John "Jay" Traynor was the lead vocalist for Jay & the Americans when the group scored its first hit single, "She Cried," in 1962. Jay Black, aka David Blatt, took Traynor's place a short while later. Black's voice is the one the song-buying public heard on subsequent Jay & the Americans hits from the '60s, like "Cara Mia" and "Come a Little Bit Closer." Later in life, Traynor sang Frank Sinatra songs with the Joey Thomas Big Band.
Traynor was a star-struck youth who wanted to break into the music business the first time he saw a rock & roll group perform at his high school when he was 15. It took a little bit of time, but his dream started coming together in an inauspicious way when he took up singing in the subway with a group of like-minded pals who called themselves the Ab Tones. Mickey & Sylvia, who ran a production company and had already made a name for themselves with the single "Love Is Strange" in 1957, expressed interest in the fledgling singers, but a recording deal never materialized. Traynor dropped out of the Ab Tones.
After settling in Brooklyn, Traynor lucked into his first professional gig sometime during the late '50s. The Mystics' lead vocalist had quit, and Traynor won the spot not only on the strength of his voice, but also because he could fit into the lead singer's costume. He was riding high, enjoying his first professional bus tour along the East Coast, which was orchestrated by the influential Alan Freed, until a misunderstanding put the breaks on his career. The Mystics' manager fired Traynor after he caught the singer going through his desk. Traynor contended that he was looking for a publicity photo of the group to pass along to a friend, but the manager fired him anyway.
Traynor didn't stay down long. He soon got an invitation from Sandy Yaguda, who was putting a group together in New York with help from Kenny Rosenberg. Traynor became part of the Harbor Lites, which later evolved into Jay & the Americans. The group hooked up with producers Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber, who had worked with such artists as Ben E. King, the Drifters, and the Coasters. Traynor died of liver cancer in Tampa, Florida on January 2, 2014; he was 70 years old.