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. Traynor moved with his mother to Mineola on Long Island in 1959. 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.
He was then asked to join The Mystics at the time were missing their lead singer Phil Cracolici, who had to drop out of the group for a while, just after their big hit “Hushabye”. Traynor filled in and recorded “White Cliffs Of Dover,” “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “Blue Star” with them, but he was unhappy because he felt like an outsider and knew they would never accept him as an equal since they had grown up together and resented anyone trying to replace Phil. 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.
The foundation of what would become Jay and the Americans was laid in 1959, when two teenagers named Kenny Vance and Sandy Deane formed a doo-wop style group called “The Harborlites”. After a couple of failed recordings, Sandy began looking for a stronger lead singer. As fate would have it, Traynor was looking for another band and since the two groups shared Jim Gribble as manager, the three got together, adding a fourth member, Howie Kane. All of the band’s early recordings were produced by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, who produced numerous artists and wrote many hits for Elvis Presley, the Drifters, the Coasters, and many more.
The four were teamed up with songwriters Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber, who had a great track record with The Drifters, The Coasters, and Ben E. King. United Artists had just finished the movie version of “West Side Story” and offered the boys heavy promotion if they recorded a song from the soundtrack called “Tonight,” but U.A. had two of their other acts also record the song. Most of the promotion money was spent on the two more well-known acts, Ferante & Teicher & Ralph Marterie. The “Jay and the Americans” version sold 50,000 copies, but was far overshadowed by an instrumental version by Ferrante and Teicher.
Traynor next sang lead on “She Cried” which gained national attention when a West coast D.J. locked himself in the booth and played the song for four straight hours. The wire services picked up on the story, the song and the group gained national attention, and the single followed up by an album of the same name. With the success of “She Cried”, Jay and the Americans were booked on a continuous string of one nighters. The constant travel and the failure of the next two singles, proved too much for Traynor. He started missing rehearsals and the guys thought he wanted to go solo. He admitted he had been thinking about it and the guys said “don’t think, we’ll go on without you”
So Traynor left the Americans (replaced with David Blatt as “Jay Black”), and released solo records, including “I Rise, I Fall” on the Coral label in 1964. His name on the label was denoted as “JAY … formerly of Jay & the Americans”. Although the song wasn’t a smash, it was good enough for Johnny Tillotson to have a minor hit it, and for Rick Nelson to include on his “For You” album.
Later in the 1960s, Traynor released “Up & Over”, produced by Dennis Lambert for Don Costa Productions. The song became a big hit with the UK “Northern Soul” underground dance clubs. After working for Woodstock Ventures, the company that put on the “Woodstock” festival, Traynor began a career working behind the scenes with such 1970s acts as Mountain, West, Bruce & Laing, The Who, Ten Years After, Yes, and gospel singer Mylon LeFevre.
In 1977, Traynor moved to Albany, New York, near his roots in Greenville and worked at WNYT as a studio camera operator. He then performed with two cover bands Great Jones, and Friends, and also with jazz trios, then by 2001 was the singer with the Joey Thomas Big Band, where his love for Frank Sinatra’s music began. The Big Band put out a few CDs with Traynor, including “Live On WAMC” & “The Sinatra Show.” In 2006, Traynor received a call from Jay Siegel, and he toured with Jay Siegel’s Tokens for the remainder of his life.