The original lead singer of the group was John "Jay" Traynor, who had been with the Mystics in
the late 50's. He got together with a group called the Harbor Lites in New York City late in 1959 from among a
group of students at New York University. Among the group members were Sandy Deane (a.k.a. Sandy Yaguda),
Sidell Sherman and Kenny Rosenberg (a.k.a Kenny Vance).
They were discovered while performing in student venues at New
York University in the late 1950s. They auditioned for Leiber and Stoller who gave the group its name. In the
manner of the time, Leiber and Stoller wanted to extend this to "Binky Jones and the Americans", but Traynor
declined to be known as Binky Jones his whole career. He instead offered up "Jay", a family nickname, and it suited
They first hit the Billboard Chartsin 1962 with the tune "She Cried"; its highest charting was #5. The next two singles didn't
fare nearly as well, and John Traynor left the group. David Black (né David
Blatt) of The Empirestook his place (after first agreeing to adopt
the name Jay Black. Empires' guitarist Marty Sanders also joined. Black sang lead for the rest of the
They returned to the charts in 1963 with "Only In America", a song
originally meant for The Drifters. The biggest hits for the Americans were "Come a Little Bit Closer" in 1964,
which hit #3, and "Cara Mia" in 1965 which hit #4. The Americans also recorded a commercial for H.I.S. Slacks, and
a public service announcement for the Ad Council, featuring a backing track by Brian Wilson and Phil Spector. In 1968 they recorded
an album of their favorite oldies remade fresh, calledSands of
Time, and the single from the album was "This Magic Moment", which
also came through the Drifters. This was the last Top Ten record for the Americans, although a follow-up
album,Wax Museum, did yield the
#19 hit "Walkin' In The Rain", first recorded by The Ronettes.
Other notable hits included "Sunday and Me," written by Neil
Diamond which reached #18 on the Billboard Charts, "Let's Lock the Door (And Throw Away the Key) #11 on the
Billboard Charts, and "Some Enchanted Evening," reaching #13 on Billboard.
While the other members moved on to solo musical careers,
Jay Black continued to perform as Jay and the Americans until the1980 , with a variety of musicians,
including Walter Becker and Donald Feagan, who would later found Steely Dan. The group reunited in the 1990s
for special performances, most notably the45 Years of
Motown special on PBS. As of 2006, Black and his current band
continue to tour as "Jay Black and the Americans."