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As Seen on The Today Show 1/15/07  

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Jay and the Americans. Jay #3 looks so much like Jay #2 (Jay Black). I saw them in Pittsburgh at a Nader show last December. I was expecting to be disappointed in the group without the “real” Jay. I could not have been more wrong. I had forgotten how prominent the original groups’ harmonies were in their hits, and how much I missed them when I’ve seen Jay Black’s show. The new Jay does a great job and the group explains their history so that no one in the audience is deceived that their lead singer is the one on the hits. They received a standing ovation in Pittsburgh.

Ed Salamon / Exec Director of The Country Radio Broadcasters

JAY AND THE AMERICANS  June 25 Queens Forest Park Bandshell

First, I want to say that I am a big fan of the music of Jay and the Americans (JATA). The current group consisted of 3 of the original Americans (minus Kenny Vance), and a new Jay (John Reineke or Jay 3). I have seen JATA at least a half a dozen times with Jay Black (aka David Blatt, aka Jay 2), and I was of the belief Jay 2 was irreplaceable. I went to this concert with the preconceived notion that I wouldn’t like the “new group”, because I felt they were JATA wannabees. I didn’t feel that anyone could nail the JATA sound and the truth was I was wrong. These guys were great. John Reineke (Jay 3) had a magnificent voice and he was able to reproduce the operatic vocals like Jay 2, which was best appreciated during the singing of Cara Mia. What I enjoyed most about the new group was it was not centered totally on Jay. If you had seen Jay 2 in concert, in between songs he would tell stories of a mature nature (i.e. he would use profane language), which added nothing to the show, apart from giving Jay 2 a few moments to catch his breath. I could provide you with the  sorted details as to why Jay 2 is no longer in the group, but I don’t feel it is necessary at this time. The new group appeared to be thoroughly enjoying what they were doing. I really should not refer to them as a new group either, because the current JATA consists of 3 of the 5 originals.. This is one group that shouldn’t be missed when they come around again

DR David Reich / Richmond Hill NY

There’s room enough for two up on the roof – so sang the Drifters. The roof is a small place when compared to the world stage, yet to read the jabs on message boards regarding the reformed Jay and the Americans vs their former lead singer, Jay Black, one would think there’s only enough room for one Jay.   

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Jay Black. Black possesses one of the most naturally gifted voices in music – not just rock music, but music period. Even today, at nearly 70 years of age, his voice is a wonder to behold. His personal affairs, however, dictated a chain of events that caused him to lose the rights to the band name “Jay Black and the Americans” – the name which he has performed under since the “real” Jay and the Americans disbanded in the mid 1970’s.  

If one is totally honest, the concerts given by Jay Black since that time were not true JATA experiences. “The Americans” was a name given to what was essentially Jay’s backing band; Jay Black was the star of the show. Rightly so, of course. Over the years, Jay Black’s performances became equal parts “greatest hits” show and comedy act, the comedy leaning toward the more mature side of the aisle. A highly enjoyable experience, to be sure, yet not the experience that “Jay and the Americans” conjured up.         

In 2002, Jay and the Americans were selected into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. A Jay Black concert, wonderful as one was and is, didn’t really show why the band was elected. It made a great argument for why Jay Black should be in a Male Vocalist Hall of Fame, but it took the newly reformed Jay and the Americans to make the case for the band’s Hall of Fame status.   

Original JATA members Sandy Deane, Howie Kane, and Marty Sanders reclaimed the name of the band a couple of years ago and brought in Jay #3 (Jay #1 was Jay Traynor…who now sings with Jay Siegel in the Tokens – it appears the Tokens have enough room for two Jays!) – a gentleman from Chicago named Jay Reincke.   

Having seen Jay Black several times in concert but never having seen JATA back in “the day”, it was with great anticipation that I entered the Newberry Opera House this past Friday for a concert by Jay and the Americans. To read the pundits (and – some say - Black’s manager) I should have expected a burned out bunch of backing singers and some wedding singer trying to imitate Jay Black.   

That picture proved to be as far from reality as could be.   

Over the course of nearly two hours, Jay and the Americans mixed their music with terrific anecdotes of their career laced with humor that brought some heavy laughter without careening over into the “adult” material that Black favors. Each member brought a highly memorable stage presence and personality – and the four together combined to create some delicious harmonies while looking like they were having the time of their lives. They were a genuine “vocal group” – not a lead singer with backing vocals.   

But what of the new “Jay” – and how did the audience react?    Predictably, in the lobby before the concert, some people were curious about the absence of Jay Black. A few even seemed miffed that Mr. Black would not be performing. One of these people was seated next to me at the concert. It took all of three songs before she was applauding wildly (and she made a beeline for the concession stand after the show to buy cd, shirt, and autographed photo). The reason why was simple: Jay Reincke is better than a “wedding singer”. While Jay Black goes so far as to avoid singing some of the band’s biggest hits (such as “Let’s Lock The Door” – when the song IS performed in a Jay Black concert, Jay’s son Beau does the singing; Black has gone on record as saying it is simply wrong to be singing that song at his age), Reincke embraces them unabashedly, sings them with great vigor, and treats them with the respect they deserve.     

