Introduction to Jay and the Americans


Jay and The Americans are a pop group who first made waves in the 60s music era. They originally came from Queens, New York, and began performing in New York University.  They were eventually discovered by the famous songwriting team Leiber and Stoller, in the late 1950s.

They achieved their first huge hit “She Cried,” (with singer Jay Traynor in the lead) in 1962. Traynor left the group when their two subsequent singles failed to make to the charts.  He was replaced by David “Jay” Black, who seemed to have the magic wand for the group – since his inclusion, they began to achieve one hit single after another, particularly:  “Come A Little Bit Closer,” “Cara Mia,” and “This Magic Moment.”

Their other singles also made notches on the Top 40 as well.  In 1973, the group disbanded.  In 2006, Jay Black sold the band’s name to pay off his debts he incurred from excessive gambling.  From this, Jay’s former mates reunited and took on another singer John Reincke whose nickname was, coincidentally, “Jay.”  With the third Jay in tow, they began to return touring and performing once more, mostly reviving their own hits.

The early years of Jay and The Americans

The music pop group Jay and the Americans experienced the peak of their career during the 60s music scene with their hits like “Come a Little Bit Closer,” Cara Mia” among others. The founding members of the band were Howard Kane, Sandy Deanne, Kenny Vance and John “Jay” Traynor, who was the lead singer. After being spotted in New York University, they were led to an audition for the famous songwriting team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who gave them the name “Jay and the Americans.”

Jay and The Americans releases

Signing to United Artists label in 1962, Jay and the Americans had their first real hit with “She Cried” which peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.  After following a couple of low-charting singles, Traynor departed the group to become a solo artist. Following Traynor’s departure, guitarist Marty Sanders of The Empires was recruited. The band also brought in their vocalist David Black to fill in for Traynor’s slot. Since the band was still billed with Trayton’s first name, Black was soon convinced to temporarily use “Jay” as his first name.

In 1963, Jay and the Americans released the song “Only in America” that was supposed to be recorded by the doo-wop band The Drifters. Anyway, the song became a sizable hit on the Hot 100, peaking there at #25. In the following year, they scored a bigger hit with the song “Come a Little Bit Closer” which reached at #3 on the Billboard pop chart. It was followed by another Top 10 pop hit with “Cara Mia,” peaking at #4.

The band came out with another album in 1968 which was called Sands of Time. The carrier single “This Magic Moment” became their third and last Top 10 hit single, peaking at #9 on the Hot 100. In 1969, the album sales reached over one million copies resulting into a gold disc award given by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).. Some of Jay and the Americans’ minor hits were “Some Enchanted Morning” (#13, 1965), “Sunday and Me (#18,1965), and “Crying”(#25, 1966). Because of their dismal performance on the charts, the group disbanded in 1973. Each member went on their separate ways to pursue their solo careers. However, Black was still carrying the band’s name, performing with newer members.

The members’ later years

Suffering from bankruptcy due to gambling debts, in 2006, Black sold the ownership of the name “Jay and the Americans” to his ex-bandmate Sandy Deanne for $100,000. With Deane becoming the new owner of the name, he and his other former members Kane and Sanders began reforming the band and embarked on several tours around the country. The band later recruited a new lead singer John Reincke from Chicago. Reincke, who sounded a lot like the band’s former lead vocalist, had also nickname “Jay” – a funny coincidence!

Up to this day, Black is still using the name “Jay Black” and continuously touring mostly for the oldies music and nostalgia circuit. Vance has been fronting his own group Kenny Vance and the Planotones since the 1970s. Traynor had a brief recording stint on Coral label after he left Jay and the Americans. Traynor (who had a performed with another with another doo-wop group the Tokens) passed away in January 2014.

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