Sunday, March 13, 2011

The JAY BLACK ATTACK, Part Two!


Last time: I told -- in great detail, of course -- of becoming "musically aware" while still a child during the early 1960s. This "awareness," as it usually does, evolved into my buying my own records instead of leeching listens to my older sister's 45s and LPs.

One of my favorite early purchases was a song called "This Magic Moment" -- a song which was originally a hit for the Drifters -- by a group called Jay and the Americans. By that point in time, the group had graced the charts with several hits, hits of which I, in my youthful ignorance, was largely unaware... but I loved Jay Black's voice!

I gave a brief history of the group's early years, telling how their original lead singer John "Jay" Traynor -- singer of their first hit, "She Cried" -- was replaced by David Black (David Blatt), who renamed himself Jay Black and went on to sing lead on a slew of hits from then until the group broke up in 1973.

I also mentioned that, several years later, I had told a drinking buddy of mine that Elvis Presley should record a version of every worthy song ever written. And since that little note about Elvis was in the middle of an article about Jay Black, you just know I'll apply the same sentiment to Jay Black at some point, don'tcha?

Well, I will. Stay tuned.

* * * * *

As I've noted here and elsewhere, when I was in my late teens and very early twenties, I spent several nights accompanying my friend Wayne as we drove around swilling beer. Wayne usually drove on those nights, which naturally does not absolve me of any responsibilty for acting so... umm... irresponsibly.

At approximately the same time that my youthful self was endangering my own life and countless others by doing this, a group called Sha Na Na was coming into national prominence. Sha Na Na was one of the earliest -- they performed at Woodstock! -- and arguably the best at reviving the hits of the 1950s and 1960s. They had their own syndicated show on TV for a while, and were featured in the movie "Grease."

The most prominent member of Sha Na Na was "Bowzer," a tall, skinny, big-mouthed greaser. (And I mean "big-mouthed" in two respects, as in "large-mouthed" and as in "loud-mouthed.")

The big-mouth (circled) with his mouth uncharacteristically shut.

In real life, Bowzer was Jon Bauman, a child prodigy and classically-trained pianist, who formed Sha Na Na with fellow Columbia University students in the late 1960s.

Well, nothing lasts forever, and Bowzer eventually left Sha Na Na. Nowadays, he organizes (and performs in) rock'n'roll revival shows and doo-wop shows.

Additionally, as chairman of the Truth in Music Committee at the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, he's been leading the battle to establish what's been nicknamed the "Bowzer Bill," a law designed to protect groups such as the Drifters, Platters, and Coasters from being ripped off by imposters performing under their names.

The link in the previous paragraph will give you a full idea of what these classic groups are up against, but simply put, the law says that you cannot bill yourself as a certain "name" act or as being "formerly of" that "name" act unless you were actually a member of the act during the period when they were making some or all of their hits... or unless you somehow hold the legal rights to that name. And in each case, the burden of proof is on you!

So far, this admirable bill has been passed in more than 30 states.

And here's big-mouth Bowzer in all his glory, in a fairly recent photo
where he's standing next to... can it be... Jay Black himself?!?

More on John "Bowzer" Bauman and his Original Doo-Wop Parties after Part Two of the Jay (Black) and the Americans story!

* * * * *

As I related in yesterday's post, for approximately thirty years after the break-up -- I hate to keep using the word "break-up", but using the word "disbanding" sounds like such a lame pun -- of Jay and the Americans, Jay Black would do shows as Jay and the Americans.

That all changed when heavy debts forced Jay to declare bankruptcy. To make a long and disgusting story short, they took the rights to the name Jay and the Americans from him, something he rather naively thought they would never do, because he justifiably felt that no one could sing those songs -- and do justice to them -- but him.

They almost took the name "Jay Black" from him as well. Thankfully, they did not.

It gets worse. It. Gets. Worse.

The rights to the name Jay and the Americans were purchased by Sandy Deanne, one of the original Americans. He got together with two of the other original Americans and formed a "new" group. The only other original band member that they didn't get -- other than Jay Traynor, that is -- was a guy named Kenny Vance... and I have no idea whether they ever even approached him. (You may remember Kenny as the arrogant record company exec in Eddie and the Cruisers, a movie Mr. Vance had a lot to do with behind the scenes.)

So, even with the stipulations of the "Bowzer Bill," this new incarnation has every right to "be" Jay and the Americans. Three of the four -- more on the fourth member shortly -- are members of the original chart-topping group, and they own the legal rights to the name.

And yet... And yet...

It still bothers me. I just hate the way Jay Black was treated, and...

It gets worse!

Not long after Sandy Deanne had acquired the rights to the name, he contacted the other high bidder for the rights to the name, a guy named John "Jay" Reincke. It seems that this ersatz Jay had been touring with one of those rip-off imposter groups that the Bowzer Bill exists to squash, and now... boo-hoo... now that the bill had been passed in so many states, his livelihood was being threatened.

