Heritage Hump Day: Jimmy Jay and the First Responders


With all the tacky advertisements reminding us that it’s the 15th anniversary of 9/11, from the  fizzy Coca Cola Walmart display recalling the Twin Towers (above) to the San Antonio, TX  based Miracle Mattress that ran the most brain-dead excuse for a Twin Bed mattress sale ever, we at Onus Records were wary that our regularly scheduled Single of the Weekend by Jimmy Jay and The First Responders would be misinterpreted as a way of cashing in on people’s love for firemen, so we withheld it to midnight after 9/11.

In truth, this song could never be a 9/11 created cash-in as it was originally recorded in 1968, a time of great political upheaval in this country but also the high water mark for crass and meaning-free bubblegum music.

Onus Records is proud to be able to license (heck, give away for free)  this obscure bubblicious nugget from the Lucky Puppy label out of Chicago where our back history begins.

According to the legend, “Jimmy Jay was a Chicago fireman whose band consisted of fellow firefighters he met from other engine houses all responding to a 20-story blaze. After the fire, the men who worked so well together decided to form a firehouse band and raise temperatures with their hot brand of bubblegum music.” Of course, none of this is true, Jimmy Jay and the First Responders is actually the brainchild of jingle writer Morty Guildenstein looking to break into the world of pop music in 1968.

“I played everything on the record and made the whole firefighter thing up, basically,” Guildenstein says. “I was hoping to tie it in with a story song I had written about The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 but DJs flipped the record and started playing the shitty b-side, “Your Heart Ain’t Sayin’ (What Your Mouth is Thinkin’)” instead. When it took off in Chicago and parts of St. Louis, we had to find a Jimmy Jay and the First Responders to go out on the road and promote it. So me and my partner Arnie Shapiro went to the nearest bowling alley and looked for five clean cut kids who might want to leave home for awhile.”

jimmy jay.jpg
That started a trek that lasted ten years, long after the Jimmy Jay fire died down and this song was safely ensconced on numerous Oldies But Nothing collections. At one point Peter Brandel, the blonde young man who was Jimmy Jay on the road for all the Jimmy Jay boom years (and who still plays the occasional casino and amusement park gigs), sued for the rights to his own stage name.

“Peer actually accosted me on the street and followed me into Sam’s Club, demanding I give him the legal rights,” says Guildenstein. “‘You gotta be kiddin’ me,’ I barked back at him.. But, hey, I gave the kid $279 right outta my pocket that I was gonna use it to buy a portable TV. It was more money than Peter had seen in a while.”

Download or stream for free this great new Single of the Weekend and plenty more from onusrecords.bandcamp.com


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