1. Version 1 (:55)
2. Version 2 (:55)
3. Version 3 (:55)
4. Version 4 (:55)
5. Version 5 (:55)
6. Music (:25)
7. Talking Side-by-Side (Humor) (:50)
8. Cotton Fields (2:18)
9. Little Boy Blue (2:32)
10. When My Sugar Walks Down the Street (2:23)
11. But Not for Me (2:21)
12. Hey Look Me Over (1:58)
13. The Sound of Money (2:28)
What was the most-heard vocal act on the radio in the 1960s? Who was nominated for a 1963 Grammy for Vocal Group of the Year? What group turned down touring and recording deals, yet became a key influence for the Pizzicatto Five?
The answer to all of the above questions is The J's With Jamie. Their Grammy-nominated version of "Hey Look Me Over" can even be found on this curious little advertising disc.
Only a few details about the group survive, mostly from an archived article from Time published in 1964. Tired of life on the road, husband and wife singers Joe and Jamie Silvia traded the night life for family life, settling in to Chicago and becoming the most popular singers of TV and radio commercials. Various singers moved in and out of the J's with Jamie quartet over the years, including Len Dresslar, best known as the "Ho ho ho" of the Jolly Green Giant.
From Campbells to Marlboro, kitchen appliances to political candidates, The J's with Jamie sang the praises of them all, backed by the bright sounds of Chicago's studio musicians. What Broadway was to musical theater, Chicago was to the advertising industry at the time, turning out a volume and quality of work with a uniquely American imprint.
Broadway came calling for Jamie Silvia, but she turned them down. Columbia managed to get the group to record three albums, all sadly long out of print, but the Silvias balked at returning to a life on the road and eventually gave up on recording anything other than jingles.
Their last sighting on vinyl is on the out-of-print Golden Moments compilation from Columbia, performing "Cotton Fields," which appears here. Bootlegs of the Columbia records pop up frequently in Japan, where their influence on the J-pop sound has been substantial.
This album shows the group at work and at play. Side One is all advertising. There's no difference between Versions 1 through 5 except for the highlights of the Amana Side-by-Side that are hailed. It's telling that whoever wrote the liner notes for the album felt the need to add the word "Humor" after the track listing for "Talking Side by Side."
Side 2 is where this gets great. The four-part harmonies on the songs are a joy, and Jamie's voice is bold without sacrificing clarity or sweetness. Rock and roll was already transforming radio and popular culture at the time the group had its greatest success, which may be why they've slipped off the radar of American music enthusiasts, but one listen and you'll be hooked. In particular, all of you Customusic fans are likely to be blown away by these songs.
If you want more, trust me, I sympathize. I've been keeping an eye out for their albums for the past year. If I manage to get my hands on those other albums, I'll be sure to share them here.