Spotlight of the Month
1960s Recording Artists of the Month
Jay and The Americans
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 everyone.
They first hit the Billboard charts in 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 Empires took 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 group's existence.
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 announcemnet 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, called Sands 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 the 45 Years of Motown special on PBS. As of 2006, Black and his current band continue to tour as "Jay Black and the Americans."