Sunday, March 18, 2007

The first Jay and the Americans

(Updated April 20, 2014)

Jay and the Americans were one of the greatest groups of the 60s. The main lead singer was Jay Black. But in their first couple of years the lead was Jay Traynor. He sang on their first classic hit "She Cried" in 1962, and on the resulting album. Jay Black came in starting with "Only In America" and "Come a Little Bit Closer".
Each of them was asked to use the name Jay. The real names were John Traynor and David Blatt. They were from the New York area.
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were the producers in the early years of The Americans. They had been working at Atlantic Records with The Drifters. When they left, they retained some rights to their productions. Only In America had been meant for The Drifters, and that recording exists, but was not released at the time. The instrumental backing was then used for The Americans' recording with Jay Black. Similarly, "Yes" was recorded by Ben E.King, and the backing track was reused for this terrific recording by Jay Traynor and the Americans. It was on the album, and also on a non-hit single in 1963, and it deserves more attention.
The next Americans' album, Come A Little Bit Closer, contained songs by both Black and Traynor. At Jay Traynor's website he lists exactly which songs he sang.
After about four singles, only one of which was a hit, Traynor left the group. He recorded some sol0 songs, most notably "I Rise I Fall" on the Coral label in 1964. It was not a hit, but is one of those that when you hear it, you say it could have been and should have been. You get mad at the radio stations for not playing it. The song was good enough for Johnny Tillotson to have a minor hit, and for Rick Nelson to include on his Decca "For You" album.
Someone should reissue Jay's rendition.
Jay Traynor is currently part of the East coast Tokens revival group, Jay Siegel and the Tokens.
Jay had one of the best voices of that era, perfectly suited for the time, and made She Cried an irresistible treasure.

Here Jay Traynor is at the Coral recording studio in 1964.
The flip side of this single was "How Sweet It Is",
also a good song.

The She Cried album with the original members, with Jay Traynor in the middle top.

To hear song samples press the title:
I Rise I Fall
How Sweet It Is
She Cried

John "Jay" Traynor died on January 2, 2014 and no longer has a website at:



Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

A more accurate story
Six high school classmates from the Belle Harbor neighborhood on Long Island formed the Harbor Lites, named after their neighborhood, in 1959. Among the six were Kenny Vance (nee Rosenberg, December 9, 1943), Sandy Yagoda (born January 30, 1943) and Sydell Sherman. Also living in the neighborhood was Irving Feldman, owner of Ivy Records. They sought out Feldman for an audition, but were turned away after being told they needed more practice. At that time the other three members left. After a few months of practice, they auditioned for Feldman again and were signed. In April 1960, their first single "Is it To Much To Ask" was released. It might have come out on Ivy, but was soon purchased by Jaro a small label run by the J. Arthur Rank Organization, a huge British entertainment complex. .With help from New York deejay Cousin Brucie it became a minor hit locally. Rank soon closed Jaro to concentrate on releases by its Top Rank subsidiary and the Harbor Lites were dropped. In 1960, the groups other single "Tick-a Tick-a Toc," which may have been released briefly by Jaro, came out on Mala label, a struggling, medium size New York company
The second single "She Cried" headed straight up the charts and reached #5 in the spring and early summer of 1962. The next single "This Is It" failed to chart. At this time Traynor decided to leave to pursue a solo career that began in 1963 with Coral Records. His first single "How Sweet It Is" went nowhere as did his last single "The Merry Go Round Is Slowing Down" three years later for ABC-Paramount Records.

Meanwhile, David Blatt (who called himself David Black, born November 2, 1938) and Marty Sanders (Born February 28, 1941) were also trying to record on the Ivy label. They recorded :Forgive Me" on the Atlantic label as the Two Chaps. Then in the spring of 1962, they sang with the Empires from Tilden High in Brooklyn, on the Epic label release of "Time and a Place." Marty was also playing guitar for Jay and the American sessions. While working on their album he asked to become a member.

Meanwhile the Americans were without a lead single. Marty Sander, the group's backup vocalist since "She Cried " sessions brought in his friend David Blatt (born 28, 1941) to audition. Blatt was the lead singer for the Empires, an all Jewish vocal group from Tilden High School in Brooklyn. Blatt won the spot. Reluctant to change the group's name to David and the Americans, David Blatt became Jay Black. Other names changed as well: Kenny Rosenberg became Kenny Vance; Howard Kirshenbaum became Howie Kane. With a new lead and three new names Jay and the Americans resumed its career. The next two singles, "Tomorrow" and "Strangers Tomorrow" failed to chart.

With the success of "She Cried," Jay and the Americans were booked on a continuous string of one nighter tours. The constant travel and failure of the next two singles caused Traynor to leave the group to go solo by mid-1963. The Americans without Traynor sang backup vocals on Bobby Goldsboro's "See the Funny Little Clown."

