I’ve just returned from seeing two of my favorite oldies performers in concert that I grew up with, Gary Puckett from Gary Puckett and the Union Gap fame and Jay Black from Jay and the Americans fame who I’ve seen several times in person both solo artists now at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, N.J..
Gary Puckett opened the show and he is very young looking and acting for his 70 years or as Gary says “I’m 60/10 ” . I got the impression from his interaction with the audience that he is a very personable person in real life too when not performing. Gary explained that when he first broke into performing and recording records he knew they had to have a gimmick to make them stand out so since he was from Minnesota and had a fascination with the Civil War they decided to wear union uniforms which can be seen on the covers of their early albums. They were a five man group known as Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. Today he performs with a younger three piece band consisting of guitar, drums and Keyboards called The Union Gap Band.
Gary was in his prime from 1968-72. Last night he performed all his hits like” Young Girl,” “Lady Will Power” and “Woman, Woman,(have you got cheating on your mind).” A particular emotional part of the concert was when Gary asked all the veterans in the audience to stand up which we all did. Gary thanked every vet in the audience for their service to our great country and for helping to preserve the freedoms of the greatest nation n in the world. He then went into a song about thanking all the vets as he shook hands with vets that came up to the stage and in the front row and thanked them personally. A very touching moment.
After a 20 minute intermission, Jay Black performed. He was accompanied by a ten piece orchestra consisting of guitar, drums, keyboards and a five piece horn section. I’ve seen Jay several times over the years now. He’s 76 years old now and I was wondering if he could keep up with that famous, rich deep baritone voice and hold those long notes he was known for, but he didn’t disappoint. Jay opened with Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman” and told stories about his career and meeting a new aspiring singer who came to his office suggesting a song for him then seeing that singer on a street corner with a crowd around him. That singer was Neil Diamond. Jay then went into Neil’s song ‘”Solitary man.”
One thing about Jay that makes him so entertaining is his off color adult humor thruout his act that is funny but not gross or dirty and his self deprecating humor about his age. “I would like to have a moment of silence for all those under 60 who are wondering who the hell I am,” he said to laughter from the audience.
Jay introduced his grown son Jay Jr, who plays guitar in his band when not being a stock broker on Wall Street. Jay mentioned that when Cara Mia became a big hit when he was in his late 20’s 100,000 women named their daughters Cara after the song. Today that number is up to 300,000 so what does his son do? He has baby girl and names her Layla. Jay turned to his son and said, “If you need anything go see Clapton.” For those of you not familiar ,Eric Clapton had a big hit song called ‘Layla.” Jay then went into Cara Mia , but not before warning the audience first that he has been sick lately and even when you are sick the show must go on so to excuse him if it is not up to par. Well Jay needed no excuse as he went into that long deep, rich full baritone note at the beginning and in the middle of the song. He performed it flawlessly to which the audience gave him a standing ovation. Jay thanked the audience for their response saying their response made him feel a whole lot better.
Jay told stories about being on the road in his career and said that in the 60’s there were a lot of protest songs going on and many singers from up north were afraid to go down south for the kind of people there. “You know the kind I mean,” Jay said “You know, the ones that go to family reunions to meet women.” He said he wasn’t afraid and they went down south and did a song called “Come A Little Bit Closer.” The audience applauded here. He then said that when he came to the chorus he found the audience sang along . He liked that so much he decided to make that a part of the act so during the song, Jay would sing the verse and then hold the mic out to the audience as they sang: Come a little bit closer you’re my kind of guy/So big and o strong/Come a little bit closer and the night is so long”. Jay was pleased with the reaction you could tell.
Jay closed his show with “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific. When he announced the song several people in the audience clapped to which Jay replied, ”Oh I see we have some people here from Guam.”
Jay has always been a big supporter of Law Enforcement groups as well as our troops. He’s friends with many top law enforcement officials too, some of which were in the audience.
If music keeps you young in spirit and mind then Jay Black and Gary Puckett are shining examples. They are both still 25. :)
Check out this great you tube of Jay recently singing Cara Mia. That’s exactly how he looked and sounded only without the male backup singers.