Kenny Vance of Jay & the Americans told Songfacts
how they came to record this song: "I happened to go up to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's office, because I used to hang out there as a kid - they produced us. I guess I was like a barometer for them, and they played me 'Only In America.' I said, 'Boy, that would be great if we could have that,' because we're Jay & the Americans. They took us over to Atlantic recording, who had a brand newfangled machine, an 8-track machine. Up until those dark days we were recording all 4-track. [This allowed Jay & the Americans to record their vocals on the original backing tracks produced by Leiber and Stoller for the Drifters.]
I remember it became a hit in Florida. There's a friend of mine, he's a film director by the name of Leon Ichaso, and he told me that when they were kids that had come from Cuba in 1963, 'Only In America' was an anthem for them. That they couldn't speak English, but phonetically they could all sing 'Only In America.' And I remember when we played down in Florida in 1963, the whole audience was Cuban, and I didn't know why. But it took me about 30 years and finally that question was answered."