Jay Traynor vs Jay Black, and Kenny Vance

Gary: “I was coming home from the Golf Course and listening to The Sixties On 6, Sirius (satellite) Radio, and I heard a song that conjured up all kinds of interesting situations.  First off, Jay Traynor left the group after their first significant success.  Now he was replaced by David Black, who changed his name to Jay Black to fit in with the group.

I’m not finished; one of the founding members was Kenny Vance.  I discovered him again in the Nineties and just love what he has done, and is doing.  So let’s get on with —–

Jay & the Americans

Original Members:

Jay Traynor lead, later replaced by Jay (David) Black) November 2 1938

Sandy Yaguda, January 31, 1940

Kenny Vance, December 8, 1943

Marty Sanders, February 28, 1940

Howie Kane, 1940.

Hometown New York

1.   She Cried/ United Art 415/ 4/7/62/ #5 Billboard
2.   Come a little bit Closer/ United Art 759/ 10/3/64/ #3 Billboard

3.   Let’s Lock the door (and throw away the key) / United Art 805/ 1/16/65/ #11 Billboard

4.   Cara Mia/ United Art 881/ 6/19/65/ #4 Billboard

5.   Some enchanted Evening/ United Art 919/ 9/25/65/ #13 Billboard

6.   Sunday and Me/ United Art 948/ 12/4/65/ #18 Billboard

7.   Crying/ United Art 50016/ 6/11/66/ #25 Billboard

8.   This Magic Moment/ United Art 50475/ 1/25/69/ #6 Billboard

9. Walkin’ In the Rain/ United Art 50605/ 1/17/70/ #19 Billboard

Jay and the Americans were a pop 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 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.

Their next singles failed to chart, and the band grew apart, but the demand for appearances remained. While the other members moved on to solo musical careers, Jay Black continued to perform as Jay and the Americans until the 1980s, with a variety of musicians, including Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who would later found Steely Dan.

The group reunited in the 1990s for special performances, most notably the 45 Years of Motown special on PBS.

As of 2006, Black and his current band continue to tour as “Jay Black and the Americans.”(lastfm)

There’s more…

Now I discovered Kenny Vance by accident.  One of my favourite songs is “For your Precious Love” by Jerry Butler and the Impressions, via 1958.  I was listening to a version by “Kenny Vance & The Planotones” and my wife, who just listens to background music, said “That’s a beautiful version of that Song”.

Now my wife does not listen closely; a station could have static on it, but she would not notice; it’s just background.  But she loved this version, so since then I have more music by Kenny Vance and the Planotones, own the Movie “Looking for an Echo“, his voice, his music.

The man has a very impressive resume and I did not know that he supplied the “get up and go” to one of my favourite movies “American Hot Wax“.

So here is a little bit about a man, I will probably never get to see perform, because he mainly stays in the New York area, but if my wife “Birgit”, likes him, he really has to be something special.  Here is a little on —–

Kenny Vance

and the Planotones


Gary: I guess this is one of my favourite Songs / For your Precious Love /
In the still of the Night (live) /
Cara Mia (2010 unplugged Danbury CT)
Angel Baby /
Open Rehearsal /
It’s amazing that this man still has his great voice after all of these years.

Now, here is Kenny Vance with Frankie Lymon’s Original Teenagers in a parking lot singing acapella  I’m so Happy:

5    Those Oldies But Goodies/ Kenny Vance and the Planotones

6.   I only have eyes for You/ Kenny Vance and the Planotones

As Jay and the Americans wound down in the early 1970s, Kenny Vance went into doing recording session work, singing background vocals on such albums as Yusef Lateef’s Part of the Search (1971), Don McLean’s Homeless Brother (1974), and David Forman’s David Forman (1976). He also began producing, handling the board for albums by Toni Basil, Danny O’Keefe (American Roulette, 1977), and Diane Keaton.

In 1975, he released his debut solo album, Vance 32, on Atlantic Records.

Then in 1978 Vance launched a new phase in his career with the release of the film American Hot Wax, which depicted events in the life of rock ‘n’ roll radio pioneer Alan Freed.

Vance wrote “Hot Wax Theme” for the score; he appeared in the movie as Professor La Plano and led his fictional group, The Planotones, in a performance of “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay.”

He also produced the soundtrack album, which made the Top 40. Within months, he was represented again in movie theaters with National Lampoon’s Animal House, producing the soundtrack album, which also made the charts.

The twin successes of American Hot Wax and National Lampoon’s Animal House gave Vance a continuing career in the movies, both as a composer, musical director, soundtrack producer, and as a character actor.

He went on to contribute to the music for The Warriors (1979), The Hollywood Knights (1980), Eddie and the Cruisers (1983), which produced a triple-platinum soundtrack album, Streets of Fire (1984), Ishtar (1987), Hairspray (1988), Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! (1989), Heart of Dixie (1989), Cobra (1992), Hard Promises (1992), Into My Heart (1998), Sunburn (1999), The Story of a Bad Boy (1999), and Pinero (2002).

