Jake and Me
Jake Jacobs is a man of many talents
This is Jake. Allan “Jake” Jacobs.
In the mid-‘60s he was a magician with the rock group The Magicians. They served a residency at The Night Owl cafe after The Lovin’ Spoonful moved on to great fame. The Magicians cut three singles for Columbia Records, and in 1966 were spotlighted on WCBS TV’s “Eye on New York” (“Four to Go,” the running-down-the-street opening a nod to the Beatles’’ AHDN). Like many hopefuls, they didn’t break through.
After The Magicians disbanded, Jake joined The Fugs for 1967. They did a cross-country tour with Allen Ginsberg. Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge with poet and Fug-founder Ed Sanders and Ginsberg, Allen played his harmonium and sang “Hara Krishna.” They met poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure, and hung out with Country Joe and The Fish. One memorable night backstage at the Fillmore West, Janis Joplin passed around her Southern Comfort bottle. Jake took a swig.
In 1968, Jake reconnected with Bunky, a spirited black singer he’d met in 1962 while taking classes at the School of Visual Arts. His light baritone blended well with Bunky’s smooth alto voice. They recorded two LPs for Mercury Records. Jake likes their second LP, “L.A.M.F.,” better. “No fiddles,” he says with a laugh, referring to a session he did for their first LP surrounded by twelve violin players. Bunky and Jake had an original folk-pop sound, that grew a following. Their co-writes are breezy, sophisticated, and still very listenable decades later. Fuzz and wah-wah guitars, orchestral arrangements, a kooky jazz jam, it’s all here in a '60's anything-goes stew.
Bunky and Jake toured extensively and opened for Joni Mitchell and numerous other future “stars.” Dylan was a fan. Rolling Stone wrote a 1969 feature on them (“Bunky and Jake: Off The Street”). After a few years they went their separate ways, but remained close friends and worked on some later projects.
Jake formed Jake and The Family Jewels in the early ‘70s and cut two fine LPs for Polydor. They played a last-minute fill-in spot at The Fillmore East opening for Traffic and Fairport Convention, and hammered the East Coast circuit, including The Bottom Line.
Though national success eluded him, Jake never abandoned his craft nor his passions. Today, he maintains his youthful spirit and musical obsessions. He is still musically prolific and inspired as when he first heard Frankie Lymon singing “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” in 1956. When he was thirteen, every Tuesday morning Jake would tell his mom he had a headache (from Monday's day at school). She told him to go lie in her bed. There he listened to the radio and heard Lymon’s angelic voice. It changed his life.
Jake is a also painter and inlay artist, and has lived in the Village since 1961 when he arrived from Mt. Vernon at eighteen years young. His 2014 CD “A Lick And a Promise” continues his easy-going rocking style. Buy it online. Today.
Jake’s songs are personal, winsome, and straight from the heart. He writes songs that mean something to him, about guitars, long ago crushes, loves won and lost. The song “Just a Stone’s Throw From The Street” is a tender ode to various artist friends and their struggles to survive. There is a gentle melodic consistency to Jake’s songwriting, a genuine reflection of his personality. It’s a rare gift that few songwriters have. After a lifetime of singing, Jake says he finally likes his voice.
In conversation Jake smiles a lot. He lights up when discussing songs that still thrill him, his blue eyes widening when he recalls departed friends he still holds dear, like singer-actor David Blue, or the many colorful memories in his rock ‘n’ roll life. He once helped carry a passed-out Jimi Hendrix into a car after a late-night jam at Steve Paul’s Scene. His pal Felix Pappalardi once stuck a joint in his mouth and played him an advance acetate of the first two songs on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” One night in Long Island, while sharing a dressing room with The Everly Brothers, Jake asked his idol Don Everly if he could strum his beautiful J-185 guitar. Don obliged. He sailed the Florida Keys with Fred Neil.
I feel I’m a link in the chain, the chain of folk and rock ‘n’ roll that captured Jake’s and my soul a generation apart. A couple of years after The Magicians moved out of the Night Owl the space became a poster shop that I visited every day in the summer of ‘68. Years later, I played some of the same clubs that Jake did, though I never got a record deal. I wrestled with my musical aspirations until my late thirties, when I had to abandon them or else sunk into bitterness and depression.
I used to sing Jake’s song “I Remember Cissy’s Baby” when I first started playing out. And I sang it with him the other day in his kitchen. What a blast! His voice is light with a slight bounce. It’s an extension of his speaking voice. You follow it with curiosity, wondering where the melody will lead. You’re often pleasantly surprised. He never sounds like he’s trying to prove anything with his baritone. To me, that’s the charm and hook of a good singer. Jake wants ME to sing back-up vocals with him on his upcoming project. We’ll blend our voices in the style of the great doo-wop groups he still reveres. I’m gonna be a Family Jewel! Jake may get Jimmy Merchant, one of the original Teenagers with Frankie Lymon, to sing on a track too! Then, I may get to be, by two-degrees-of-separation, a Teenager! How cool is that?