1970 Jay and the Americans – Walkin’ In The Rain
The Mystics only top forty single came in 1959 with the release of Hushabye. Their lead singer quit after that, as did several more lead singers. After Paul Simon quit the group, John “Jay” Traynor became their latest lead singer. In 1960, Jay left the Mystics and joined up with Kenny Vance, Howie Kane, and Sandy Yaguda to form a new quartet. They auditioned for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who quickly signed them and got them a contract with a United Artists Records.
In 1961, the group began recording singles. Leiber and Stoller decided that the group would sell better if it used a singer’s name, and the group became Jay and the Americans. Their third single, Dreaming, did not initially sell any better than their first two. Six months after the release of the single, a disk jockey in San Francisco began playing the b-side of the record, She Cried. That side of the record peaked at #5 on the Hot 100 in 1962.
The group struggled to follow that single with another hit, and Jay left the group to pursue a solo career. Guitarist Marty Sanders was playing guitar for The Empires, and he joined the group when Jay left. David Blatt was singing lead for The Empires, and he became the new lead singer for Jay and the Americans after agreeing to change his name to Jay Black.
Jay sang lead on a song originally intended for the Drifters, and the group got back on the charts with Only In America. The single peaked at #25 on the Hot 100 in 1963. There were a few bumps along the way after that, but the group remained consistently on the charts throughout most of the sixties. Their records included three more top ten appearances and five additional singles that reached the top 25.
The group’s last top forty single was a cover of a song that the Ronettes had a hit with in 1964: Walkin’ In The Rain. The version by Jay and the Americans reached #25 on the Hot 100 in 1969 and led to an album called Wax Museum that was recorded using a pair of interesting studio musicians: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who later became Steely Dan. The album comprised remakes of previously successful singles and became their last charting album.
The group disbanded by 1973. Most members of the group moved to solo careers, while Jay fronted the touring group Jay and the Americans. In 2006, Jay’s gambling debts forced him into bankruptcy, and Sandy bought the rights to the name “Jay and the Americans” from the bankruptcy court for $100,000. Sandy, Howard, and Marty reformed the group and added John “Jay” Reincke as the new lead singer and has continued to appear in oldies shows.
Jay Traynor toured as a member of Jay Siegel’s Tokens in 2006 and toured with the group until his death in 2014.
Jay Black continued to tour as Jay Black the Voice.
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