You never know where the next classic soul record is going to come from. Sure, everyone knows about the great music from Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans, and New York, but how about Allentown, PA?
Allentown may be best known for the song Billy Joel wrote about the town, but years earlier it was the birthplace of a group called Jay & the Techniques who went on to have one of the biggest soul hits of the ’60s.
The primary founder of the group was Jay Proctor, and it was their debut single on Smash Records in 1967 that caused all the ruckus. “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie”definitely falls into the category of pop soul, but its power to appeal to a wide demographic was enough to rocket the single to #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The record sold over a million copies and the group was awarded a Gold Record.
“Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie,” was written by Maurice Irby, Jr., and arranged by Joe Renzetti who is a story unto himself. Early in his career, Renzetti was the house guitarist for Philadelphia’s legendary Cameo-Parkway label. In this capacity played on hits like Chubby Checker’s “Let’s Twist Again,” and “Mashed Potato Time” by Dee Dee Sharp.
In 1963 Renzetti moved to New York where his career as an arranger really took off. There he arranged top ten hits that included “Sunny” by Bobby Hebb, “Ninety Eight Point Six” by Keith, Barry Manilow’s “Mandy,” and of course the Jay & the Techniques hit.
That’s still not the end of Renzetti’s story though. In 1973 he moved to Los Angeles where arranged the music for the Buddy Holly Story and won the Oscar for Best Adaptation Score for his work on the film. Renzetti has gone on to score numerous films and television shows and is still at work today.
Jay & the Techniques never had another hit as big as their debut, although they did score another million-seller with “Keep the Ball Rolling” later in 1967. There were a couple of other minor hits, but by the following year the group was pretty much finished.
Here’s a link to The Best of Jay & the Techniques on Spotify.