Wednesday, March 30, 2011

David'Z RantZ ~~ "Sleeping In"



Usually, when I complain about changes in the English language, some defensive so-and-so points out that English is a "living" language, and as such, is constantly evolving... and I need to "get over it." Big freakin' deal. I accept that fact. I only object when:

1. The changes are stupid ones, and
2. I wasn't consulted. (Da noive!)

In past blogs, I've commented on terms like "my bad" (Your bad what? "Bad" is an adjective!), and the tendency to say that one has an "attitude" (Don't we all? Who says it has to be a bad attitude?) or an "agenda" (Again, don't we all? An agenda doesn't have to be a self-serving, devious, hidden agenda, does it? If I'm planning to go to the bank and the post office on my day off, isn't that an "agenda?").

Today I want to bitch about discuss the term "sleeping in."

I seem to be the only one nowadays who doesn't use "sleeping in" to mean "sleeping late."

If you're "sleeping in," fellow babies, that just means that you're not sleeping out.

And if you're sleeping out... you're camping, I guess. Or something.

Just sayin'.

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Awww, Isn't That Tweet? (A "Twitter for Gentlefolk" post)



Alan Burnett, world-renowned author -- Hey, he's British, and I've heard of him! -- of the always-entertaining News from Nowhere  blog, is nothing if not a chivalrous sort. Therefore, in his recent post entitled "Twitter for Gentlemen" -- wherein he extolled the virtues of the quaintly-archaic postcard as an alternative to the high-tech Twitter -- I assume he meant to include the fairer sex as well. (UPDATE: Since this writing, Alan has altered the name of this noble endeavor to "Twitter for Gentlefolk!")

But this is between "us guys."

I've received Alan's contribution (shown above) to the two-way "postcard swap" between Alan and myself, arranged secretly in the dead of night after I took him up on the all-encompassing offer in his above-mentioned post. And being the procrastinating s.o.b. that I am, Alan should receive my postcard sometime before the first of July. (Note to Alan: It's on its way! Really!)


(I wish I could say that my handwriting is as nice as Alan's. Sometimes, it almost is, and other times, it can be described with the not-so-polite term "chicken-scratching." I can only assume this will get worse. During the past few months, encroaching arthritis has periodically played strange tricks on my left hand -- and I'm left-handed, as "luck" would have it -- and more times than not, my hand painfully and automatically configures into something strongly resembling the Star Trek Vulcan Salute. But I digress.)

Alan's message to me was much longer than mine to him, amazingly! In case you can't read this post's second scan (and you don't feel like clicking on it), it is as follows:

Dear David,

Not sure why I chose this card, other than the fact that I suspect that you could take this image as a starting point for one of your stories. It could perhaps become an everyday story of soap sellers. [I suspect Alan is thinking of the ongoing saga of Pleasantview -- ended by Skip Simpson and myself last October -- from the Simpson/Lynch Studios blog.] We could set it to music and it would become a soap opera. [I may never forgive him for that line. I'm sure he heard my groan clear across the Atlantic!] I can just about remember Borax soap -- a strange name, sounds as if it bores its way through your dermis cleansing you with all the finesse of an unsharp axe. But it would appear that the soap was used by the King -- "for washing everything." What more can be said? [What more, indeed?!?]

Regards as always,
Alan

I know next to nothing about the Borax Soap brand in the U.K., but on my own side of the pond, the word will always be associated with a product known as 20 Mule Team Borax. This company goes back to the late 1800s -- further back than either Alan or myself, unbelievably -- and was the sponsor on both radio and television of a show called Death Valley Days. The host of that show's TV incarnation from 1964-1965 was an actor named Ronald Reagan, in one of his last acting roles before entering an occupation closely related to acting... that of politics

Hm. I wonder how Mr. Reagan (a former Democrat who had "converted" to the Republican Party in 1962) felt about being sponsored by a product whose "mascots" were twenty mules, symbol of the opposition party, as it were?

(By the way, fellow babies, there's an entertaining little "Easter Egg" of a joke if you're agreeable enough to click on all the links in today's post!)

UPDATE, 4/12/2011: You'll find Alan's remarks about my postcard to him, here.