He also worked on several television movies and was the musical director of Saturday Night Live in 1980-81. As an actor, he had bit parts in Eddie and the Cruisers, Billy Bathgate (1991), and Hurly Burly (1998), and he became a particular favorite of director Woody Allen, joining Allen’s informal stock company and appearing in Manhattan (1979), Stardust Memories (1980), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Husbands and Wives (1992), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), and Deconstructing Harry (1997).

Vance is credited as “mentor” on Peter Himmelman’s 1987 album Gematria, and his friendship with Himmelman led to the long overdue to follow-up to Vance 32, Vance’s second solo album Short Vacation, released on Gold Castle Records in 1988; Himmelman served as the album’s producer.

In 1992, Vance re-formed The Planotones, his fictional group from American Hot Wax, as a real group to sing the doo wop music he loved. The group consisted of other music business veterans with similar taste: Murray Weinstock (formerly of the Fifth Avenue Band); songwriter Garry Bonner (co-author of the Turtles hit “Happy Together“), who joined in 1994; Angel Rissoff; and Johnny Gale. The group’s first album, Teenage Jazz, was released in 1994. The 32 Jazz label issued a second Vance & The Planotones album, Looking for an Echo, in May 1996.

In 1999, Looking for an Echo was the title of a film for which Vance served as musical director and which spawned a soundtrack album released in November 2000 consisting entirely of Kenny Vance & the Planotones performances.

In October 2001 Varèse Sarabande Records released Out of This World: Live at the Bitter End, followed in August 2002 by Kenny Vance & the Planotones on Collectables Records.

A new studio album, Lovers Island, was released in October 2005, and included interpretations of such standards as “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” and “Stormy Weather.”

The next Kenny Vance & The Planotones album was Countdown to Love, released in October 2007.

In January 2008, the group released its first DVD, Live, through Alpha Video. ~ William Ruhlmann



16 responses to “Jay Traynor vs Jay Black, and Kenny Vance

  1. Wow, the parking lot version of I’m So Happy by Kenny & the Planotones gave me goosebumps. And what a gorgeous version of Hushabye! (Hushabye was always the highlight of every Beach Boys concert for me.) What a great tune.

  2. Oops, just noticed it was Frankie Lyman’s Teenagers whom Vance was singing with in the parking lot video. Very cool.

  3. gail levinson

    wow, my husband just came across this site…wonderful….saw him last night in NJ as we always try to do and he just keeps getting better and better. but, For Your Precious Love is extraordinary version. Going to try and see if he will sing it at a future concert. Nothing, nothing better than that! Thanks for finding it.

    • Hi Gail
      So nice to receive comments such as yours… from people who appreciate music the way you and your husband do. What is your husband’s name and where does he perform?
      – Russ

  4. This has to be the best jet that I’ve come across after I type in Kenny Vance.
    Thank you so much! The whole site is not only filled with information It has alot of the music we are trying to keep from disapearing. Unfortnately for me I just discovered KV& the P’S last year when I won tickets from a radio show jukebox saturday night. Since then I’ve seen him 6 times and have tickets into Dec.2010. I have purchased his music . His voice makes my heart happy.The group also sings really good and Johnny Gale as good or better than E.Clapton I love them. Thanks again. I will tell my friends to check this out.

  5. Pingback: Gary’s report on Kenny Vance | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  6. I’ve seen Kenny Vance and the Planotones at least three times live and he puts on an amazing show. I would go see them any time anywhere because they are that great.

  7. We go to see Kenny and the Planotones as often as possible. Guess I became a groupie in my older age…and happy to say so! Joan Briglia, Newtown, Ct.

  8. I also have every CD Kenny Vance has made, I think Short Vacation and Vance 32 are excellent. He never disappoints his fans at all his show. Beautiful voice.

  9. Kenny is probably my favorite singer of all time. He is such a great performer and a truly nice man. After his shows, he will meet you and your heart will melt. The first time I saw him was at a Casino in Atlantic City. He brought the house down. Johnny Gale is one of the best on the guitar. I see Kenny and the guys whenever they are close to us. They are the best. When he sings Girl of my Dreams and Memories of You, I pretend he is singing to me. My husband just laughs

  10. kenny rosenberg–you really make your family proud.your voice is second to none .keep doing this -REMEMBER ROCK AND ROLL IS HEAR TO STAY.aND THANKS TO YOU,IT WILL.

  11. Kenny, I just listened to I’m So Happy for about the 80th time.This is acappella at it’s very best. You are like fine wine, getting better with age.
    Please stay healthy and continue to share your gift with those of us who
    are friends and fans.

  12. The best song by Jay and the Americans>>>(Traynor on lead) was “THIS IS IT”….I believe their first or second recording on United Artist.

  13. Pingback: Rock and Roll Movies Part 2 | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  14. William McDonnell

    It doesn’t get much better than Kenny Vance & the Planatones. I have recently discovered David Forman’s group, Little Isadore & the Inquisitors and they are terrific too. Looking forward to seeing both groups soon.

  15. Pingback: Gary’s Ballads | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

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