Jay White was born at Fort Ord, California, moved soon afterwards to Texas and was quickly drawn to music as a child. "I have a vivid recollection of a trip to my grandfather's house in Phoenix, AZ one summer when I was about 3," says Jay. "My grandfather Bill White and some of his buddies were jamming out one night at his home and while they were taking a break I ran over and strummed the strings of his Gibson guitar that was leaning against a chair. I remember my folks shouting not to touch it and my grandfather assuring them that I couldn't hurt the guitar. I still have that old Gibson after all these years."
"Although I was brought up in church and began singing in public at an early age, my career as a guitar player began on my 10th Christmas when I got my own six string acoustic. It was a cheap, unplayable Kay Craft that was soon replaced after my grandfather Bill came to live with us. He told my dad that if I wanted to play they needed to get me a guitar I could play. Soon I had a Kay electric complete with a small amp and was on my way. My neighbor (across the pasture) Alan Davis who was in high school at the time had an old Silvertone guitar and amplifier case combo and he showed me some basic Jimmy Reed songs. From that point on I was hooked on the blues. Although I have played numerous styles of music over the years, it all boils down to the blues."
Jay has no formal guitar training but was fortunate enough to have spent a few months learning the fretboard with guitar legend Roy Robbins when only 14. Not long afterwards Jay, along with Barry Couch, David Constance, David Petty and Richard Schrimsher, later replaced by Ronnie Proctor, formed a band called "The Twilighters". The band released a 45 rpm single on the Mark VII label, "I Need You" along with "Nothing Can Bring Me Down", both songs written by Jay. "Nothing Can Bring Me Down" has recently become a U-Tube favorite and has been recorded by several "garage-grundge rock" bands, one as far off as Thailand. The Twilighters were booked regionally by Hall of Fame inductee Gaylon Christie.
Jay and a reformed version of the band now called "Blue Fever" made a couple of trips to Houston to play in Texas' famed Cellar. After Jay relocated to Austin he played in several bands including Requiem with Phil Ballinger of "Too Smooth" fame and Madrille Wilson from "Greezy Wheels" and "Shay" a power three piece blues rock Texas original band. "Shay" and "Requiem" shared the stage with ZZ Top, Johnny Winter, Wildfire, The Fabulous Thunerbirds and other notable acts of the times. While living in Austin Jay worked with fellow songwriter Cody Hubach on several projects and produced a single release "Death Row Blues" and "Black Dog" on the Mad Yak label. Cody and Jay played together as a duo act and were featured at Jubal Clark and Willie Nelson songwriter showcases. Jay also met and performed with Pat Garvey and shared the stage with Jerry Jeff Walker and the Lost Gonzo Band on several occasions as guitarist for the Pat Garvey Band.
Jay took his guitar and his talents to Los Angeles in the late 70's and teamed up with Songwriting legend Jack Segal singing his demos and collaborating on new songs with the award winning artist. While in LA Jay worked as a studio musician, performed as a side-man and helped write and sing along with Renee Feldman the title song to the first ever Japanese anime film ever released in the United States by American International Pictures, "Galaxy Express 999". Jay formed a friendship with fellow songwriter Barry Goldman from Redondo Beach and started "The Jay White Band" a project that lead to a tour of Hawaii, numerous western states and Canada. While in Hawaii "The Jay White Band" performed with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legends Jerry Martini of "Sly and the Family Stone" and Gene Clark from "The Byrds". Jay co-authored and recorded the sound track for a documentary film on the life and career of the award winning producer/director Roger Corman and "The Jay White Band" headlined numerous hotel and club venues and became an island fan favorite.
After the western states and Canada tour "The Jay White Band" settled in Seattle, Washington and earned the coveted house band position at Montana's Restaurant. Jay recorded with former Steppenwolf legend Goldy McJohn and while here Jay was able to re-connect with his Hawaii agent who booked a reformed version of the band on an Alaska tour and then later throughout the United States.
Upon completing the Alaska tour Jay returned to Texas for some much needed R&R but quickly formed the Temple, Texas based "Loaded Dice" with Brett Edds, Kim Leitner and Cynthia DeMent and played central Texas night clubs before hitting the road for a second Alaska trip that took the group across country then back to Slidell, Louisiana where the group disbanded. While in Alaska Jay and Cynthia were married in a woods setting outside of Wrangell on a rainy afternoon. Jay and Cynthia travelled to Nashville and signed on with the Del Pritchett Show based out of Cambridge, Maryland. Upon completion of contract obligations Jay kept the band working under the name of "Dixie" and played clubs, restaurants and resorts throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. The band's popularity grew and they became the Maryland State winner in the Tru-Value Country Showdown. Following "Dixie" Jay joined "The Christian Troupers" where Cynthia was the featured vocalist and toured and performed up and down the east coast singing Southern Gospel. While with "The Troupers" Jay wrote and recorded "He Reached Out" for Hall of Fame Singer/Producer Eldridge Fox of "The Kingsmen". Fox released the song with the "Wray Brothers" as a radio single. Jay and Cynthia were blessed with two sons while living in Maryland, Jay Alan and Lee Abram.