Thanks for your time.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Technology -- A "Sepia Saturday" Post



Every parent, so they say, dreams that his or her child (or children) will have a better life than the parent had. A better education, better financial status, a better marriage (if that applies), etc.

There were more technological advances during the span of my mother's life than I could list, even in a post of my usual entry's length. And say what you will about some of the downsides of "progress," we certainly have it easier in many more ways than those who lived in 1917, when my mother was born.

My mom lived to see high-definition, flat-screen televisions. When she was born, radio hadn't even entered its golden age. Commercial air travel hadn't even gotten off the ground... errr... so to speak. And I could go on.

Even during my own childhood, computers were enormous monstrosities that filled half a room. Using one of those babies as a "laptop" would crush you to death.

Now, of course, we have "personal computers."

And we have eBay.

Thanks to eBay, I now own something my own mother never got to own (due to its expense), but should have: Her high school yearbook, from 1935!


Northern Lights was the name of the yearbooks issued by North High School in Worcester, Massachusetts (during the 1930s, anyway). I recently purchased one at a relatively modest sum from an eBay dealer. The copy I own was originally the property of Alice I. Maki, an attractive blonde whom I can only assume is no longer with us... like my mom.


Upon receiving it, I read the thing cover to cover before leaving the post office lobby, looking for my mother's main yearbook entry, and any other listings, photos, etc. of my mom's senior year. There weren't many. I'm sure her chores at home kept her from being a social butterfly.

But I did expect at least one or two music-related activities, and I wasn't disappointed.


It didn't take me long to spot my mom's photo among the many students shown above.


It would have been nice if I'd thought to look for this a few years ago, when my mom was not only alive, but when her vision was still good enough for her to appreciate such a find. At least I have the comfort of knowing that it's not something I thought of and then characteristically put off doing until it was too late. That would bother me.

Before I even received my package, it occurred to me that, even if she had never owned one herself, my mom might have autographed Alice's copy. And I was right!


That was a nice touch. Almost like a brief note from my mom to her son and daughter, which "only" waited 75 years before we got to see it.

Gotta love eBay.

(Be sure to check out other Sepia Saturday entries!)

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011, R.I.P.



I just learned of the death of one of Hollywood's true screen legends, Elizabeth Taylor. I've been a big fan of hers for years, so I'm uncharacteristically speechless at her passing.


The closest thing I have to a tribute to Ms. Taylor is the following post, reprinted from my David'Z RantZ blog, where it appeared on December 2, 2008:

Sunday, I was at my recently-revived stand at a local flea market, and one of the other dealers, an elderly woman, was commenting on some of the old -- 1950s-1970s -- magazines which I had for sale.

She first remarked on a Life magazine featuring a stunning close-up of Sophia Loren on its cover. Then her eyes were caught by an unusual cover photo of Elizabeth Taylor on a Look magazine.


"How many husbands has she had?" she asked me, referring to Taylor.

"Seven or eight," I replied uncertainly, "depending on whether you count Richard Burton as one husband or two."

"That's right, she married him twice."

"And," I said, searching my memory, "I don't think she married anyone else in between her marriages to him."

"Her first husband was that millionaire," she said.

"Yeah, 'Nicky' Hilton. Then it was the actor Michael Wilding, then Mike Todd... " I was picking up speed. My aforementioned "uncertainty" was gone.

"He's the one who died," she interjected.

"Yup. In a plane crash." I continued. "Then there was Eddie Fisher, then Burton... "

She made a funny face when I mentioned Fisher. "Yeah, she started seeing [Burton] when she was still married to Fisher."

"Then she married him again, and then she married John Warner, the senator... "

"Oh, that's right!"

"Then she married that... What was he, a limo driver?"

"Wasn't he a Polish guy?"

That made the final name "click" for me. "Larry Fortensky!"

And the conversation continued...

* * * * *

Several years ago, comedian Will Durst was doing a routine wherein he referenced Flintstone Vitamins. He sang "Ten million strong... " and paused.

Predictably, the entire crowd sang "...and growing!" in answer.

"Isn't it amazing," said Durst, "the shit that gets trapped within the crevices of your mind?" (Speaking of the jingle for Flintstone Vitamins, there's an amusing discussion thread here, if you're interested.)

That's how I feel sometimes, being the so-called "god of Trivia." Knowing how they "shrink" a head... Knowing all the names -- in order, no less! -- of Liz Taylor's husbands...

