Black was born in New York and grew up in Brooklyn in the neighborhood of Boro Park. In his later career, he has become known for touring New York State and Florida singing, mainly solo, and preceding his singing with a stand-up comedy routine. Jay and his brother speak Yiddish fluently. In 1966, he recorded a Yiddish song "Where Is My Village" about the holocaust.
In 2006, Black completed bankruptcy proceedings in Manhattan, after he accrued a $500,000 debt in back taxes to the IRS as a result of his gambling addiction. The IRS initially sought to force him to sell the rights to perform as "Jay Black" as well as the trademark for "Jay and the Americans" in order to satisfy his debt to the IRS. Black did, however, win a partial victory in the case, which granted him the right to continue to use the name "Jay Black", but he was required to sell the rights to perform as "Jay and the Americans". The trademark to "Jay and the Americans" was purchased by former members of "Jay and the Americans". He can no longer perform as "Jay Black and the Americans" and now performs as "Jay Black The Voice".
Jay Black was the second, and more widely known Jay to lead the band Jay and the Americans, the first being Jay Traynor. He had previously come from the doo-wop group The Empires, where he had sung lead on their 1962 lone Epic Records single "Time and a Place" b/w "Punch Your Nose" (Epic 5-9527). He had previously used David Black as his professional name, but changed his first name to suit the band's pre-existing name. He would later bill himself as "Jay Black and the Americans" after the original band had broken up.