Jay & The Americans Biography

This US act was formed in 1961 when former Mystics vocalist John ‘Jay’ Traynor (2 November 1938) joined ex-Harbor Lites duo Kenny Rosenberg, aka Kenny Vance, and Sandy Yaguda, aka Sandy Deane. Howie Kane (b. Howard Kerschenbaum) completed the line-up, which in turn secured a recording contract through the aegis of the songwriting and production team, Leiber And Stoller. Jay And The Americans scored a US number 5 hit in March 1962 with their second single, the dramatic ‘She Cried’, but a series of misses exacerbated tension within the group and Traynor left for a low-key solo career. Bereft of a lead vocalist, the remaining trio recruited David ‘Jay’ Black (b. David Blatt, 2 November 1938) from the Empires. Dubbed ‘Jay’ to infer continuity, Black introduced fifth member Marty Saunders (guitar) to the line-up, and the following year established his new role with the powerful ‘Only In America’ (US number 25, August 1963). Initially intended for the Drifters, the song’s optimism was thought hypocritical for a black act and the Americans’ vocal was superimposed over the original backing track.

In 1964 Artie Ripp assumed the production reins for the quintet’s ‘Come A Little Bit Closer’, a US number 3 in September, followed by ‘Let’s Lock The Door (And Throw Away The Key)’ (US number 11, December 1964). The following year the group was assigned to Gerry Granahan who in turn secured a greater degree of consistency. ‘Cara, Mia’ (number 4), ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ (number 13) and ‘Sunday And Me’ (number 18, and Neil Diamond’s first major hit as a songwriter) all reached the US Top 20, and although ‘Livin’ Above Your Head’ was less successful (US number 76, July 1966), this enthralling performance is now recognized as one of the group’s finest recordings. The quintet’s brand of professional pop proved less popular as the 60s progressed, although revivals of ‘This Magic Moment’ (number 6, December 1968) and ‘Walkin’ In The Rain’ (number 19, November 1969) were US Top 20 hits. The latter featured the musical talents of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, later of Steely Dan, but at that point members of the Americans’ studio band. By the turn of the decade the group’s impetus was waning and with Vance embarking on solo recordings, Sanders writing and Deane producing, Jay Black was granted the rights to the group’s name. Further recordings did ensue and he continues to perform on the nostalgia circuit.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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