And I wonder how much other "important stuff" won't fit in -- or has been "squeezed out" of -- my brain, by the trivial "shit that [got] trapped within the crevices of [my] mind?"

* * * * *

Anyway, here are some more shots of the ever-so-captivating Liz Taylor, because... well... because I can, I guess!





Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm Just a Poe Boy... I Need No Sympathy.



My writing partner Skip Simpson and I haven't posted anything on our Simpson/Lynch Studios blog since last freakin' October.

Well, ye olde Silver Fox has just posted a little news bulletin of sorts on the SnL site. So, as the old saying goes, "be there or be square," fellow babies!

Thanks for your time... and welcome to our nightmare!*

*With apologies to Alice Cooper!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Saint Patrick's Day... Kinda.


In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, I want to share the following rip-roaring song by the Hoodoo Gurus. (You may have to click on the YouTube "screen," though, as you'll see. But it's worth it!)

What does it have to do with Saint Patrick's Day, you ask?

Umm... Nothing, really. Nothing at all.

Hey, my name's Lynch, remember? I'm Irish all year round! (Well, part Irish, anyway.) I'm not wearin' a speck o'green today, either!

I suggest you crank this'n, fellow babies. Enjoy!


Thanks for your time.

"If I Should Die Before I Wake..."



Beware the Ides of March! (No, not the band that recorded "Vehicle" in 1970, silly.)

Here's some food for thought, fellow babies, although you may have a little trouble digesting it.

No one lives forever. All of my readers (mostly other bloggers) are adults of varying ages, and have probably considered how they want their own affairs tied up by their survivors and or executor(s).

However -- and please forgive me if this sounds frivolous -- have any of you Blogger-bloggers considered what will happen to your blog (or blogs) when you die?

Occasionally, when I'm caught up in events pressed upon me by what I refer to as "the real world," I'll post a photo of a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup. This is a light-hearted "internet tradition" begun by Mark Evanier, writer of the highly-recommended website, www.povonline.com, and its companion blog, the equally-endorsed www.newsfromme.com, which says, in effect, that the author is (temporarily) too busy to post.

To these posts, I also often add "I'm not dead." Ha-freakin'-ha.

Such will not always be the case. And no, I'm not trying to prepare you for any as-yet-undisclosed medical situation of mine. Just stating a simple fact. I may live another fifty years and die in my sleep. I may live another forty and be choked by a jealous husband. I may postpone quitting that stupid habit I have of inhaling the smoke from finely-cut, burning tobacco leaves... until it's too late. I may sign a lucrative screenplay contract and dance blindly into oncoming traffic. I may even fall victim to whatever is delivered by a strong easterly wind from Japan, according to the recent news (and no, that's not an effin' joke)...

I'm not sure how long I'll actually be blogging, of course. I may continue this blog for another year or two. Maybe even less. I may be plodding away -- or should that be "plogging?" -- thirty years from now, if I live that long (although I'm hoping I don't). Whatever. But being one of those pains-in-the-butt obsessed with a "sense of closure," I've actually gone so far as to write my own "final" post for this blog, in case it's still going when circumstances beyond my control kill off its author (meaning me, fellow babies). I plan to give a close friend -- one who will hear of my death soon after it occurs -- my Blogger password, with instructions to post that final post at his earliest convenience. So when I go, you'll hear about it.

Now. Having said all of that... What are your plans? I know a lot of us have grown very close to one another, although the vast majority of us have never met their 47, 69, or 8,000,000 followers. I for one would sure appreciate knowing what's become of someone whose posts have inexplicably stopped, just for that maddening sense of closure I mentioned above. I'll only feel "good" in terms of knowing for sure why you "disappeared," but hell, at least that's something.

So, again. What are your plans?


(By the way, if you're wondering what the first photo is all about, it shows the death of Zorro from The Mask of Zorro!)

Next time, I'll try to post something a bit more cheerful. But looking at the world around me lately... I'm not sure what I'll be able to manage.

Wish me luck... and thanks for your time

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The JAY BLACK ATTACK, Part Two!


Last time: I told -- in great detail, of course -- of becoming "musically aware" while still a child during the early 1960s. This "awareness," as it usually does, evolved into my buying my own records instead of leeching listens to my older sister's 45s and LPs.

