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    The J's With Jamie

    Monday, 06 March 2017 14:53

    Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 5.16.58 AMBy the early 1960s, the popularity of '50s-style jazz-pop vocal groups like the Hi-Lo's, the Axidentals, the Four Freshmen and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross fell out of favor as the music landscape changed. There was Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, of course, and a few other adult contemporary choir groups like the Johnny Mann Singers, but most vocal harmonizing on the pop charts was done by ensembles such as the Fifth Dimension and the Mamas and the Papas.

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    When jazz-pop vocal groups hit the skids, singers who could handle the repetitive rigors of the recording studio slipped into the lucrative world of TV and radio advertising, especially if they could write jingles, read music and artfully arrange vocal parts.

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    One of the most successful jingle groups of the '60s was the J's With Jamie. Their voices were heard on dozens of the decade's ads for products such as Mr. Clean, Green Giant, Wrigley's Spearmint Gum and Alka-Seltzer to name a few. The quartet from Chicago featured three male singers and one female. At the heart of the group was Joe Silvia and his wife Jamie. The other two slots were filled by a rotating cast of male singers that included Len Dressler and Don Shelton. Shelton had been in the Hi-Lo's, and both would help found the Singers Unlimited in the late 1960s, with Bonnie Herman and Gene Puerling (also of the Hi-Lo's).

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    The J's With Jamie even managed to squeeze in albums for Columbia and ABC-Paramount (with arrangements by Don Costa). In 1964, they were nominated for two Grammys, losing out in the "Best Performance By a Vocal Group" category to Peter, Paul & Mary's Blowin' in the Wind and in the "Best New Artist" category to Ward Swingle of the Swingle Signers.

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    Jamie's voice was lovely and special. There was an upbeat warmth and polished perfection to her intonation that came with a girl-next-door naturalism reminiscent of Eydie Gormé. The more you listen to her voice and the group's vocal arrangements, the more remarkable they become. The Js With Jamie belonged to a corner of the jazz-pop field rarely explored or celebrated in books or articles today, largely because there's little record of who did what and the disposable, commercial nature of the material. Was it art? Not really. But the vocal-group jingle sound was seductive, lifted your spirits and made you reach for your wallet. And if you listen carefully to your television today, you'll realize it's still with us...

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    Frankly, I knew nothing about the J's With Jamie until Mattias Nilsson sent along a link last week to a YouTube interview with Gene Puerling of the Hi-Lo's. Deep in the interview, Puerling mentions that when the Hi-Lo's broke up in '64, Don Shelton went to Chicago to join the J's With Jamie. When Jamie and Joe Silvia decided to relocate to New York in the late '60s, Shelton remained in Chicago and called Puerling. Bonnie Herman joined along with Dressler. Modeled after the J's With Jamie, the newly formed Singers Unlimited filled the vacuum in Chicago, recording ads for a few years until they began making albums as a group in 1971. Here's the Puerling interview...

    Here's a demo reel by the J's With Jamie...

    JazzWax tracks: While the albums by the J's With Jamie as well as Jamie and the J. Silvia Singers with Don Costa arrangements are super rare, you can listen to all of them and the group's singles at WFMU.org. The best way to access the material is by going to Google and typing in "WFMU.org + the J's and Jamie" (or go here). Then you'll have to dip in and out of the posts and click on links to listen to the album's tracks. There was even a 1962 holiday album by the group along with singles for Columbia. Their voices made a generation of parents buy stuff. Quite remarkable when you think about it.

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