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Jay & The Americans

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(1960 – 1973, 2006 – present)

Jay and the Americans were a music group popular in the 1960s. Their initial lineup consisted of Howard Kane (born Kirschenbaum), John (J.T.) Traynor, Kenny Vance (born Rosenberg), and Sandy Yaguda.

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 1960. 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), and 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. Other notable 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 announcement 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 its single 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.

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