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Kenny Vance (born December 9, 1943, in Brooklyn as Kenneth Rosenberg) is an American singer, songwriter, and music producer who was an original member of Jay and the Americans. His career spans from the 1950s to today, with projects ranging from starting doo-wop groups to music supervising to creating solo albums.
Vance grew up hanging around the famous Brill Building, the Tin Pan Alley song machine, and started his first vocal group, the Harbor Lites, at 15. The group recorded two singles for Ivy Records in 1959. He then formed another group and auditioned for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who signed them to United Artists Records, and named the group Jay and the Americans.
Jay and the Americans released fifteen albums, and their first hit was “She Cried,” which was released in 1962. The group was the opening act for not only The Beatles' first US performance, but also for The Rolling Stones' first US performance. They also appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. They had many other hit singles in the 60s, and started their own publishing and production company, JATA Enterprises.
In 1967, the songwriting duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen came to the Brill Building to sell their songs, and ended up knocking on Vance’s door. Vance liked what he heard, and offered to manage them. The duo arranged horn and string sections for Jay and the Americans and toured with them as bassist and keyboardist, eventually recording demos and masters with Vance in 1969. He continued to work with Becker & Fagen until 1971, when he brought one of their songs (“I Mean to Shine”) to Richard Perry, who then brought it to Barbra Streisand and recorded it on Barbra Joan Streisand. They were hired as songwriters at ABC Dunhill Records, and released their first Steely Dan album, Can't Buy a Thrill, in 1972. They went on to become one of the best selling and critically acclaimed bands of the 1970s.
After this, Vance began doing session work, producing, and writing music for movies. He was the music supervisor for the movies Eddie and the Cruisers, Animal House (which also featured an uncredited Robert Cray as bass player with fictional group, Otis Day and the Knights) and American Hot Wax with Tim McIntire, Jay Leno, and Fran Drescher. He wrote the theme for the score, produced the soundtrack album (which made the Top 40), and appeared in the movie as “Professor La Plano” to lead his fictional group, the Planotones, in a performance of “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay”. The Animal House soundtrack also made the charts and sold over 1 million copies and the Eddie and the Cruisers Soundtrack Album sold triple Platinum. He contributed music for many other films and TV shows, and after being a guest singer on Saturday Night Live in 1977, became the musical director in 1980-1981. He booked Aretha Franklin and Prince, as well as James Brown, who on his only appearance on the show performed for far longer than his allotted time, forcing the producers to go to a commercial while he was still singing.
In 1992, Vance started a doo wop group, the re-formed (no longer fictional) Kenny Vance and The Planotones from American Hot Wax. They released two albums “Teenage Jazz” and “Looking for an Echo”, and then created the whole soundtrack for the 1999 film Looking For an Echo, for which Vance was also the musical director and the singing voice of Armand Assante. Since then the group has released five more albums, “Lover’s Island”, Countdown to Love”, “Dancing and Romancing”, “Oceans of Time”, and their holiday album, “Mr. Santa”. They continue to perform to audiences nationwide and on PBS. Currently in 2014, Kenny Vance and The Planotones' concerts have been cancelled due to an illness with Kenny.
Phoebe Snow, Danny O'Keefe, Delbert McClinton, The Kingsnakes, Rafi Pagan, Peter Himmelman, Toni Basil, Yusef Lateef, Brooklyn Dreams, Peter Allen, Don McLean, John Cafferty, Tracey Ullman, The Beaver Brown Band, among others.
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