One of my favorite early purchases was a song called "This Magic Moment" -- a song which was originally a hit for the Drifters -- by a group called Jay and the Americans. By that point in time, the group had graced the charts with several hits, hits of which I, in my youthful ignorance, was largely unaware... but I loved Jay Black's voice!

I gave a brief history of the group's early years, telling how their original lead singer John "Jay" Traynor -- singer of their first hit, "She Cried" -- was replaced by David Black (David Blatt), who renamed himself Jay Black and went on to sing lead on a slew of hits from then until the group broke up in 1973.

I also mentioned that, several years later, I had told a drinking buddy of mine that Elvis Presley should record a version of every worthy song ever written. And since that little note about Elvis was in the middle of an article about Jay Black, you just know I'll apply the same sentiment to Jay Black at some point, don'tcha?

Well, I will. Stay tuned.

* * * * *

As I've noted here and elsewhere, when I was in my late teens and very early twenties, I spent several nights accompanying my friend Wayne as we drove around swilling beer. Wayne usually drove on those nights, which naturally does not absolve me of any responsibilty for acting so... umm... irresponsibly.

At approximately the same time that my youthful self was endangering my own life and countless others by doing this, a group called Sha Na Na was coming into national prominence. Sha Na Na was one of the earliest -- they performed at Woodstock! -- and arguably the best at reviving the hits of the 1950s and 1960s. They had their own syndicated show on TV for a while, and were featured in the movie "Grease."

The most prominent member of Sha Na Na was "Bowzer," a tall, skinny, big-mouthed greaser. (And I mean "big-mouthed" in two respects, as in "large-mouthed" and as in "loud-mouthed.")

The big-mouth (circled) with his mouth uncharacteristically shut.

In real life, Bowzer was Jon Bauman, a child prodigy and classically-trained pianist, who formed Sha Na Na with fellow Columbia University students in the late 1960s.

Well, nothing lasts forever, and Bowzer eventually left Sha Na Na. Nowadays, he organizes (and performs in) rock'n'roll revival shows and doo-wop shows.

Additionally, as chairman of the Truth in Music Committee at the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, he's been leading the battle to establish what's been nicknamed the "Bowzer Bill," a law designed to protect groups such as the Drifters, Platters, and Coasters from being ripped off by imposters performing under their names.

The link in the previous paragraph will give you a full idea of what these classic groups are up against, but simply put, the law says that you cannot bill yourself as a certain "name" act or as being "formerly of" that "name" act unless you were actually a member of the act during the period when they were making some or all of their hits... or unless you somehow hold the legal rights to that name. And in each case, the burden of proof is on you!

So far, this admirable bill has been passed in more than 30 states.

And here's big-mouth Bowzer in all his glory, in a fairly recent photo
where he's standing next to... can it be... Jay Black himself?!?

More on John "Bowzer" Bauman and his Original Doo-Wop Parties after Part Two of the Jay (Black) and the Americans story!

* * * * *

As I related in yesterday's post, for approximately thirty years after the break-up -- I hate to keep using the word "break-up", but using the word "disbanding" sounds like such a lame pun -- of Jay and the Americans, Jay Black would do shows as Jay and the Americans.

That all changed when heavy debts forced Jay to declare bankruptcy. To make a long and disgusting story short, they took the rights to the name Jay and the Americans from him, something he rather naively thought they would never do, because he justifiably felt that no one could sing those songs -- and do justice to them -- but him.

They almost took the name "Jay Black" from him as well. Thankfully, they did not.

It gets worse. It. Gets. Worse.

The rights to the name Jay and the Americans were purchased by Sandy Deanne, one of the original Americans. He got together with two of the other original Americans and formed a "new" group. The only other original band member that they didn't get -- other than Jay Traynor, that is -- was a guy named Kenny Vance... and I have no idea whether they ever even approached him. (You may remember Kenny as the arrogant record company exec in Eddie and the Cruisers, a movie Mr. Vance had a lot to do with behind the scenes.)

So, even with the stipulations of the "Bowzer Bill," this new incarnation has every right to "be" Jay and the Americans. Three of the four -- more on the fourth member shortly -- are members of the original chart-topping group, and they own the legal rights to the name.

