One of the greatest voices in pop music has died.
Jay Black, the second lead singer called "Jay" to front Jay and the Americans, and the voice heard on the majority of their hits, has passed away ... no cause of death has been announced.
Black (real name David Blatt) took over lead vocal duties after their first hit with Jay Traynor ("She Cried") in 1962. Black's incredible, one of a kind voice guided them the rest of the way through their hit era, including the classics "Only In America" (#21, 1963), "Come A Little Bit Closer" (#3, 1964), "Let's Lock The Door" (#10, 1965), "Cara Mia" (#3, 1965, which he still performed brilliantly well into his 70's), "Some Enchanted Evening" (#13, 1965), "Sunday And Me" (#18, 1965, an early chart success for Neil Diamond as a songwriter), "Crying" (#25, 1966), "This Magic Moment" (#4, 1969, and a HUGE comeback hit for the group) and "Walkin' In The Rain" (#10, 1969.)
Black's gambling problems were infamous and he ran up such an incredible debt that it ultimately forced him out of the band. When appearing before a judge at his bankruptcy hearing in 2006, Jay said he had nothing of value that could possibly pay off all that he owed, to which the judge replied, "Yes you do ... your name."
Founding member Sandy Deanne quickly bought out Jay's rights to the use of the name for $100,000. However, one of the stipulations of the court hearing was that the band had to be able to represent the music and legacy of Jay and the Americans in a professional and accurate manner, to which Black argued, "Nobody can sing those songs like me."
And then in stepped Chicagoan John "Jay" Reincke, who had been performing Jay and the Americans songs in his stage act for thirty years ... and, in fact, had bid against Sandy Deanne for the rights to the name in order to become Jay #3.
Because The Truth In Music Act mandates that a band performing under this name has to have at least one of the original members onboard, Reincke pulled himself out of the bidding ... but then, after hearing Reincke sing a few of these tunes, Sandy did them one better and recruited the rest of the original members and, with Jay #3 now fronting the group, they have been performing together again ever since. (In fact, they're due to take off on the Malt Shop Memories Cruise in about ten days!)
Still, it is Jay Black who will always be associated with the sound and the success of Jay and the Americans. Today, we lost "The Voice" ... there was truly nothing else out there quite like him.
In a widely circulated "Then And Now" video, some might argue that Black sang the song better at age 72 than he did in his 20's! Both are knock-you-over performances. Thank you for some incredible memories ... that will outlive all of us. (kk)