The formation of Jay and the Americans wasn't exactly a master plan for musical immortality.
"The group just happened - it wasn't anything that was planned with any intelligence," Sandy Deanne, one of the group's founders, said in a recent interview from his home in Long Beach, N.Y. "We just wanted to sing harmony and make records. [Success] just kept happening."
With a dozen Top 10 hits in the 1960s, that success has left them a musical legacy that still draws a crowd today. Such a crowd is the idea when Jay and the Americans headline the 11th Annual Oldies Fundraising Concert for the Tyrone-Snyder Township Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the Tyrone Area High School auditorium.
Jay and the Americans are (from left) Sandy Deanne, Jay Reincke, Marty Sanders and Howie Kane.?The group will perform at the Tyrone?Area High School Auditorium on Saturday.
Also performing during the concert will be the doo-wop group The Edsels, who had one of the genre's biggest hits, "Rama Lama Ding Dong," and the Tyrone Area High School Jazz Band.
But Jay and the Americans is the big draw, as the group still has three of its original members - a rarity with groups of the era who are still performing. Deanne founded the group in the late 1950s with Kenny Vance (now leading the touring oldies act Kenny Vance and the Planotones). The other members of the group were John "Jay" Traynor, Howie Kane and their guitarist, Marty Sanders, who became a full member of the group by their second album.
"I've known Howie since our parents pushed our baby carriers together," Deanne said. "Marty is the late-comer - we've known him since he was 12 or 13."
If you go
Who: Jay and the Americans, The Edsels and the Tyrone Area High School Jazz Band
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Tyrone Area High School auditorium
Tickets: $35, available at Bressler Food Mart & Sports, Kopp Drug, Tyrone-Snyder Township Public Library, all in Tyrone, or by calling 682-1017.
Proceeds go to Tyrone-Snyder Township Public Library.
Jay and the Americans got an early boon when they were discovered and signed by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, perhaps the most famous song-writing duo in rock history. After the group had its first hit, "She Cried," reach No. 5 in 1962, their next few singles failed to match that success and Traynor left the group.
"The first 'Jay' quit because we didn't have hit records in a row, and we thought, 'Boy, we're in trouble,'" Deanne remembered. "Then Marty came in and said, 'I sing with this guy.' And the second 'Jay' came in and we had 10 hit records with him."
The "second Jay" was David Black, who took on the name and the role of lead singer, as Jay and the Americans had a string of hits, including "Come a Little Bit Closer," "Cara Mia" and "This Magic Moment." They became one of the decade's most popular acts, and opened for both The Beatles and the Rolling Stones during the beginning stages of those bands' careers.
After declining success, the group officially split up in 1974, with the original members going their separate ways and finding success behind the scenes in the music business (Deanne became the A&R Director for a record label and directed the show "Beatlemania" on Broadway).
Black continued touring as Jay and the Americans with a series of replacement musicians until, in 2006, he lost the rights to the name due to a bankruptcy court ruling. The name was given to Deanne and his son, Todd.
Deanne was prepared to sell the name to a tribute act until he and Kane found the "third Jay," Jay Reincke, a soundalike singer from Chicago. Recruiting Sanders once again, the group went back out on the road once again.
"Now it's six years later and we're playing sold-out shows all across the country and in Canada," Deanne said. "It's incredible."
Deanne says the return to performing has been a revelation for him.
"We didn't realize how important the music was until we came back," he said. "We had one guy at our last show who said he was a helicopter pilot in 'Nam and he said, 'If we were flying back [from a mission] and they played Jay and the Americans, we were safe to come back by the northern route. And if they played Gary Puckett & The Union Gap Band, we were safe to come back by the southern route.'
"We hear stuff like that and we gasp. Back then, we didn't have a clue."
Right now, the band plays between 70 and 80 dates throughout the year, and Deanne said he enjoys visiting places the band skipped over during their initial fame.
"We play a lot of small towns," he said. "We never did that back when we were having hits; we were playing Madison Square Garden, and we never got to come see you guys. This is all payback."
When Deanne found out the Tyrone show was a fundraiser, the payback continued - he decided to bring an autographed American flag guitar to auction off for the library fund.
That just adds to the success of the concerts, said Chuck Banas, the event's chairman and organizer.
"In the 10 years we've been doing this, we've been able to raise over $108,000," he said. "And that goes to paying down the mortgage on the library building."
Bringing in acts like Jay and the Americans and The Association (last year's headliner) has brought the concerts a reputation.
"People get excited when you bring that kind of talent to Tyrone," Banas said. "We've become known for putting on a good show, too."
Banas noted that the concerts get good attendance from outside the area, and said he expected a big crowd this year, as well.
"This year was tough," he said. "The economy is really, really hurting in this area, but I'm really happy to report that in the last 10 days, ticket sales have really escalated. We're closing in on 700 tickets sold."
Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.