And yet... And yet...

It still bothers me. I just hate the way Jay Black was treated, and...

It gets worse!

Not long after Sandy Deanne had acquired the rights to the name, he contacted the other high bidder for the rights to the name, a guy named John "Jay" Reincke. It seems that this ersatz Jay had been touring with one of those rip-off imposter groups that the Bowzer Bill exists to squash, and now... boo-hoo... now that the bill had been passed in so many states, his livelihood was being threatened.

So, naturally, Sandy Deanne said "Good enough for you!" and hung up, right?

Wrong.

He and the other two guys let Jay #3 buy into their group.

Anything I could add to that is unprintable, even in my own blog.

(And by the way, I know I said my history of the group would be fairly biased according to my own opinions and sentiments, but this entire second "chapter" of Jay and the Americans' history was based on information given on their own website. And no, I'm not going to link to it. Instead, I'm going to regress to my age during the era when Jay Traynor was their lead singer, and when you ask me to link to it, I'll petulantly stomp my feet and scream "I won't I won't I won't!")

* * * * *

More than once, my friend John has bought me tickets to the Bowzer bashes when they've shown up in nearby Connecticut, whether it was for my birthday or some other occasion. At one point early in these recurrent gifts, John and I agreed that he should be the one to accompany me, so he could see first-hand how much I enjoyed his present(s).

January 18th, 2009, was the date of "Bowzer's Ultimate Doo-Wop Party VIII." John -- bless 'im -- bought me tickets. When I found out that the headline act was none other than Jay Black -- billing himself as "The American Original" because calling himself "The Original American," or "An Original American" would stray too close to violating a freakin' court edict -- I told John, truthfully, "If he were the only act, it'd be worth the price of the ticket!"

(Well... I didn't pay for the ticket anyway, but... you know what I meant. So did he.)

I could easily devote another four or five posts to the entire concert, but I'll spare both of us that torture and tell you instead about a couple of nice, Jay-related surprises.

One of the acts was The Tokens... Jay Siegel and the Tokens, actually -- yes, another freakin' Jay shows up in this post! -- whose best-known hit was the incredibly-popular "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Usually when a group formerly and famously known as (for instance) "The Window-Peepers" shows up at an oldies revival concert as "Bobby Lee Poop and the Window-Peepers," it means that of the four or five guys on stage, only one was in the original group, and that "one" was Bobby Lee Poop.

And if you're lucky, Bobby Lee Poop was also the original lead singer of The Window-Peepers, so the style of his show will closely match the original Window-Peepers' concerts & recordings.

Well, luckily for all of us, Jay Siegel was the original "voice" of The Window-Peepers... I mean, of The Tokens... at least where "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is concerned.

I hate it when wishful thinking makes an older singer, or actress, whatever... better than he, she, or they actually was or were. Someone with one foot in the grave tries to re-live a moment from a thousand years earlier in their career or the like, and people walk away saying, "Wow! She looks just as good at 80 as she did at 25!" or "Wow! He sounded just like he did on the day he recorded that back in 1940!"

Having said that...

Jay Siegel sounded just like he did on the day he recorded "The Lion Sleeps Tonight!" I swear. He sang it in the same key, and hit all the high notes with just as much energy, just as much of a powerful falsetto as he did back in the good old days.

I was thinking, "I hope Jay Black can sing his stuff half as well."

Before leaving the stage, Jay Siegel introduced one of the two other members of "his" Tokens. (Neither were original Tokens. Like I cared, after having heard Jay Siegel sing.)

The guy he introduced was Jay Traynor.

Yes, that Jay Traynor.

Funny thing... Before the show, I'd wondered aloud (to John) which of his many hits Jay Black would sing. There'd been so many; he wouldn't have time for all of them. "Come a Little Bit Closer" was a shoo-in, since it had been Jay and the Americans' biggest hit. "Cara Mia" -- a song I'd first encountered on an oldies station in the early 1980s and fell immediately in love with -- was another definite must, being their second biggest hit, and a signature Jay Black tune. But other than that, I figured any or all of the others were expendable. And I certainly assumed that he'd skip "She Cried," which wasn't even "his" song originally.

Well, now he didn't have to sing "She Cried." Jay Traynor was there to sing it, which he did.

