Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Music: Jay Traynor, RIP

by George Molé

Just about a month ago, on Saturday, December 7, I attended quite a colorful doo-wop concert at St. Athanasius Church, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. In the house was what you might call the old Brooklyn--a lot of white-haired guys sporting their black leather Fonzie jackets, and yellow-haired ladies rocking their leopard-prints and furs. And a nice enough crowd to make you wish the old Brooklyn wasn't being replaced so rapidly by the new.

After the show, I got to take a photo with a highly respected singer--Jay Traynor, who, back in the days of early rock, replaced Paul Simon as lead vocalist of the Mystics, and then went on to be the original "Jay" of Jay and the Americans. That photo is below (and, no, it's not blurry, it's soft-focus, like an Impressionist painting). And Traynor's voice can best be heard in this 1962 hit by Jay and the Americans, "She Cried."

Traynor performed at the December show as a member of Jay Siegel's Tokens (yes, another Jay), with whom he had been touring, and who were among the best of all the great groups to grace that school auditorium that evening. The original Tokens, with Siegel as the lead singer (but long before Traynor was on board), were best known for their 1961 hit "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." They did that song that night, and Siegel got all the notes, with the able assistance of Traynor and the rest of the group.

Now it's been announced that Traynor has passed away, on January 2, having succumbed to the liver cancer he had been battling. This is not an original observation--but, man, life is short and fragile. RIP, Jay Traynor, and thanks for the fine music.

Photo: Less than four weeks ago, I was lucky enough to take a photo with this respected musician, Jay Traynor, the original "Jay" of the early rock group Jay and the Americans. He was currently touring with The Tokens, best known for the old hit "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." This photo was taken after their December 7th appearance at a doo-wop show in Brooklyn.

Now it's been announced that Mr. Traynor has passed away, having battled liver cancer. This is not an original observation--but, man, life is short and fragile. RIP, Jay Traynor, and thanks for the great music.
Singer Jay Traynor (right) with yours truly at the December show in Brooklyn.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Radio: Bob Grant, RIP

 by George Molé

I'm mourning the passing, on New Year's Eve, of New York radio icon Bob Grant.

When I was a kid, long before I was out in the world myself, or had gotten to know the city, I knew Bob Grant.  His program was always on in our apartment--at first because talk radio was my mother's constant companion, later because I developed a taste for that medium myself.  And Grant was the best of talk radio, a pioneer of the format.  He talked to everyone and discussed everything, and no one could top his passion about the issues of the day.  The city and the world, their swirling controversies, sounded as exciting as could be through his microphone.

Just as I was discovering some of the great conservative writers and thinkers in print, here was a man applying the same ideas to what was going on in the streets of New York. And, although he clearly wished the best for everyone, he became in particular a spokesman for New York's white ethnics, who were then fleeing the city and the area in huge numbers.

Later, when I was involved with Curtis Sliwa's Guardian Angels, Grant came on a midnight subway patrol with us. Apparently, he had had a few pops to prepare himself for the ordeal, and I was quite surprised to learn that he was rather on the short side. Perhaps it was just as well that none of the callers to his radio show ever took him up on his frequent threat to "punch your nose right down your throat"--he probably couldn't have reached anyone's nose.

Around that time, I had the good fortune of getting to interview him for a community newspaper I wrote for. And, many years later, when I began to place op-eds in the major New York papers, he interviewed me twice on his program, both times in the most complimentary terms.

He wasn't perfect--he sure could be obnoxious to a caller he didn't like (he's best known for his phrase "Get off my phone!"). But that was part of his shtick, and you knew what you were getting into when you dialed that phone.

I love the fact that he worked on the radio almost until the end of his life. And I'm going to miss him. A great New York character who loved this city, and supported it by telling the truth about what was being done to it, and the politicians who were doing it (he used to refer to Mayor Lindsay as "the Tower of Jelly"). I have a feeling we'll wish we had him around during the next four years. RIP.

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