Song of the Week – American Lovers, Thomas Jefferson Kaye

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Have you ever heard of Thomas Jefferson Kaye?

I didn’t think so.  But you should know about him because he had a very successful career in the music biz.

First of all, he was the producer on Gene Clark’s best solo album (IMHO), No Other.  If that was his only accomplishment, he would be noteworthy.  But there is so much more!

In the late 50s, while still a teenager, he hooked up with Scepter/Wand records.  Through the early 60s there, he wrote and produced material for The Shirelles and several notable soul artists.  He also produced ? and the Mysterians; possibly even on their big hit “96 Tears”, though that has been a subject of debate.

In the 70s he worked with Clark, produced “Dead Skunk” for Loudon Wainwright III, co-wrote the Three Dog night hit “One Man Band”, and produced the Dr. John, Mike Bloomfield, John Hammond Jr. super session called Triumvirate.

Of special interest to me is his association with all of the cats at ABC/Dunhill records that were producing (Gary Katz) and playing on Steely Dan records – including Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

This led Kaye to release two solo albums in the early 70s that allowed him full access to those great artists.  The first eponymous disc is almost a Steely Dan backed record.  Becker, Fagen, David Palmer, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and, Victor Feldman all make contributions, with Katz producing.

His second solo release, First Grade, even included two Becker/Fagen penned obscurities that they never recorded for Steely Dan.  “American Lovers” is today’s SotW.

“American Lovers” was recorded around the time that Steely Dan was working on Pretzel Logic.  While I wouldn’t claim that Becker and Fagen gave away their best song, it has the chord structure and lyrical intelligence we’ve come to expect from the boys.

Becker plays bass on this number and Jim Gordon pounds the traps.  Backing vocals are provided by Dusty Springfield, Clydie King and Shirley Matthews!

Kaye died in 1994 in Warwick, NY, just a few miles from my hometown of Newburgh.

So the next time someone asks if you’ve ever heard of Thomas Jefferson Kaye you’ll say – “Hell yes!”

Enjoy… until next week.

5 thoughts on “Song of the Week – American Lovers, Thomas Jefferson Kaye

    • I knew Tommy Kaye! He lived with me in Winter Park Florida. I know all of the stories! I met Dr John, Kris Kristofferson, the Band, James browns, peewee, macio and Fred; a real recording extravaganza!
      I know Tommy Kaye

  1. Ask Marty Kupersmith! Jay and the Americans? He spent weekends on my couch!
    Do you know the song that made him famous? Song one?
    Hey little girl in the high school sweater.
    Next fact; he has 750 songs, written, produced, and copyrighted!
    I had an agreement, signed by Tommy, granting me ownership of Shades Of Blue.
    Unbeknownst to me, he had an outstanding California warrant, and ran!, He took the agreement, the recordings I paid for, landed in New York, went to Geffen records, with my property, claimed ownership, and died, soon after.
    I was left with zero, including a private recording of Hugh Taylor, of the James Taylor family.

  2. Little known fact, Tommy Kaye was a brilliant musician and producer, and I learned a lot in the 2 years of cohabitation. After all of his successes, while he was in Florida, he didn’t have 2 pennies to rub together,as fat as I experienced. I paid for every living expense, studio cost, musician cost; all the freight.
    I was told, when he was hospitalized, he died in New Jersey, where his mother lived, from diabetes.
    He spent every penny he made, and died broke, and owing everyone who helped and supported him. Ge never made good on his IOU’s. Very sad, but true.
    His death is a true loss, in the music industry. He was a friend and teacher; loved him dearly, enough to pay for everything. I just wish he had kept his one promise, my rights to Shades Of Blue
    His real name? If you know, then that’s the end of.

  3. Hi Cindy. Thanks for the info. Very sad. It seems to be the way that artists often behave like tjis yet we still love them for what they do. I have experienced similar as I worked in the industry. The best art seems to come from tortured souls.

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