So, naturally, Sandy Deanne said "Good enough for you!" and hung up, right?

Wrong.

He and the other two guys let Jay #3 buy into their group.

Anything I could add to that is unprintable, even in my own blog.

(And by the way, I know I said my history of the group would be fairly biased according to my own opinions and sentiments, but this entire second "chapter" of Jay and the Americans' history was based on information given on their own website. And no, I'm not going to link to it. Instead, I'm going to regress to my age during the era when Jay Traynor was their lead singer, and when you ask me to link to it, I'll petulantly stomp my feet and scream "I won't I won't I won't!")

* * * * *

More than once, my friend John has bought me tickets to the Bowzer bashes when they've shown up in nearby Connecticut, whether it was for my birthday or some other occasion. At one point early in these recurrent gifts, John and I agreed that he should be the one to accompany me, so he could see first-hand how much I enjoyed his present(s).

January 18th, 2009, was the date of "Bowzer's Ultimate Doo-Wop Party VIII." John -- bless 'im -- bought me tickets. When I found out that the headline act was none other than Jay Black -- billing himself as "The American Original" because calling himself "The Original American," or "An Original American" would stray too close to violating a freakin' court edict -- I told John, truthfully, "If he were the only act, it'd be worth the price of the ticket!"

(Well... I didn't pay for the ticket anyway, but... you know what I meant. So did he.)

I could easily devote another four or five posts to the entire concert, but I'll spare both of us that torture and tell you instead about a couple of nice, Jay-related surprises.

One of the acts was The Tokens... Jay Siegel and the Tokens, actually -- yes, another freakin' Jay shows up in this post! -- whose best-known hit was the incredibly-popular "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Usually when a group formerly and famously known as (for instance) "The Window-Peepers" shows up at an oldies revival concert as "Bobby Lee Poop and the Window-Peepers," it means that of the four or five guys on stage, only one was in the original group, and that "one" was Bobby Lee Poop.

And if you're lucky, Bobby Lee Poop was also the original lead singer of The Window-Peepers, so the style of his show will closely match the original Window-Peepers' concerts & recordings.

Well, luckily for all of us, Jay Siegel was the original "voice" of The Window-Peepers... I mean, of The Tokens... at least where "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is concerned.

I hate it when wishful thinking makes an older singer, or actress, whatever... better than he, she, or they actually was or were. Someone with one foot in the grave tries to re-live a moment from a thousand years earlier in their career or the like, and people walk away saying, "Wow! She looks just as good at 80 as she did at 25!" or "Wow! He sounded just like he did on the day he recorded that back in 1940!"

Having said that...

Jay Siegel sounded just like he did on the day he recorded "The Lion Sleeps Tonight!" I swear. He sang it in the same key, and hit all the high notes with just as much energy, just as much of a powerful falsetto as he did back in the good old days.

I was thinking, "I hope Jay Black can sing his stuff half as well."

Before leaving the stage, Jay Siegel introduced one of the two other members of "his" Tokens. (Neither were original Tokens. Like I cared, after having heard Jay Siegel sing.)

The guy he introduced was Jay Traynor.

Yes, that Jay Traynor.

Funny thing... Before the show, I'd wondered aloud (to John) which of his many hits Jay Black would sing. There'd been so many; he wouldn't have time for all of them. "Come a Little Bit Closer" was a shoo-in, since it had been Jay and the Americans' biggest hit. "Cara Mia" -- a song I'd first encountered on an oldies station in the early 1980s and fell immediately in love with -- was another definite must, being their second biggest hit, and a signature Jay Black tune. But other than that, I figured any or all of the others were expendable. And I certainly assumed that he'd skip "She Cried," which wasn't even "his" song originally.

Well, now he didn't have to sing "She Cried." Jay Traynor was there to sing it, which he did.

Fortunately, my friend John was able to scrape me off the ceiling of the Mohegan Sun Arena by the time Jay Black appeared.

Out of all the songs he could have started off with, he surprisingly chose Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman." Ah, what the hell, I thought, at least they were friends.

Jay was quite funny, referring to himself as an "old bastard" -- he'd turned 70 the previous November -- and advised the younger people in the audience to "ask your grandmother who I am." Pause. Shrug. "I probably slept with her."

After a few more songs, he began "Cara Mia." And although he advised us that a close look at his hairline and paunch would make us excuse any missed notes in the song, he carried it off quite well. The high falsetto parts weren't as strong as they were forty-five years ago perhaps, but so-freakin'-what?

When Jay did "Come a Little Bit Closer," he asked the audience for "help," meaning that he wanted us to sing the choruses. Ordinarily, I dislike this practice. I mean, sure, it establishes a cameraderie with the audience, but... "Dude, you got paid to sing tonight!"

Having said that... Yeahhh, I sang the damned choruses as loudly as anyone else that evening.

