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,” he 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 bubblegum 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 Artie Shapiro went to the nearest bowling alley and looked for five clean cut kids who might want to leave home for awhile.”
That started a trek that lasted ten years, long after the Jimmy Jay fire died down and this song was safely ensconced on hundreds of Oldies But Goodies collections. At one point Peter Brandel, the blonde young man who was Jimmy Jay on the road for all these years ( and who still plays the ocassional casino and amusement park gigs), sued for the rights to his own stage name. “You gotta be kiddin’ me,” Morty barked back. “But, hey, I gave the kid $279 right outta my pocket, I was gonna use it to buy a portable TV. It was more money than Peter had seen in a while.”
For Morty Guildenstein, there’s no such thing as a BONUS B-SIDE OF DUBIOUS DISTINCTION. There are only b-sides of no distinction. “We wrote them to be crap, basically so people would play the a-side. If someone even dropped the needle on a b-side on purpose, we weren’t doing our job right. So when people started playing the b-side instead of ‘The Great Fire of 1871,’ a classy song we put a lot of thought into, we pulled it off the later pressings and wrote something really craptacular for the new flip. So we threw together “You Keep Destroying My Mind” because ‘mind’ was a buzzword with the kids at the time and because we couldn’t give a shit. The lyrics took longer to say than they did to write.” Guildenstein isn’t kidding, he didn’t even stop to check if the line after “twelve little words and my life for the better would change” was indeed twelve words. It isn’t.