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Jay and the Americans due in New Brunswick | Jersey Retro

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Updated on October 20, 2017 at 7:23 PM
Posted on October 20, 2017 at 6:45 PM

Jay and the Americans



By Mark Voger

“All the feminists out there are going to hate me,” said singer Sandy Deanne.

A founding member of the 1960s hitmakers Jay and the Americans, Deanne was recounting the group’s formation during a 2008 interview.

There is a sexist element to his tale, which begins in 1959.

Continued Deanne: “I was in high school. My girlfriend and another guy (Kenny Vance) formed a trio named the Harbor-Lites, because we were from Belle Harbor (in Queens, N.Y.). We got a recording contract on an independent label. We had a record out. ‘Cousin’ Bruce Morrow, the big DJ in New York, liked it. He played it.

“But we were tired of going to shows and going through the hassle of having a girl lead singer,” Deanne added with a chuckle.

“Kenny and I both decided that this was not fun. We had to have a curtain and hang the curtain up, so she could change her clothes. And the makeup. Everybody else were boy groups. All the shows that we played and all the record hops that we did, it was all guys. There were very few girl singers. So we said, ‘You know what? Let’s be a group.’ “

Jay and the Americans due in New Brunswick | Jersey RetroThe Americans today, from left: Jay Reincke, Howard Kane, Marty Sanders and Sandy Deanne.

The Harbor-Lites happened to have the same manager as the Mystics of “Hushabye” fame. The Mystics’ then-lead singer, John Traynor, was a newcomer, having recently replaced that group’s original lead singer.

“He (Traynor) was not being treated the way he wanted to be treated by the other guys in the group, because they really missed the first guy,” Deanne said.

“He was disgruntled. He had a great voice. Kenny and I said, ‘Let’s find out if he wants to join us.’ So we asked him. He said, ‘Absolutely,’ and he quit the Mystics.
“I picked up the phone and called my best friend, (singer) Howie Kane. He came in, went into my basement and we rehearsed. That was the beginning of Jay and the Americans. That was the first group.”

The year was 1960. Traynor sang on the Americans’ No. 5 hit of 1962, “She Cried,” but left the group later that year. He was replaced by Jay Black, who sang on the Americans’ Top 10 hits “Come a Little Bit Closer” (No. 3 in 1964), “Cara Mia” (No. 4 in 1965) and “This Magic Moment” (No. 6 in 1968).

The Americans broke up in 1973. Black continued to perform solo, while Vance performed with his group the Planotones. In 2006, after legally regaining the band name, Deanne, Kane and another member from the group’s ’60s heyday, Marty Sanders, reunited. They added lead singer Jay Reincke, affectionately called “Jay No. 3.”

This lineup is scheduled to perform in the multi-act “Sixties Spectacular” revue Oct. 28 in New Brunswick.

Which brings us to an interesting point about Jay and the Americans: None of the group’s three singers was actually named Jay. Reincke, like Traynor, was named John; Black was named David. Where did the tradition of renaming the lead singer begin?

According to Deanne, it was born of necessity. The group, you see, sought to avoid a silly name that was being foisted upon them by their record company.

Recalled Deanne: “We went up to (Jerry) Leiber and (Mike) Stoller, who were big record producers, very famous guys. We sat on their doorstep until they finally relented and gave us an audition.

“We got signed there. They named us Binky Jones and the Americans. But we couldn’t live with the name Binky Jones. We just didn’t want to go through life being called Binky Jones.

“The guy from the Mystics, his name was John, but his nickname was Jay. We said, ‘That’s a cool name, Jay and the Americans.’ That’s how it happened.”

Who: Jay and the Americans, Paul Revere’s Raiders, Lou Christie, the Vogues and Manhattan Skyline
When: Oct. 28, 7 p.m.
Where: State Theater New Jersey, 15 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick
How much: $35 to $85
Contact: 732-246-7469 or stnj.org

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