Jay's journey eventually lead him to Munday, Texas where he sang in the choir at First Baptist Church and became the church's song leader, a position he held for over 10 years. During this time Cynthia battled cancer and is today miraculously cancer free and a five year survivor. "I had all but hung up the guitar at this point," says Jay. "I could really tell that God had more music in mind but it was hard for me to get a clear vision." Jay attended church music workshops and seminars, lead music on a mission trip in Hong Kong and began blending worship music in the services some old, some new but God kept pulling at his heart for a more radical, risky leap of faith that Jay never saw coming. Just weeks after Cynthia had been declared cancer free, Jay was involved in a one car accident that hospitalized him precariously teetering between life and death with a broken back, neck and serious head injuries. "I had just started playing in a Christian rock band in Munday called '3Kord' when the accident happened," says Jay. "While I was in the year long recovery process God revealed to me that He had saved me and spared me for a special task. All He has told me time and time again is 'it's in the music'." Jay left his position at First Baptist Munday and began playing with "3Kord" who led praise and worship at First Baptist in Goree, Texas. While here "3Kord" produced and recorded an 8 song ep available at iTunes and on CD called "Bring it Back to God" which features 7 original songs by Jay with vocals by the group's worship leader at the time, Ruben Garcia. Ruben left the group about a year later and Jay found himself in the role once again as band lead singer, guitarist and worship leader at church. "I always pray for God to use and equip me to be of service," says Jay. "I just never expected to spend so much time out of my comfort zone."
Jay's absence of comfort was just beginning. God stripped Jay and Cynthia of everything except their family. "We had a small business that we lost," says Jay. "We lost our home and at the time couldn't see what God had in mind. We were confused and afraid. All along God reassured me with 'It's in the music' and at one time He reminded me 'Haven't I always sustained you?' God was waiting on us to take the leap of faith and persevere in the race He had called us to. We just couldn't see it until one day Cynthia said 'maybe we should just move to Belton to your mom's house that's vacant, fix it up and settle there'." Once Jay took that leap, things began to open up for him. God gave Jay a job as worship leader for Amazing Grace Fellowship in Killeen, Texas and led him to join "Hawk and the King Airs" a Central Texas blues band where he sings and plays his Telecaster for local night spots. He has given Jay an opportunity to minister as well with San Antonio based "Burning Faith" a Christian southern rock and blues worship band.
God has opened the door and created an opportunity for Jay to record an original 11 song Blues album with seasoned, professional, world class musicians Big John Mills, Kevin Hall, Alan Huff, Brett Edds, Kevin Bergland and Robert Bass. Big John Mills played the bass, harmonica and guitar synthesizers, Kevin Hall played the drums and Alan Huff was on the keyboards. Big John has recorded with just about everybody from George Jones to John Lee Hooker, Vince Gill and George Strait. Kevin Hall has recorded with Hal Ketchum, Eric Johnson, Omar & The Howlers, Archie Bell & the Drells, Rusty Wier, Coco Montoya, Montel Williams, and Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad. Alan Huff currently is touring with Roger Creager and has recorded with Doug Supernaw, Bayou Roux, The Tropicats, Eli Young Band and Jason Allen. Kevin Bergland, Brett Edds and Robert Bass have equally impressive music backgrounds and have teamed up with Jay to form his new band "The Blues Commanders" which will be performing in select spots in Central Texas and touring to promote the release of the CD titled "Jaywalkin'." The Blues Commanders joined forces to record the title cut to the new CD with Brett Edds on bass, Kevin Bergland on the drums and Robert Bass on the keyboards.
"I have asked God to bless these endeavors I can see that He has. He just wants me to be faithful and true to Him, to put Him first in all things," says Jay. "My heart's desire is to be the same in church as I am anywhere else I'm planted. My goal is to be salt and light in a world that desperately needs to 'Bring it Back to God'."
Featured in this month's isssue of The Groove is Jay White-Blues Commander.
Find out why "it's in the music" for this Belton, Texas native.