Wednesday, March 03, 2010
So, flipping around the channels last night, and the pledge-week favorite on PBS with the old R&B Doo-wop singers was on. I'd seen most of it before and was about to change the station, just as Jay and the Americans were about to sing.
Jay was doing an intro, and --
-- a brief digression. As nearly as I can tell, there were at least three "Jays," in the group between the early 1960's and now, the first two of whom weren't actually named Jay at all.
John Trayner, the original lead singer, didn't like the name the producers came up with for the group -- "Binky Jones and the Americans," so he offered up his family nickname, and the producers agreed.
Trayner left the group in 1963, to be replaced by David Black, who agreed to change his name to "Jay." When the group broke up in 1973, he kept the name for a time. Later Black went bankrupt, sold the rights to the group, and the new owners found a sound-alike who, coincidentally, was named Jay ...
Um. Anyway, they had a string of hits in the mid-sixties with Jay #2, including among them "She Cried," "This Magic Moment," "Come a Little Bit Closer," and "Cara Mia."
This last song, "Cara Mia," required pretty good pipes and breath control and a glass-breaking shift into a high falsetto, ala Frankie Valli (The Four Seasons, "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man," "Stay," etc.)
So here's "Jay," and his intro, and I'm interested. Basically, he said, he wrote this song when he was twenty-five, and realized that the range needed to sing it was going to cause him to retire by the time he was forty. But forty came and went and he couldn't afford to retire. Then fifty, then here he was at sixty-two still hitting the same notes ...
The years haven't been kind to his looks. I'd have guessed seventy, minimum.
Um. Anyhow, then he launched into "Cara Mia."
Did a good job of it. Interesting how many of the fifties and sixties doo-wop and pop singers managed to take such good care of their instruments, given the smoking and drinking and carousing and all.
Got him a standing ovation, and he earned it -- but he wasn't hitting the notes as hard as he did back in the day, nor holding 'em for long ...
Isn't that the way of it? One day you're a tight-slacks-and-sweater teenage heart-throb lip-synching your hit on Shindig; next, you are a white-haired brick-shaped old guy straining to recapture your lost youth ...
Get 'em, Jay!