Those Amazing Humans, Second Series #12 and #13, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller

Posted: March 13, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Today is Mike Stoller’s 80th birthday if I counted correctly, and you should live so long, Michael, you’ve written most of the good songs of my childhood, and I thank you because it was a good sound track to grow up to. You and Jerry Lieber must have had some fun coming up with these melodies and lyrics, at least that’s what came through. Your songs made me laugh, dance, and lose my Baptist inhibitions. The incredible string of hits you had for The Robins, The Coasters, The Drifters, Elvis and others is a mindboggling display of creative fertility. You were the Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner of Rock and Roll. As a kid consumer of R and B and Rock and Roll, your names guaranteed ultimate rockability, so I had to have every Coasters single as soon as it hit the shelf, no matter how many yards I had to mow, every new Elvis tune, no matter how many bushels of mangos I had to sell. You helped me develop a work-ethic that I was unable to maintain into adulthood, but you provided me with a good start. Sorry, I’m gushing, but really, you mean that much to me, now go on get outta here and have a nice birthday, Mazel Tov.
Mike Stoller celebrates today. Jerry Lieber (unfortunately) has gone away (he would have also reached his 80th birthday on April 25th of this year had he not passed on August 22nd, 2011).

Elvis and Mike.

Elvis and Mike.


Here’s some interesting details about these guys’ achievements from wikipedia:
Both born to Jewish families, Leiber came from Baltimore, Stoller from Long Island, but they met in Los Angeles in 1950, where Stoller was a freshman at Los Angeles City College while Leiber was a senior at Fairfax High. Stoller had graduated from Belmont High School. After school, Stoller played piano and Leiber worked in a record store and, when they met, they found they shared a love of blues and rhythm and blues. In 1950, Jimmy Witherspoon recorded and performed their first commercial song, “Real Ugly Woman”.
Their first hit composition was “Hard Times”, recorded by Charles Brown, which was a rhythm and blues hit in 1952. “Kansas City”, which was first recorded in 1952 (as “K. C. Loving”) by rhythm & blues singer Little Willie Littlefield, became a No. 1 pop hit in 1959 for Wilbert Harrison. In 1952 they wrote “Hound Dog” for blues singer Big Mama Thornton, which became a hit for her in 1953. The 1956 Elvis Presley rock version, which was a takeoff of the adaptation that Presley picked up from Freddie Bell’s lounge act in Las Vegas, was a much bigger hit. Presley’s showstopping mock-burlesque version of “Hound Dog”, playfully bumping and grinding on the Milton Berle Show, created such public excitement that on The Steve Allen Show they slowed down his act, with an amused Presley in a tuxedo and blue suede shoes singing his hit to a basset hound. Allen pronounced Presley “a good sport”, and the Leiber-Stoller song would be forever linked to Presley. Their later songs often had lyrics more appropriate for pop music, and their combination of rhythm and blues with pop lyrics revolutionized pop, rock and roll, and punk rock.
They formed Spark Records in 1953 with their mentor, Lester Sill. Their songs from this period include “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” and “Riot in Cell Block #9”, both recorded by The Robins.
The label was later bought by Atlantic Records, which hired Leiber and Stoller in an innovative deal that allowed them to produce for other labels. This, in effect, made them the first independent record producers. At Atlantic, they revitalized the careers of The Drifters and wrote a number of hits for The Coasters, a spin-off of the Robins. Their songs from this period include “Charlie Brown”, “Searchin'”, “Yakety Yak”, “Stand By Me” (written with Ben E. King), and “On Broadway” (written with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil). For the Coasters alone, they wrote twenty-four songs that appeared in the US charts.
In 1955 Leiber and Stoller produced a recording of their song “Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots” with a white vocal group, the Cheer. Soon after, the song was recorded by Édith Piaf in a French translation titled, “L’Homme à la Moto”. The European royalties from another Cheers record, “Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin’)”, funded a 1956 trip to Europe for Stoller and his first wife, Meryl, on which they met Piaf. Their return to New York was aboard the ill-fated SS Andrea Doria, which was rammed and sunk by the Swedish liner MS Stockholm. The Stollers had to finish the journey to New York aboard another ship. After their rescue, Leiber greeted Stoller at the dock with the news that “Hound Dog” had become a hit for Elvis Presley. Stoller’s reply was, “Elvis who?” They would go on to write more hits for Presley, including the title songs for three of his movies—Loving You, Jailhouse Rock, and King Creole—as well as the rock and roll Christmas song, “Santa Claus Is Back in Town”, for Presley’s first Christmas album.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s