I just wanted to leave you with one more memory from the concert. Bowzer re-appeared onstage after "Cara Mia" with a terrific quote from Jay Traynor: "Everyone in the world should stop singing 'Cara Mia'... except Jay."

It turns out that, according to Mr. Black, all three Jays of the Jays present that night are friends, and had recently attended either Mr. Traynor's or Mr. Siegel's latest birthday party.

I'll bet no one invited Jay Reincke, though.

The great Jay Black,
The American Original indeed!


* * * * *

Okay, just a few more words from yours truly, followed by 47 or so YouTube videos from Mr. Black, with or without Kenny Vance and the three traitors other Americans:

I should mention that the two recent photos of Jay which I've used here were both stolen borrowed from Jay's very own website. I'll gladly remove them if Jay Black contacts me personally to ask or demand that I do so. Actually, truth be told, if Jay Black were to personally contact me, I would probably do anything else that's legal and/or relatively moral that he asked or demanded of me, as well!

And now... Remember my comment about how Elvis should have sung a version of every worthwhile song ever written?

Well, as I searched YouTube for "Cara Mia" and one or two other songs by Jay and the Americans which I'd wanted to include, I found song after song which made me think, "Wow, he (or they) recorded this one, too?" and "Now that I think of it, his voice would be perfect for this tune."

Accordingly, I amended the Elvis Dictum to extend the concept to Mr. Black as well. Jay should record every single song ever written... well... except the stupid ones.

Let's hope he lives long enough to actually do it.

And now, for your entertainment, several examples of solid entertainment from the man who inherited the nickname of "The Voice," a title which I've heard applied to Frank Sinatra and to Jay's deceased buddy, Roy Orbison.

First, a "Cara Mia" teaser! Jay onstage with Kenny Vance, the other original "American" who isn't part of the "new" Jay and the Americans, bless 'im. (Jay apparently does that comical little note-holding bit every time he performs the tune nowadays, by the way.)

Jay's first hit with the re-vamped Americans.

Proof that Jay could make just about anything sound good!

A tune originally done by Jay's friend, Roy Orbison.

Jay doing a song which was a huge hit for his pal, Gene Pitney. Listen closely to the lyrics. How would you like to be the jilted lover who got to read about this entire story in a "Dear Jane" letter?

Bobby Vee had the hit...

This one was great when done by the Walker Brothers, but Jay's treatment is classic, too.

The song that started it all for me, "it" being my appreciation of Jay Black!

Last but not least -- far from it! -- is, in my not-so-humble opinion, one of the best songs ever:

And now, a suggestion: Read both chapters of "The JAY BLACK ATTACK!" again, but this time, take a shot of something strong every time you read a word with "original" at its root. (Hell, you could play the same game with the word "hit" or the name "Jay," too!) L'chaim.

Thanks for your time! *Hic!*

8 comments:

  1. Yep, I'm sure the word 'original' is in there 8 million times! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can just see you sitting there counting, too. "7,999,993... 7,999,994... 7,999,995..."

    And since I can see you... I like your outfit, btw.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow that took a while to get through
    That must have took a lot to do
    Your right he has a good voice
    Of course that type of music wouldn't be my first choice
    Tell you are a huge fan though
    And I learned quite a bit from that post so
    Just wanted to say really good work with everything here
    As it was quite the read and fan cheer
    Plus I only saw original like 30 times
    So Betsy was wrong with her 8 million chimes...lol

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Pat: My musical tastes, although initially formed by the Top 40 of my childhood, now encompass almost everything. Clicking on my Playlist at the bottom of this blog will give you a rough idea. And being a long-time reader -- and close friend -- Betsy's "eight million" referred to one of the two numbers I regularly use when exaggerating, the other being 47.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh I get it now
    Betsy fooled me but how
    I guess I was a little slow when I read
    As I needed to go to bed
    Yes it does seem to encompass all
    You should open your own music mall
    While back to work
    Before I get fired for coming here to lurk..lol

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sorry Jay And the Americans just isn't without Jay Black. Jay #3 doesnt have the range nor can he hold the notes as long as the real Jay(Black) can. I think Jay deserves the title The Voice even more than Frank Sanatra did. The three so called Americans that are singing with the new JATA group left the group and it was Jay Black that kept the name going.Does anyone know what caused the break up?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love JAY, and Im so sorry that all this has happened. As in politics ( and I hate to make the comparison) , it's dog-eat-dog. I commend JAY for his fighting spirit and his tenacity, despite all this rot. He deserves to be honored and revered.
    I say I love JAY, though we've never met, in another life, we would have been magnificent. Be well, JAY. Be strong, keep knocking down the fools; You're the BEST !!
    deb
    x

    ReplyDelete
  8. The most beautiful voice ever! Life is short! Jay needs to be recognized in the Rock n Roll hall of Fame! I'll even give him a ride there at no cost....lol. Love you Jay Black!

    ReplyDelete

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