Early in 1963 The Drifters (produced by Leiber-Stoller since 1959) recorded a Mann/Weil composition called "Only In America." When Atlantic decided not to release it the vocals were erased and replaced by Jay and the Americans. "Only In America" was released in July, 1963 and became their first chart hit (#25) with Jay Black singing lead.

Leiber and Stoller's work with the Drifters and the Coasters caused them to turn over production of the group's material over to Artie Ripp of Kama Sutra Productions (Later to be Kama Sutra Records). One year and two singles later they had their biggest hit with "Come a Little Bit Closer" (#3). This resulted in the going on the Beatles first American tour in 1964, that also included the Righteous Brothers.

"Let's Lock the Door (#11) and "Think of the Good Times" both charted in the summer of 1965. At this time they began the second phase of their career with "Cara Mia" (#4). Beginning with Cara Mia" the group began covering successful oldies. Their next release was "Some Enchanted Evening" (#13) followed by Neil Diamond's first songwriting success "Sunday and Me" (#18).

Ten singles released between 1966 and 1968 produced only one top 30 record a remake of Roy Orbison's "Crying" (#25). Going back to originals, the public wasn't buying Jay and the Americans without a familiar song. They went back to the oldies reworking the Drifters, "This Magic Moment," which became their biggest hit since "Cara Mia" charting higher #6 than the original Drifters record #16.

From 1968 through 1971 they charted with three more remakes, that included the Turbans' "When You Dance, the Mystics' " Hushabye," and the Ronettes' "Walking in the Rain" (#19). Their last chart record was "Was Capture the Moment" in the spring of 1970 and their last single was the Drifters "There Goes My Baby." Singles continued to be issued through 1971, when the group disbanded.

In the early '70s Jay and the Americans did the oldies shows, with Jay Black staying as lead into the '80s while other members dropped out. Two band members at the time, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen went on to form Steely Dan. Kenny Vance began recording with record producer Joel Dorn (Roberta Flack) and recorded "Looking For an Echo in 1975. Vance's backup group included Eddie Brigatti of the Rascals, David Brigatti of the Hi-Five, Pete Anders of the Trade Winds, and most of the Americans minus Jay.

More than any groups of the 60s, Jay and the Americans paid tribute to the 50s vocal sound, singing songs by The Harptones, The Passions, The Cleftones. The Platters, The Skyliners, and The Impressions. The sound of Jay and the Americans has been dubbed as professional pop and that is pretty accurate. Jay and the Americans were greatly influenced by Leiber and Stoller's work with the Drifters and Ben. E. King in the early to the mid-60s. Jay and the Americans was one of the few successful groups to spend their entire career with one record label: all of their thirty-two singles and LPs were with United Artists.

GeorgeS said...

That was a good story by Anonymous #2. But you don't get paid for it.
I think Jackie DeShannon was also on that first Beatles tour.
1966-68 their songs simply were not well selected.

buy viagra said...
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sildenafil said...

I love music from the 60's, and Jay and the Americans is one of those groups that bring nice memories to me.The main lead singer Jay Black is my idol!

Anonymous said...

Norm Nite in his ' Rock On ' rock encyclopedia, claims Jay Traynor missed the ' She Cried ' recording session and studio musican Marty Sauders sang the lead and then joined the group as a vocalist. No one else has verified this so it must be a myth.

GeorgeS said...

I have Rock On vol 1 and he just says Sanders was asked to sing, nothing about lead or Traynor.

Anonymous said...

They were great. If you haven't heard the "new" Jay currently touring with Jay and The Americans, your missing out. It's the original Americans - Sandy, Marty, and Howie - and the new Jay is as good, if not better, than Jay Black.

Gail (Quincy, MA, USA) said...

I saw Jay #3 with Jay & the Americans this past Saturday evening at the Fishermen's Festival in the North End of Boston, Mass. I also doubted Jay #3 until he began singing. Although I think Jay Black's voice is a bit stronger, there is no doubt that Jay #3 is fabulous in the role as lead singer for this wonderful band. May JATA live on for many more years to come!

Anonymous said...

No matter who sang both Jay's were outstanding. We'll never know for sure how great Jay Trayno would have been if he would have stayed with The Americans, most likely very great. Jay Black had such a beautiful and strong voice that I love. No one in the world caould have sang Cara Mia the way he did.I could listen to it all day. At any rate, Jay and The Americans were one of the best groups that ever lived and I'll play their songs forever.

Anonymous said...

CARA MIA and THIS MAGIC MOMENT perfectly illustrated Jay Black's GREAT voice of THE BEST!!!!
SOME ENCHANTED EVENING , like CARA MIA featured the wonderful opera quality voice of Jay Black.
I can listen to these three songs for hours. GREAT music that brings back Great times of the past!