Other comparisons abound – while Jay Black talks about discovering Steely Dan in his concerts, JATA go so far as to sing “Reelin In The Years” with dynamic harmony, making one wonder what direction JATA might have gone in had they stayed together and beaten down the record company problems they had in the mid 70s.    Mr. Reincke’s voice is a musical gift much the same way Mr. Black’s is. One could say that Jay #3 is no Jay #2, but only in the sense that John Lennon was no Paul McCartney, or vice-versa. Reincke’s vocals are infused with his Chicago-area background as much as Black’s were drenched in New York, yet there is no denying that hearing Reincke sing is a thrill – the kind of thrill one gets when one experiences a world-class performance. If his take on “Crying” wasn’t flawless Orbison (it was darn close), his hitting the notes on “Cara Mia” and “Walking In The Rain”  were letter perfect and earned him standing ovations.    The “originals” had outstanding moments as well: Marty Sanders was hilarious as the star of “Along Came Jones”, Howie Kane (the group’s original “chick magnet”) shined on an up tempo version of “Stormy Weather”, and Sandy Deanne teamed with Sanders for a moving delivery of “Let it Be Me” that had the ladies (including the ones next to me) swooning in the aisles.   

The concert in Newberry wasn’t without a flaw or two; someone forgot to put Jay’s microphone on the stand at the start of the show (sabotage???) and there was the odd out-of-place note here and there. No bother. Jay and the Americans delivered one of the finest concerts I have seen in many a year by ANY performer. The “originals” showed they still have what it takes that put them in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, while the “newcomer” showed he has what it takes to stand proudly with them and not only carry that legacy into a new century but to expand on it.   

Welcome, Jay #3 – there’s room enough for THREE Jays in the JATA world. Thanks for bringing one of the best vocal groups of all time back to life.

Steve Preston / Literary Fan

“ONLY IN AMERICA” - In one of the greatest turnabouts in Rock and Roll history, the group JAY AND THE AMERICANS, started by four teenage boys in Sandy Yaguda’s Brooklyn basement 40 years ago, have bought back their rightful name in federal court, restoring the name to it’s rightful owners. Very few bands have ever reached the musical heights of JAY AND THE AMERICANS. From 1962—1971, this group charted an unprecedented “12” top 10 records. With three original band members, Sandy Yaguda (aka Deane) founding member, Howie Kirschenbaum (aka Kane) original member, and Marty Kupersmith (aka Sanders), original member, plus the addition of “Jay” Reincke, the third Jay and probably the best yet, .. they have recreated the authentic sound of all of . . their great hits that everyone remembers.

JAY AND THE AMERICANS first record was “TONIGHT” (from the Broadway Musical WEST SIDE STORY), and their breakout hit song was “SHE CRIED”. JAY AND THE AMERICANS next chart hit was “ONLY IN AMERICA”, followed by top ten hits “COME A LITTLE BIT CLOSER” and .later “THIS MAGIC MOMENT”?

Where were you when you first heard “CARA MIA”? JAY AND THE AMERICANS pay tribute to the late ROY ORBISON with “CRYING”, and no other band in history has sold . more copies of the song “SOME ENCHANTED EVENING” than JAY AND THE AMERICANS!!!

NEIL DIAMOND ‘s first hit song released, “SUNDAY AND ME”, was recorded by none other than JAY AND THE AMERICANS, who have toured with such legendary artists as ROY ORBISON, THE BEATLES, and THE ROLLING STONES.

JAY AND THE AMERICANS were a major force in starting the Rock and Roll revival with their album “WAX MUSEUM”, where they paid tribute to many great Rock and Roll artists with their versions of such great songs as “HUSHABYE”, “WALKIN’ IN THE RAIN”, and a song that reached the top ten “THIS MAGIC MOMENT”. You will hear all of these songs, which are featured in the new JAY AND THE AMERICANS’ show.

In 2002, JAY AND THE AMERICANS were inducted into the VOCAL GROUP HALL OF FAME, placing them among the greatest vocal groups in Rock and Roll history.


The Rearview Mirror / Guy Z

Friday night (10/5), Jay and The Americans appeared at Kent Stage. I must admit I was among the skeptics on this gig. Advance information mentioned “…’Jay’ Reincke, the third Jay, and probably the best yet…. ”

My initial reaction was that it couldn’t possibly be a legit J&A without Jay Black. However, I can’t point to any solid reason why, nor can I explain the barbed messages that swirled around this issue on internet forums, much of which turned out to be one-sided and not particularly accurate.

