The old cliché “third time’s the charm” is proving very true for Jay and the Americans.
In 2006, founding member Sandy Deanne (born Sandy Yaguda) purchased the rights to the band’s name after David Blatt (aka Jay Black, the band’s second “Jay” and lead singer) filed for bankruptcy due to gambling debts. Blatt had been touring under the band name since the original ’60s pop vocal group’s split in 1973, while Deanne and fellow original members Howie Kane, Marty Sanders and Kenny Vance went on to careers behind the scenes in the music industry.
But with Deanne’s acquisition of the name, Kane and Sanders began pushing him to find the next “Jay” and once again tour.
“When the names were put up to auction because of bankruptcy, I wanted to buy the name because I didn’t want it to fall into the wrong hands, of people who would put a phony group together,” Deanne said recently while driving to a gig in Maryland.
“The other Americans, I’d remained friends with for years and years, and they said, ‘If you get the name’ — and we really didn’t think I was going to get the name, we didn’t think it would work out that way. [They said] ‘If you get the name, why don’t we look for a Jay?’ And I thought, are you sure you really want to do that? It was kind of a left-field thing; we hadn’t been together in so long and we were doing other things, our lives were set. But it had a way of working itself out, by itself. So I said, let’s give it a try — but we weren’t gonna do it unless we could be as good as we were when we packed it in 35 years ago.”
Golden Oldies Spectacular
With: Bobby Rydell, Jay and the Americans, Shirley Alston Reeves, The Legendary Teenagers, The Fleetwoods
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
How Much: $50.75, $43.75, $35.75
More Info: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
Deanne soon found that he had nothing to worry about. After recruiting John “Jay” Reincke, who actually bid on the Jay and the Americans name as well, the group woodshedded for about six months before hitting the road.
They haven’t looked back since, playing throughout the U.S. nearly every weekend for the past five years. Armed with their ’60s hits such as “Cara Mia,” “Only in America,” “Come a Little Bit Closer” and others, the group has found appreciative audiences across the country. And now that everyone’s older, the group’s priorities have shifted as well.
“We’re at a different point in our life now than when we started 51 years ago,” Deanne said. “In the beginning we were kids, and it was all about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Now we’re grandparents; we have a whole different attitude. And we’re very grateful for the fans, very grateful for the fact that people still revere the music and the hits. It’s a whole different attitude — we also don’t have the pressure of having to please a record company. We’re doing it for us now, and for all the fans coming out.”
On Saturday, the band will be at Proctors for the annual Golden Oldies Spectacular, second on a five-act bill headed up by Bobby Rydell and also featuring Shirley Alston Reeves, The Legendary Teenagers and The Fleetwoods.
Philadelphia native Rydell is a familiar face at the Golden Oldies Spectacular — he headlined the bill two years ago as well. Unlike Jay and the Americans, Rydell has been performing continually since his teen idol days in the ’50s and ’60s, when he became known for hits such as “Wild One,” “Volare” and “Kissin’ Time.” He still tours eight months a year — he’ll be in Australia after the Proctors show.
Happy with old hits
Rydell is still happy to be playing the same hits for his fans, even after so many years.
“It was a great era back then, all the songs from the late ’50s, early ’60s,” he said from his home just outside Philadelphia. “I think people relate to that. They can remember the great times, their first love, so on and so forth. The music continues to live on, which makes our audience all the best. They just come to hear all the great music that was happening back then.”
And it’s not just folks who remember the music when it originally came out — new generations are discovering Rydell. “The demographics are, my God — we can get anywhere from 15 years old to like 80,” he said. “[It’s] the music, the music.”
Jay and the Americans have also seen younger people in the crowds at their shows. The crowd’s response means more to them than it did in the beginning, according to Deanne.
“Nothing is more gratifying than seeing 18-year-olds, 20-year-olds singing the lyrics to the songs while we’re singing them, and dancing sometimes in the audience,” he said. “It means more to us than initially when we first did it. I think iTunes has a lot to do with it — young people are discovering our music there. So we’re having a really wonderful, pleasing experience at the back nine of our career, you know.”
Though Deanne, Kane and Sanders have all been through this before, for Reincke this is his first taste of touring on a national scale. A Chicago native, he spent roughly 30 years playing in a bar band that specialized in ’60s music — especially Jay and the Americans.
“He was known for that,” Deanne said. “In fact, the bid on the name, when the word went out that the name was up for grabs. A couple of DJs [in Chicago] spread the story on the radio, and were saying, ‘There’s only one guy we know of that should buy that name, because he sings those songs great,’ and that was this Jay.”
He’s the one
Reincke had to back out of his bid, however, due to a law in Illinois stating that a group cannot take on a band name unless there’s at least one original member in the fold. But Deanne saw the letter Reincke wrote with his bid, and decided to check out his band in Chicago.
“He was definitely a Jay,” Deanne said. “He sang those songs great. So I said, ‘OK, you’re eight-tenths of the way there; we’ll take you all the way there. . . . And he’s as good a Jay as we’ve ever had, and I’ve been with all three of them. This guy is the best singer — he’s the most consistent one.”
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Categories: Life and Arts