Jay & the Americans
They were almost called Binky Jones & the Americans. When four kids from Brooklyn, Sandy Deannne, Jay Traynor, Howie Kane and Kenny Vance went to meet legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, that’s the name the writers proposed. Leiber and Stoller had gold records all over the walls and had written for Elvis, the Drifters and The Coasters. They were hit makers.
“We dreamed we could be with them,” Deanne said. “We lucked out and they liked us. We were the first white group they signed themselves, as Col. Parker brought Elvis to them. They liked our harmonies and Jay’s vibrato and said we were clean cut and a little bit soul.”
The only problem was that name. The guys did not want to be Binky Jones, but they were too intimidated to say anything. Leiber and Stoller wanted “the Americans” in the title and an all-American name in front. They came up with Jay, and Jay & the Americans was born.
The group went on to have 12 Top 10 records, including “This Magic Moment,” “Only in America,” “She Cried,” “Come a Little Bit Closer,” and “Cara Mia.”
“I remember sitting in the cafeteria at Hofstra College and hearing our first big hit, ‘She Cried,’ being announced as Number 3 on the Top 10 charts,” Deanne said. “I promptly got up from the table and dumped my textbooks into the trash and broke my parents’ hearts. They had hopes of my becoming a doctor. Later on, with the success of the band, they were proud of us. I was proud of us too. Over the years, the name Jay & the Americans has not always been considered hip, but I kind of think it’s not so corny to be patriotic.”
The group was inducted into Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002 and played Madison Square Garden 18 times, a highlight of their career.
“Selling out Madison Square Garden, you never forget,” Deanne said. “There were kids screaming our names. It was mind-boggling and we never dreamed it would happen. It was a wonderful thing. We came off the stage bewildered because the audience was standing and screaming.”
Today, the band consists of Deanne, Howie Kane, Marty Sanders and Jay Reinecke, the third “Jay” in the band’s history. They never thought, as 18-year-olds, that more than 50 years later, they would still be performing for screaming crowds. They love touring and going to smaller towns they never played the first time around and they put on a heck of a show.
“They call it ‘oldies,’” Deanne said. “To me it’s mental memorabilia and it’s valuable. We’re building new memories, which is nice.”
Only in America.