Jay And The Americans Songs, Albums And History

Jay and the Americans

Photo: By United Artists Records/Lew Futterman, the group’s manager. (Billboard September 7, 1963, page 53) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The origins of the classic rock group Jay and the Americans go all the way back to the 1950’s and a band called The Harborlights. The group took the name from their home town of Belle Harbor, New York. The group had a local hit entitled “Is That Too Much To Ask,” due to it being promoted by New York’s very popular disc jockey Cousin Brucie.  Eventually the group was put into contact with the legendary songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller who had started managing and producing acts. Leiber and Stoller started their own record label which was eventually brought out by Atlantic Records. It was Leiber and Stoller who first gave Jay and The Americans their start. The band’s first hit single “She Cried”was released in 1962.  The song proved to be very successful for the band as it reached the number five spot on the Billboard hot 100 in 1962. The song also served as the title to the band’s first album which was released on May 29, 1962 after the song had become such a big hit. The album consisted of covers of songs that were popular at the time such as “Moon River, Save The Last Dance for Me and Spanish Harlem.”

The original Jay and the Americans consisted of John “Jay” Traynor on lead vocals Howard Kane, Kenny Vance and Sandy Deanne. It did not take long before the band’s lead singer John “Jay” Traynor left the band and was replaced by a singer named David Blatt. Since the band had become well known as Jay and the Americans in name only, David Blatt changed his name to Jay Black for the band. In the early 1960’s not everyone owned a television and so bands were known simply mostly in name and what they sounded like on the radio. Most people only saw the faces of the bands from the album covers. The Beatles would change all of that very quickly.

Jay and the Americans first hit single, “She Cried.”

After the success of the band’s first single “She Cried,” and with the addition of David Blatt , the band found themselves fighting to find new material to record. Frustrations rose between the band and Leiber and Stoller. The best material available was being given to other bands on the label like The Drifters. Jay and the Americans decided to work with a new producer named Artie Ripp. It turned out to be the best decision they had ever made because Artie Ripp and the band wound up recording a song that would catapult the group to stardom. The song was called “Come A Little Bit Closer,’ and it’s success helped secure the band a spot opening for The Beatles on their 1964 American tour. Jay and the Americans popularity also secured them an opening spot for another legendary band, The Rolling Stones.

Jay and the Americans – “Come A Little Bit Closer”

In 1965, Jay and the Americans released the album Blockbusters. The album featured the hit “Cara Mia.” The song “Cara Mia,” reached all the way to number four on the United States Billboard music charts making it the band’s highest charting single of their careers. The album also featured the hit “Let’s Lock the Door (And Throw Away the Key).” The song also became a top 20 hit reaching the number eleven spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The album’s other single “Think of the Good Times,” only reached the number 57 spot on the charts.

Jay and the Americans “Cara Mia”

After the incredible success the band had with “Cara Mia,” and the others songs on the Blockbusters LP along with their earlier singles, the band’s record company decided to put out a greatest hits package. In 1965. as the band released Jay and the Americans Greatest Hits album the band found themselves with another huge hit. Their recording of “Some Enchanted Evening,” hit the number 13 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was included on the Jay and the Americans Greatest Hits album.

Jay and the Americans “Some Enchanted Evening”

After the release of the Jay and the Americans Greatest album in 1965, the band released a new studio album later that year entitled Sunday and Me. The album’s title track was written by Neil Diamond. The song “Sunday and Me,” was released as a single and reached number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100.  With the success of the song “Sunday and Me,” Jay and the Americans had their third top 20 single in 1965, making it one of of most successful years of the band’s career.

Jay and the Americans “Sunday and Me”

In 1966, Jay and the Americans released the Livin’ Above Your Head album. The record did not feature any songs to reach the Billboard top 20. Despite the lack of a hit, the album featured great recordings of songs such as the Four Seasons song “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” and  the Jay and the Americans original “Livin’ Above Your Head.” One year later in 1967, Jay and the Americans released the album Try Some of This! Once again, the band failed to have any chart success with any of the songs on the album.

The band came roaring back in 1968 with the album Sands of Time. The record would feature one of the biggest songs of their career in the magical song “This Magic Moment.” The song was the band’s fourth top 10 hit of their career peaking at the number five position on the Billboard Hot 100. More importantly it has become one of the most loved songs in the band’s catalog. The band released two more singles from the album entitled “Hushabye,” and “When you Dance.” Both songs broke into the Billboard top 100 but did not break into the top 50. Nonetheless, on the strength of the single “This Magic Moment,” the Sands of Time album sold extremely well and has become on of the band’s most popular albums. One of our favorite songs on the album was the cover version of Curtis Mayfield’s “Gypsy Women.” The song wound up being the B side to “Hushabye.” Jay Black’s vocal on the track was simply killer.

Jay and the Americans This Magic Moment

In 1969, Jay and the Americans released the Capture The Moment album. In February of 1970 Jay and the Americans would released their next to last album entitled Wax Museum. The record would contain their last top 20 song of their career entitled “Walking In The rain.” The band’s final album would be an extension of the Wax Museum Lp entitled Wax Museum Vol.2.

The band broke up in 1974. However, their music had infiltrated popular culture and was continuously played on radio and jukeboxes around the world. Recently, the inclusion of “Come A Little Bit Closer,” in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies helped the band find a new audience. While many of the vocal based bands of the 1960’s have been forgotten, the legacy of Jay and The Americans is still burning strong in 2018.


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