By Isaac Rodriguez
Rock Legends Photographers
Q: What music or musician did you listen to that inspired you as an artist?
A: [Sandy] He and I (referring to Howie) — we saw a television show called the Frankie Lane show and a group called Frankie Lymon and the teenagers came on and played “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.” We got impressed with that and then we saw the Everly Brothers on television and we decided we wanted to do that too.
[Sandy] Howie you tell him who inspired you?
[Howie] To be a singer?
[RLP] Just to be an artist in general.
[Howie] Honestly, Mario Lanza. He was a star in the movies in the 50’s, he was like an opera singer. Mario Lanza was an operatic singer. When I went to Radio City Music Hall and see whatever movie was there, there he was. So I would say WOW! I would love to sing like that.
Q: At what age did you start performing?
A: [Sandy] We all performed when we were kids. Yeah we were kids – teenagers.
[Howie] We used to make up routines when we were in public school together. We did “Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy.”
Q: How did Jay and the Americans originate?
A: [Sandy] We were just four guys that sang harmonies on the street corner. We had two different groups and both groups had recording contracts to put out records. Nothing happened with the groups, they broke up, reformed and became Jay and the Americans.
Q: Do you have a favorite city or venue that you just love to play in?
A: [Sandy] Madison Square Gardens because we are New York boys.
[Howie referring to Jay] I’m sure this guy down here from Chicago would say the Chicago slaughterhouses (laughter).
[Jay] The Chicago Theater is a cool place to play.
[Howie to Jay] It’s not Madison Square Garden, it fits in the locker room of Madison Square Garden (laughter from all).
[Sandy] We travel a lot so we like a lot of places – actually everything is nice. You want to know the truth? It is a privilege to play and have people turn out and pay to see you. It does not matter what city. It is a privilege and should not be taken for granted.
Q: Do you have a favorite song that you just love to play?
A: [Sandy] We all have different ones, mine is “Walking in the Rain.”
[Howie] “Some Enchanted Evening.”
[Jay] “Let’s Lock the Door.”
[Marty] “This magic moment.”
Q: What was your funniest or most embarrassing moment on stage?
A: [Sandy] When Marty’s tooth flew out of his mouth.
[Jay] How about when Marty fell down in Vegas?
[Sandy] We got new boots (referring to the Vegas show) and everyone said scrape the bottom of the boots or put duct tape on the bottom.
[Marty] I like to run out, I am the first one out with the guitar. I said I would be fine, I ran out on stage and I went flying feet first up in the air and ass on the floor. But I never stopped playing, never missed a beat. The shoes were so slippery I was slipping around.
[Sandy] The good thing about it was we did two shows that night and people stayed to see if that was part of the act.
Q: Other than your band members, is there any group or individual that you would to love play and jam or play with on stage?
A: [Sandy] I would like to play with Steely Dan.
[Jay] That’s funny because all my idols like Elvis and Orbison are gone.
[Sandy to Jay] Yes but you would like to go on stage with Jay and the Americans.
[Sandy to RLP] See he was younger, so he grew up listening to us, so for him (referring to Jay) he is living that right now.
[Jay] This is my first time around with Jay and the Americans. These guys have done it before. To them it’s kind of fun to see me do it for the first time. For me I’m working with the real guys.
Q: Is there a group or individual that is your favorite to tour with or that you would love to tour with?
A: [Sandy] Well, we toured with Roy Orbison, who is a favorite for all of us. We toured with The Rolling Stones, and we played with The Beatles. To be honest with you I think Roy Orbison was the best.
[Howie] I thought the biggest thrill was working with the Beatles because that changed music.
Q: Do you have any new projects in the works?
A: [Sandy] Yeah, we have three new CDs in the works. We rerecorded all hits with Jay no. 3, the new lead singer for eight years now. We wrote a lot of new stuff, also favorite stuff that was done by other people and was rearranged and recorded as well. So we got three CDs, and a book is in the works that should be coming out soon called “Magic Moments”. This is the story of the group from the beginning to the present. So, we got a lot of stuff going on, and people keep threatening to do a Broadway show or a movie.
Q: What is the difference between the original Jay and the Americans and the group today?
A: [Sandy] We are having a lot more fun now, there was so much pressure when we were kids.
[Howie] We are a lot more versatile now.
[Sandy] In the beginning people were telling us what to do, the record companies, the managers, the agents, were all telling us what to do and how are careers were going to be. Now we took control, slowly but surely. As we started with more hits, we started producing our own records, managing ourselves, and now this time around we are totally in charge of everything. There is no pressure from the record companies saying we have to record a song that sounds like the last hit. It’s all the things we are doing that we want to do, not because we have to do it. It’s a lot more fun, we like each other a lot better. Back then we were kids, now we are grandfathers. So you have a different mental approach to life. Some of the songs we used to sing to our kids we now sing to our grandchildren. Like I said, we have been doing it for only 52-and-a-half years, so maybe by the time we are doing it for 62-and-a-half years it will be better. I don’t know how it could not get much better than this.
A special thanks to the band, and Lisa and Michelle from the Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale, Florida for your cooperation in making this interview possible.
By Isaac Rodriguez