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A Love Story That Started With A Song

James "Jay" McKnight and his wife, Andrea, at a recent visit to StoryCorps in New York City.
James "Jay" McKnight and his wife, Andrea, at a recent visit to StoryCorps in New York City.

It didn't take very long for James "Jay" McKnight to know that the teenage girl watching him sing with his buddies on a Brooklyn street corner more than 50 years ago would one day become his wife.

McKnight was almost 19. The girl, Andrea, was 14. "I looked at a friend of mine who I was singing with, and I said, 'I'm going to marry her,' " Jay says. "You know what he told me? 'You're going to jail. She's too young.' "

One day when Andrea was by herself, Jay approached her and in a deep voice meant to impress, he asked her how she was doing.

Andrea remembers another moment that made an impression.

"We were on the bus coming from the movies, and it started thundering and poured down rain. Getting off the bus, there was a puddle, and you took your shirt off and laid it down. I was finished. Finished, you hear?" Andrea says.

Jay says that when the two decided to get married, he got together with Andrea's family for a talk. They weren't happy about the idea.

"It was a talk and a half," Andrea says. "You had to come and speak to my grandmother."

Jay says he was scared, and Andrea was terrified. "But we did get married," Jay says. "I was no bed of roses to live with because I'm an entertainer. There's a lot of temptation out there when you're singing. There's a lot. But I used to tell them, 'When you get as pretty as my wife, then we'll talk.' "

So why have they lasted as long as they have?

"I think it's because we grew up together," Jay, 71, says.

"Did you ever think that we would grow old together?" Andrea, 66, asks him.

"I never thought I would ever grow old to start off with," Jay says. "People look at us at sometimes [and say] 'You all still holding hands.' Yeah, but no other woman will ever move me. And I'll always love you, no matter what."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo.

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