After all, it’s no secret that many oldies groups are down to one or, if they are lucky, two originals in a field of four or five. Here are three originals from one of pop music’s all-time great groups, back together after a career run that is near legend. Why the buzz?

Maybe it is because the name “Jay” is so easy to associate as the total identity of the group. This isn't rocket science. Asking “Who’s the lead singer of Jay and The Americans?” is like asking who is buried in General Grant’s tomb. But, ask the names of the individual Americans (Sandy Deanne, Howie Kane, Marty Sanders, and for a time, Kenny Vance), and you are likely to get a puzzled look and a shrug. Ask something easier, like Jay’s last name, and things can still get murky.

Jay #1 was John Traynor, who fronted J&A from 1960 to about 1963.

Jay Black (real name “David Blatt”) enjoyed the longest tenure as Jay #2. Perhaps his powerful voice is too easy to peg as the group’s calling card, but other groups, such as the Drifters, had multiple leads with distinctive voices over the years. So, again, no easy answer there.

Jay #3 is Jay Reincke, who hails from Chicago where he performed J&A tunes for 30 years as Johnny Star and the Meteors. Reincke did so convincing a job that, when Deanne and Kane went to check out his act in Chicago, they offered him the position in their new Jay and The Americans, having acquired legal rights to the name from Blatt in 2006.

Helping to cloud things up is that David Blatt continued to tour as “Jay Black and The Americans” into the 1980's, after the original J&A split up. By the way, Jay Traynor now appears as Jay #2 in The Tokens. The original there, Jay Siegel, still leads the group. But, there are two groups of Tokens, and the other one also includes a “Jay.” Head spinning yet?

Thus armed with a little knowledge and a clearer perspective, I was much more opened minded toward this new Jay, and even found myself defending the arrangement before the show to a few of our listeners who were still stuck back where I was a week earlier.

Note that The Americans make no secret of the musical chairs concerning Jay. On stage, they tell the history of the group up front. They are kind and give credit to the other Jays where credit is due. They cast a positive outlook on matters without giving the impression they are doing a whitewash, even though some of the gory details are just that – seedy and unpleasant.

So, can the boy sing?

What I saw and heard was truly one of the best shows I have attended at Kent Stage or anywhere else. So good, in fact, that I could not tear myself away, even though I had decided earlier in the day to leave early so I could spend some prime time at home with the family. I kept pushing back my departure until I found myself helping close down the lobby after a delightful post-show conversation with some of the group’s backup band (The USA Band), and with Jay Reincke himself.

Quite simply, Jay Reincke really might be the best Jay yet. A “mere boy” in his early 50’s, Reincke captures the tonal quality of a younger Jay Black (now pushing 69) in an uncanny way. Close your eyes and you might not tell the difference. What’s more, his dynamic range is Jay Black’s equal, and he is a gentleman on stage – something reportedly not always true of Black, as stories circulate that he inserts comments and lyric changes into his act intended for “mature audiences.”

One assertion I noted online (obviously from a proponent of Black) is that Jay and The Americans IS Jay Black, and the others in the group are just “backup singers,” whoever they may be. You can wrap fish in that idea and put it where it belongs.

Deanne, Kane, and Sanders were tremendous showmen. They performed perhaps a fourth of their songs without Jay, who conveniently slid behind the curtain to give them the stage. Yeah, these old birds can sing too. Notable was a great cover of the Everly Brothers’ “Let It Be Me.” They also sprinkled the show with numerous anecdotes about the early days of J&A. The audience was captivated throughout the evening in a way I have only seen a few times in all the concerts I’ve attended. J&A held the audience in their palms from the beginning, with no let-up or let-down.

With Jay back on stage, Cara Mia got a standing ovation. At that moment, someone stepped up from the floor and passed a message to one of the Americans, who then announced the Cleveland Indians has just bested the New York Yankees 2-1 in an 11-inning playoff squeaker. The place, already wild with applause, up-shifted to the roar characteristic of a stadium crowd. The Americans, all from New York, played to the moment by announcing they were Mets fans, so it was all right by them.

Even the lobby was a feeding frenzy, as fans flocked around their table for autographs, shirts, CDs, and to just shake their hands.

We report. You decide.

So, does this Reincke guy cut it as Jay #3? Is it worth your time and cash to see this reincarnation of Jay and The Americans?

The answer to both questions is an emphatic YES.

What cannot be argued is that this is as close to the group’s original line-up and spirit as you are ever going to see.

Concerning the sound, my opinion is this is the most genuine, live Jay and The Americans you will hear, and yes, I've seen Jay Black in person.

If you are married to the notion that it has to be Jay Black or nothing, go to the Jukebox page on the J&A website, close your eyes, listen to Reincke, and think about it.

If you have the chance and care about Jay and The Americans, you owe them and yourself an evening of taking in the show and getting the facts. Then decide.