Fortunately, my friend John was able to scrape me off the ceiling of the Mohegan Sun Arena by the time Jay Black appeared.

Out of all the songs he could have started off with, he surprisingly chose Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman." Ah, what the hell, I thought, at least they were friends.

Jay was quite funny, referring to himself as an "old bastard" -- he'd turned 70 the previous November -- and advised the younger people in the audience to "ask your grandmother who I am." Pause. Shrug. "I probably slept with her."

After a few more songs, he began "Cara Mia." And although he advised us that a close look at his hairline and paunch would make us excuse any missed notes in the song, he carried it off quite well. The high falsetto parts weren't as strong as they were forty-five years ago perhaps, but so-freakin'-what?

When Jay did "Come a Little Bit Closer," he asked the audience for "help," meaning that he wanted us to sing the choruses. Ordinarily, I dislike this practice. I mean, sure, it establishes a cameraderie with the audience, but... "Dude, you got paid to sing tonight!"

Having said that... Yeahhh, I sang the damned choruses as loudly as anyone else that evening.

I just wanted to leave you with one more memory from the concert. Bowzer re-appeared onstage after "Cara Mia" with a terrific quote from Jay Traynor: "Everyone in the world should stop singing 'Cara Mia'... except Jay."

It turns out that, according to Mr. Black, all three Jays of the Jays present that night are friends, and had recently attended either Mr. Traynor's or Mr. Siegel's latest birthday party.

I'll bet no one invited Jay Reincke, though.

The great Jay Black,
The American Original indeed!


* * * * *

Okay, just a few more words from yours truly, followed by 47 or so YouTube videos from Mr. Black, with or without Kenny Vance and the three traitors other Americans:

I should mention that the two recent photos of Jay which I've used here were both stolen borrowed from Jay's very own website. I'll gladly remove them if Jay Black contacts me personally to ask or demand that I do so. Actually, truth be told, if Jay Black were to personally contact me, I would probably do anything else that's legal and/or relatively moral that he asked or demanded of me, as well!

And now... Remember my comment about how Elvis should have sung a version of every worthwhile song ever written?

Well, as I searched YouTube for "Cara Mia" and one or two other songs by Jay and the Americans which I'd wanted to include, I found song after song which made me think, "Wow, he (or they) recorded this one, too?" and "Now that I think of it, his voice would be perfect for this tune."

Accordingly, I amended the Elvis Dictum to extend the concept to Mr. Black as well. Jay should record every single song ever written... well... except the stupid ones.

Let's hope he lives long enough to actually do it.

And now, for your entertainment, several examples of solid entertainment from the man who inherited the nickname of "The Voice," a title which I've heard applied to Frank Sinatra and to Jay's deceased buddy, Roy Orbison.

First, a "Cara Mia" teaser! Jay onstage with Kenny Vance, the other original "American" who isn't part of the "new" Jay and the Americans, bless 'im. (Jay apparently does that comical little note-holding bit every time he performs the tune nowadays, by the way.)

Jay's first hit with the re-vamped Americans.

Proof that Jay could make just about anything sound good!

A tune originally done by Jay's friend, Roy Orbison.

Jay doing a song which was a huge hit for his pal, Gene Pitney. Listen closely to the lyrics. How would you like to be the jilted lover who got to read about this entire story in a "Dear Jane" letter?

Bobby Vee had the hit...

This one was great when done by the Walker Brothers, but Jay's treatment is classic, too.

The song that started it all for me, "it" being my appreciation of Jay Black!

Last but not least -- far from it! -- is, in my not-so-humble opinion, one of the best songs ever:

And now, a suggestion: Read both chapters of "The JAY BLACK ATTACK!" again, but this time, take a shot of something strong every time you read a word with "original" at its root. (Hell, you could play the same game with the word "hit" or the name "Jay," too!) L'chaim.

Thanks for your time! *Hic!*

Friday, March 11, 2011

The JAY BLACK ATTACK, Part One!


I retired my "other" blog, David'Z RantZ, almost two years ago. It still receives hits, most of them for a two-part post about singer Jay Black of Jay and the Americans. So, since somebody obviously likes it, and since I haven't contributed much to this blog lately, I'm gonna reprint the whole thing here. Part One is today's post, and Part Two will come very soon.

