“Just take those old records off the shelf,
I’ll sit and listen to ‘em by myself.
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul,
I like that old time rock & roll.”

— Bob Seeger


It’s no secret that my real passion is music. (I have about as much interest in back pain as I do in dental floss or ceiling wax.) And there’s nothing I like better than finding a “new” old song that I’ve never heard before or a band (old or new) that really knows what music is supposed to sound like. (Don’t get me started.)

Jay and the Americans

One of my favorite bands from the 1960’s was a very popular vocal group by the name of Jay and The Americans. Over a span of 11 years they had a string of hits including such classics as This Magic Moment, Come A Little Bit Closer, Cara Mia and Only In America. (I’m particularly fond of Hushabye and Walking In The Rain.)

Why do I bring this up? Well, as it turns out, one of the founding members of that group was a fellow named Kenny Vance. Yeah, I’d never heard of him either until one evening I was watching one of those Doo Wop specials on PBS television and among the performers was this group by the name of Kenny Vance and The Planotones.

At the time, I thought they were a newly formed “cover band” and it seemed odd to me that they were included on a program showcasing classic artists from the 50’s… not that I cared because the song they did totally blew me away.

Here’s that performance… a sample of just how cool this guy and his music really is:


Note: If you don’t have a high-speed connection, you can still view YouTube videos. Just let it play through once (it will stop and start several times). Once it’s done, just click it again. I’ll play correctly now that’s it’s loaded into your cache (or temporary Internet files).


A little for you history buffs:

In the 1970’s, after Jay and The Americans broke up, Kenny Vance went on to a career composing and scoring television and film soundtracks. His list of movie credits include, “American Hot Wax,” “Animal House,” “Eddie & The Cruisers,” and “Looking For An Echo.”

He was the producer for the rock band, Steely Dan and for a while was the musical director for Saturday Night Live.

As an actor, he appeared in “Hurly Burly,” “Billy Bathgate,” “American Hot Wax,” “Eddie & The Cruisers,” and the Woody Allen films “Manhattan,” “Stardust Memories,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Husbands and Wives.”

During the making of the film “American Hot Wax,” he put together several bands … including one called The Planotones … for the purpose of shooting the movie. His goal was to recreate the early days of rock & roll as a way to tell the Alan Freed story.

Jumping ahead a few years… he re-formed The Planotones in 1992 and they are still performing to this day.

All of this has been my longwinded way of saying that – even though you may have never heard his name before – Kenny Vance has been around since the beginning and that’s why he was included on the PBS Doo Wop special.

— Dean