|Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote songs together for over sixty years, creating enduring classics in a variety of genres including Rhythm & Blues, Pop, Jazz, Cabaret, and—most notably—Rock & Roll.
They began their partnership in 1950 at the age of 17 when they discovered that they shared a passion for the Blues. By the age of 20, Leiber and Stoller had seen their songs recorded by such artists as Jimmy Witherspoon, Little Esther, Charles Brown, Little Willie Littlefield, and Ray Charles. But the hits began with Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton’s recording of “Hound Dog” in 1953. This record, and others written and produced by them, caught the attention of Atlantic Records.
In 1955, Atlantic signed Leiber and Stoller to the first independent production deal, forever changing the course of the record industry. Their chart-ruling records included: Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” “Spanish Harlem,” and “I (Who Have Nothing)”; The Drifters’ “There Goes My Baby,” “Dance With Me,” and “On Broadway”; La Vern Baker’s “Saved”; and Ruth Brown’s “Lucky Lips.” Above all, Leiber and Stoller wrote and produced all of the hits for The Coasters, including “Searchin’,” “Young Blood,” “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,” “Along Came Jones,” “Poison Ivy,” and “Little Egypt.”|
While Leiber and Stoller were producing The Clovers (“Love Potion # 9”), Jay and the Americans (“Only In America”), and Chuck Jackson (“I Keep Forgettin’”), other artists were having hits with Leiber and Stoller compositions, including Wilbert Harrison (“Kansas City”), Dion (“Ruby Baby,” “Drip Drop”), Peggy Lee (“I’m A Woman”)…and, of course, Elvis Presley.
|With his recording of Hound Dog, Elvis became a household word. Presley went on to record more than twenty Leiber and Stoller songs, including “Jailhouse Rock,” “Loving You,” “Love Me,” “Treat Me Nice,” “Don’t,” “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care,” “Bossa Nova Baby,” “Santa Claus Is Back In Town,” “She’s Not You,” and “Trouble.”
In 1969, the team produced the Peggy Lee recording of their composition, “Is That All There Is?” According to music critic Robert Palmer, “Is That All There Is?” was the song that “…clearly pointed to the direction their new work would take,” signaling that, “…the Golden Age of Rock & Roll had come to an end.”
|Leiber and Stoller have been the recipients of countless awards and honors, including inductions into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But the greatest compliment to any songwriter is to have his songs recorded by the best in the business. Artists who have recorded songs by Leiber and Stoller include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, James Brown, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beach Boys, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, Joe Williams, Tom Jones, Count Basie, Edith Piaf, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Luther Vandross, John Lennon, Aretha Franklin, and over a thousand others.|
In 1995, Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber & Stoller opened on Broadway at the Virginia Theatre. Comprised of forty songs by L&S, the show was nominated for seven Tony Awards and won the Grammy Award for best Original Cast Album. Smokey Joe’s Cafe would run for over five years, becoming the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history. Leiber & Stoller continued to work on songs for musical theater projects until Jerry Leiber’s passing in August, 2011.
If they had written no other song but “Hound Dog,” the names of Leiber and Stoller would still have been indelibly written in the history of popular music. However, they didn’t start or stop there. Their contributions as songwriters and record producers have been so monumental that it is impossible to envision what American popular music would be like today without them.