching on Liverpool’s Christmas lights, November 1964

Kramer and Quickly were both full of promise at Christmas 1964, but their paths diverged soon after. Kramer went on to become an established artist, but the naïve and impulsive Quickly never quite hit the big time.

Quickly was born Thomas Quigley in Norris Green, Liverpool, in July 1945 – the twin brother of Patricia Quigley.

Epstein first noticed him as a vocalist with local group the Challengers, but decided he’d do better working with rock band the Remo Four. 

Singer Billy J. Kramer at a Variety Club party, September 1963

Singer Billy J. Kramer at a Variety Club party, September 1963

In 1963, the Remo Four backed Quickly on Tip of My Tongue after signing a contract with Piccadilly Records. They also released a version of Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme.

Epstein was pushing Quickly, who was still only 18, toward pop songs although many thought his voice was probably best suited to rhythm and blues. 

He was also heavily promoted as part of Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises team which included Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Moody Blues.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney who wrote for Tommy Quickly and Billy J. Kramer, July 1965

John Lennon and Paul McCartney who wrote for Tommy Quickly and Billy J. Kramer, July 1965

Tip of My Tongue failed to set the charts alight – and Quickly’s next three singles fared little better. Things looked up in 1964 when his version of the Hank Thompson song Wild Side of Life went to No. 33 in the UK.

After turning down the chance to record the Beatles’ song No Reply, Quickly quit the music industry in 1965. He briefly hosted the children’s TV show The Five O’Clock Club, making his final appearance in January 1966.

While Quickly struggled to come to terms with fame, Billy J. Kramer was going from strength to strength with the Dakotas.

Brian Epstein, centre, and Cilla Black with Tommy Quickly and Billy J. Kramer, April 1964

Brian Epstein, centre, and Cilla Black with Tommy Quickly and Billy J. Kramer, April 1964

Born in Bootle in August 1943, Kramer attended St George of England Secondary School before becoming an apprentice engineer with British Rail. He played rhythm guitar before switching to lead vocals.

His real name was William Howard Ashton.  The alias Kramer came from a telephone directory and John Lennon told him to add the ‘J’ to give him a tougher edge.

Working with record producer George Martin, Kramer and the Dakotas released the Beatles’ song Do You Want to Know a Secret in early 1963. It went to No. 2 in the UK charts.

Beatles’ producer George Martin who worked with Billy J. Kramer, January 1970

Beatles’ producer George Martin who worked with Billy J. Kramer, January 1970

In July 1963, Kramer and the Dakotas topped the hit parade with another Lennon and McCartney dual A-side composition – Bad to Me and I Call Your Name.

Bad to Me sold more than a million copies, and was followed up with another Beatles’ number, I’ll Keep You Satisfied. It peaked at No. 4 in the singles charts in November 1963.

Kramer and the Dakotas departed from Lennon and McCartney in March 1964 to release one of their most well-known singles – the J. Leslie McFarland and Mort Shuman song Little Children. It went to Number One in the UK and No. 7 in the USA.

Dionne Warwick also recorded the Billy J. Kramer single Trains and Boats and Planes, March 1965

Dionne Warwick also recorded the Billy J. Kramer single Trains and Boats and Planes, March 1965

At the height of their fame, Kramer and the Dakotas appeared in no less than 10 episodes of the TV pop show Ready Steady Go! as well as the programme’s Mod Ball at the Empire Pool, Wembley, in April 1964.

Kramer’s career faltered in 1965 when his ballad It’s Gotta Last Forever failed to chart and the Merseybeat boom started to tail off.

There was a brief revival when his version of the Burt Bacharach and Hal David classic Trains and Boats and Planes went to No. 12 in the UK, but enjoyed nothing like the success of the Dionne Warwick rendition.

Kramer and the Dakotas then parted company with Kramer releasing a string of singles up to 1984. None of them made the Top 50.

Billy J. Kramer, centre, and Tommy Quickly donate their appearance fees to the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital, November 1964

Billy J. Kramer, centre, and Tommy Quickly donate their appearance fees to the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital, November 1964