Passings: Jay Traynor of the Mystics and Jay and the Americans (1943 - 2014)

Traynor in 1964
John "Jay" Traynor, who sang with the Mystics and was the original Jay of Jay and the Americans, died on Thursday after a two year battle with liver cancer. He was 70.

Jay Siegel of Jay Siegel's Tokens, the last group with which Traynor worked, wrote on Twitter:
It's with great sadness to tell you that Jay Traynor passed away this morning. He's been fighting liver cancer for the past 2 years. We all lost a great talent & a true gentleman, & I lost a wonderful friend. -Jay Siegel
Traynor was born in Brooklyn, NY on March 30, 1943 and started his first group, the Ab-tones, while in his mid-teens.  At the age of 17, Jay was asked to become the new lead singer of The Mystics who had previously had a major hit with Hushabye.  He was the third lead for the group and, by the time of his joining in 1960, the heyday of the harmony vocal groups was coming to a close. Traynor recorded three tracks with the group, White Cliffs of Dover, which became a single though not successful, Blue Star (the flip of Dover) and Over the Rainbow which wasn't released to the public until the 1980's.

Unhappy with being the "replacement" guy in the Mystics, Traynor hooked up with Howard Kane, Kenny Vance and Sandy Deanne, the last two of which had been in the semi-successful group The Harborlites who had a moderate New York area hit with Is That Too Much to Ask. The newly formed Jay and the Americans were brought to Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller who molded the group's sound, using the group's doo-wop harmonies with Traynor's more pop voice over the top.

Their first single, Tonight from West Side Story, became a local New York hit but was outsold nationally by the instrumental version by Ferrante and Teicher.

Their second single was the song Dawning backed with She Cried. The record didn't do well until six months after its release when a West Coast DJ turned the record over and started playing She Cried over and over. The song went to number 5 on the national charts.

Jay and the Americans went out on a long national tour in support of the single and the album of the same name, which took a toll on Traynor's psyche.  After missing a few rehearsals, the other members of the group asked if he wanted to go solo and didn't stand in his way when he said he had thought about it.

Traynor released a couple of albums during the 60's that were not successful and, in the latter part of the decade, went to work at Woodstock Ventures.  In the 70's, he worked behind the scenes with groups like Mountain, Yes, Ten Years After and the Who before settling down in Albany, NY and becoming a camera operator at WNYT television.

Later in his career, Traynor performed with cover bands and eventually became lead singer of the Joey Thomas Big Band where he developed an act featuring Frank Sinatra music. In 2006, he joined his final group, Jay Siegel's Tokens.

2 comments

fwurtz said...

I am Jay's former wife, Michele. We were together for 15 years, married for 12, about 1987 - 1999. By the Grace of God, and mutual willingness, we remained close and good friends to one another. I will miss him dearly.

Jerry Adinolfi said...

My late brother, John Adinolfi, was a high school classmate of Jay's at the Greenville Central School in Greenville, NY., Class of 1961. I was in the Class of 1959 at Greenville and sang in the Boys' Glee Club there with Jay and John. Jay called me in Kansas when John died in 2000 at the age of 57 from Agent Orange poisoning while in Vietnam with the Marine Corps. Jay had a great voice and was a wonderful man. I will miss him.

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