*  *  *  *  *


This post is Part One of a two-parter about Jay Black, former lead singer of a group called Jay and the Americans. If you aren't familiar with them and don't want to learn, or are familiar with them but don't give a damn anyway... Come back in a couple of days. No hard feelings.

Okay, now that we're all on the same page here -- literally and figuratively -- let's start this one off with a personal timeline:

I "became aware" of the music playing on AM radio during the years 1962 and 1963, when I was roughly six years old. I say "roughly" because I didn't turn six until very late 1962, namely, November.

Just for the hell of it, I went to a website called "The All-Time Greatest Hits," which lists the top 20 songs for every year since 1944!

I can recall about a dozen songs from their 1962 list, and by that I mean that I can recall hearing them then. My musical education in the years since then doesn't count. I mean, I know pieces by classical composers such as Mozart and Grieg, but that doesn't mean I'm old enough to still be holding onto any ticket stubs from their concerts!

So. 1962: a dozen songs, more or less. 1963: almost three times that!

During those early years, my musical tastes were largely shaped by what my older sister listened to, and bought: the Beach Boys, the early Beatles and most of the other British Invasion groups, Lesley Gore, Gene Pitney... My own purchases -- or rather, stuff that was purchased for me -- throughout the middle and late 1960s consisted primarily of novelty and comedy records like "The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles' Hits," "Alfred Hitchcock's Ghost Stories for Young Children," "Dracula's Greatest Hits," "Pat Paulsen for President," Don Rickles' "Hello, Dummy," Bill Cosby's "Wonderfulness," and Pigmeat Markham's "Anything Goes with Pigmeat."

Chances are, if my sister liked a song, I did, too. And if she bought the song, I had no need to.

That began changing in 1968. Late 1968, I assume, judging from that Top 20 list again.

I had lots of favorites on their 1968 list, but I remember buying/owning only three of them. For the most part, my sister owned the rest of my favorites.

In 1969, I bought... a few more than in 1968. Over two dozen titles, actually. I found most of them on the Top 20 list (I say "most" because every single record I ever bought was not a Top 20 hit.) There was a lot of "soundtrack" stuff, often from movies I'd never seen, as well as other instrumental songs, and more novelty records.

One of them was a song called "This Magic Moment." (Not that it would have mattered anyway, but at that time, I had no idea that the song was a re-make of an old Drifters tune. To me, the Drifters meant "Under the Boardwalk," "On Broadway," and -- I think -- "Up On the Roof.") I'm sure I'd heard other songs from Jay and the Americans over the years -- "Come a Little Bit Closer" was a monster hit, for example, and there was no escaping it -- but this was the first one of their songs that stuck out in my mind to the point where I "had" to own it. What a great voice that "Jay" had!

* * * * *

Back in the days when my friend Wayne and I were young enough -- and stupid enough -- to think that we'd live forever, we'd cruise around in his vehicle or mine -- usually his -- splitting a six-pack or two on nights when both of us were without dates.

One evening, I made the drunken observation that, in my not-so-humble opinion, I thought that if it were possible, Elvis Presley -- who was still alive at the time -- should have recorded every song ever written.

By that, I didn't mean that only Elvis should ever have recorded the songs of the world, but instead, that every song ever recorded by anyone else should also be committed to vinyl by The King.

In response to Wayne's "What the hell are you talking about?" I launched into an Elvis-esque rendition of Boston's "Peace of Mind," a version which owed as much to the King's "Burnin' Love" as it did to Brad Delp, Tom Scholz, et al.

However, although I still think that Elvis should have recorded a version of every worthwhile song ever put to vinyl, I now believe he's not the only artist who should be so entitled.

Which once again leads me to mention "Jay" from the end of this post's previous segment.

* * * * *

And now, allow me -- like you could stop me! -- to give you part one of a very biased history of Jay and the Americans.

Jay and the Americans started out roughly fifty years ago as the Harborlites. The name change came when the group auditoned for, and were signed by, the one and only... I mean, the two and only... that is... Oh, never mind! The Harborlites were signed by the songwriting & record producing team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, who had written -- or would go on to write -- hits for acts like the Coasters, the Drifters, Peggy Lee, Dion, Big Mama Thornton, and that Elvis guy I mentioned earlier.

