The Dakotas

the-dakotasFrom: Manchester, England

The Dakotas formed in Manchester England, and are most closely associated with singer Billy J. Kramer, a Liverpudlian who was the lead vocalist for the group during the 1960s. In the USA they are regarded as part of the British invasion.

The band got their name from an engagement at the Plaza Ballroom in Oxford Street, Manchester. Their manager asked them to return the next week dressed as Native Americans and called them the Dakotas. The Dakotas were founded in September 1960 by rhythm guitarist Robin MacDonald, with Bryn Jones (lead guitar), Tony Bookbinder (drums) and Ian Fraser (bass). Shortly after, Ray Jones was brought in on bass, replacing Fraser. Mike Maxfield replaced Bryn Jones on lead guitar in 1962 after being with a Manchester band called the Coasters. From February 1962 t0 January 1963, the Dakotas backed Pete MacLaine. However, Brian Epstein, who was managing Billy J. Kramer, made the Dakotas an offer to become Kramer’s backing band, which they accepted. Epstein was insistent that the name was Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas, not “and”. The group went to Hamburg to perfect their act.

The Dakotas developed a name for themselves as Kramer’s backing band, however, the group itself is perhaps best known for their instrumental single “The Cruel Sea,” a composition of Maxfield’s that reached #18 in the UK charts in July 1963. In the US, the song was retitled “The Cruel Surf” and was covered by The Ventures. In September 1963, the Dakotas released “Magic Carpet” by George Martin, but it was not a hit. In November 1964, they released their next single, “Oyeh”, which was also unsuccessful.

Ray Jones and Epstein had several conflicts, resulting in Jones leaving the group in July 1964. MacDonald moved to bass and Mick Green was brought in as the new lead guitarist. Green was previously a member of Johnny Kidd and The Pirates. The Dakotas continued to record with Kramer as well as under their own name. Maxfield left in 1965 to focus on songwriting, leaving the band as a trio. In 1966, former Pirates drummer Frank Farley replaced Mansfield.

Kramer’s career began to decline as a result of his alcoholism. This also caused the decline of The Dakotas’ career. Kramer departed the band in September 1967, and the band folded the following year. MacDonald, Green and Farley would go on to join Cliff Bennet’s backing band.

In the late 1980s, the Dakotas reformed, recruited vocalist Eddie Mooney and session musician Toni Baker. After Mansfield left to pursue a solo career in finance and Maxfield suffered a stroke, Pete Hilton (drums) and Alan Clare (guitar) were added. Over the years, The Dakotas have appeared on nostalgia 1960s package tours in their own right, as well as backing artists such as Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, Wayne Fontana and John Walker of The Walker Brothers. The band worked with British comedian Peter Kay on the 2004 hit TV series Phoenix Nights and Max and Paddy.

Eddie Mooney was invited to front The Fortunes in December 2007, after their lead singer, Rod Allen, died after sudden illness. He went on to join the band full-time. In December 2010 the Dakotas added Marius Jones (bass) and Ronnie Ravey (vocals), bringing them back to the original formula of a 5 piece outfit.

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From the 1968 single Philips BF 1645

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