Lieber and Stoller suggested that the group change its name to Binky Jones and the Americans. None of the members of the group were thrilled with the name -- and can you blame them? -- especially the group's lead singer, John Traynor, who balked at being identified as "Binky Jones" for the rest of his professional career. He suggested his childhood nickname of "Jay" instead, and Jay and the Americans was born. Were born. Whatever.

Jay (Traynor) and the Americans released some singles, and had one big hit with a song called "She Cried." As it turned out, however, Jay opted for a solo career soon after, and the Americans were temporarily "Jayless" until the arrival of a guy named David Black.

David Black was the professional name of a singer born David Blatt. After hearing him audition, beginning with a beautiful song called "Cara Mia" which Black sang -- okay, nailed -- a capella, the Americans asked him if he'd consider changing his name once again, this time to Jay Black. He agreed. What the hell, it was a paying gig...

The new Jay and the Americans' first hit was a song called "Only in America," a song originally planned for the Drifters... However, there were a couple of reasons that the record company execs decided that the tune wasn't quite right for a group of African-Americans. One of those reasons was the line "Only in America can a kid without a cent get a break and maybe grow up to be president." A black president? Not bloody likely. (Not nearly fifty years ago, anyway!)

In the following years, which encompassed most of the 1960s, the group piled up an impressive number of hits like "Come a Little Bit Closer" (their biggest hit), "Sunday and Me," "Crying" (the Roy Orbison tune... and Jay Black had one of the few voices good enough to dare to pull this one off!), "Let's Lock the Door (And Throw Away the Key)," "Think of the Good Times," their cover versions of "This Magic Moment" and "Walkin' in the Rain," and, of course, "Cara Mia."

After the group broke up in 1973, Jay toured occasionally as "Jay and the Americans."

The story of Jay Black -- with or without the Americans -- doesn't end there, of course, but today's post does. (I'm trying to keep these puppies down to a readable length.)

Part Two continues tomorrow, with "the rest of the story" -- pardon the theft of that line -- and the introduction of a self-proclaimed "greaser" named Jon Bauman, a third "Jay," and my own recent concert experience...

Plus I ask the musical question, "What the hell does all of this have to do with 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight?!?' "

Thanks for your time... and catch you on the "B" side!

"Brief Visit"



BRIEF VISIT

I've swallowed many a bitter fruit,
Served by you,
With a smile I always trusted to be sincere.

I ignore the whispers behind my back
And once again make the journey to see you.
My smile mirrors your own as you stand before me,
To greet me,
Your "I love you" hanging beside your head
Like a word balloon in a comic strip.

I reach out to touch what I think is you.
Too late, I realize that it isn't you at all
(At least, not the "you" I'd hoped to see again
After all this time!),
But instead, a false sheet of stiff paper
Bearing your image.

As the beckoning, deceitful photograph of you
Collapses and tumbles to the ground,
Taking its "I love you"
And all of my hopes with it,
I feel the cold and familiar steel
Of the knife -- your knife -- as it strikes my back.

Saved yet again by my calluses!
I'm toughened, but never hardened, you see.
I grant myself few limitations
But have the sense to see them where they exist.
I am honestly, truly content
To enjoy the beauty
Of life's many rainbows
Without ever expecting or demanding
A pot of gold at their end.

Your blade falls, broken and useless.
I step forward, never looking back to see the real you.
Instead, I glance downward wistfully,
Looking at your false but loving image,
Which lies crumpled on the ground
Along with so many cherished memories from the past.

I step around the life-size photograph.
(Around it, but not upon it.)
Then, as always,
I continue walking along my private path.

Same time next year, my dear one?


*  *  *  *  *


To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, "Sometimes a poem is only a poem."

Every so often, I'll write a short story or a poem which has absolutely nothing to do with my personal life, but one or more of my readers infer(s) that it does. So, just for the record, let me state that at the moment, I am on very good terms with all of my friends, relatives, and loved ones.

Again, to paraphrase Sigmund Freud, "Sometimes a poem is only a poem."

The copyrighted illustration at the top of the page is a papercut by the immensely talented Suzy Taylor at Folk Art Papercuts, and is used with her very gracious permission! A perusal of her site and her intricate creations will surely impress you, as it did me.

Thanks for your time.

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