Jerry Leiber (songwriter; born April 25, 1933, died August 22, 2011), Mike Stoller (songwriter; born March 13, 1933)
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller have written some of the most spirited and enduring rock and roll songs: “Hound Dog” (originally cut by Big Mama Thornton in 1953 and covered by Elvis Presley three years later), “Love Potion No. 9” (the Clovers), “Kansas City” (Wilbert Harrison), “On Broadway” (the Drifters), “Ruby Baby” (Dion) and “Stand By Me” (Ben E. King). Their vast catalog includes virtually every major hit by the Coasters (e.g., “Searchin’,” “Young Blood,” “Charlie Brown,” “Yakety Yak” and “Poison Ivy"). They also worked their magic on Elvis Presley, writing “Jailhouse Rock,” “Treat Me Nice” and “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)” specifically for him. All totaled, Presley recorded more than 20 Leiber and Stoller songs.
As pop auteurs who wrote, arranged and produced countless recordings by the above-mentioned artists and others, Leiber and Stoller advanced rock and roll to new heights of wit and musical sophistication. They were particularly influential during rock and roll’s first decade, beginning with the original recording of “Hound Dog” in 1953 and continuing through to the Drifters’ “On Broadway” in 1963. They brought a range of stylistic flavor to their story songs, which ranged from wisecracking, finger-popping hipster tunes to quieter love ballads. They even made a foray into country & western at Elvis Presley’s request, penning “Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello.” About all that their songs had in common was a fundamental grounding in rhythm & blues.
Leiber, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, was born in 1933 and grew up on the edge of Baltimore’s black ghetto. Stoller, also born in 1933, was raised in Queens, learning the basics of blues and boogie-woogie from black kids at summer camp. The pair met in Los Angeles in 1950 and began writing right away. Leiber served as the sharp-witted lyricist, while the classically trained but jazz- and R&B-loving Stoller wrote the music. In 1951 one of the duo’s early songs, “That’s What the Good Book Says,” was recorded by the Robins (two members of the Robins later became original members of the Coasters) for Modern Records. In 1954, Leiber and Stoller formed their own label, Spark, which released classics like the Robins’ “Riot in Cell Block #9.” After a string of similarly gutsy, groundbreaking records, Atlantic Records signed Leiber and Stoller to one of the industry’s first independent production deals.
After enjoying a wildly successful run at Atlantic in the late Fifties and early Sixties, Leiber and Stoller made their final and most successful attempt at running their own record label in 1964. Red Bird Records spotlighted the girl-group sound. Their unerring eye for talent brought great young producers and songwriters into the Red Bird fold. The company’s second release - “Chapel of Love,” by the Dixie Cups - shot to #1. Of Red Bird’s first 30 singles, 10 made the Top Forty - an outstanding percentage in the music industry. Red Bird’s commercial success was equaled by the quality of the music, including such girl-group classics as the Shangri-La’s “Leader of the Pack.” Though the era of such timeless singles faded long ago, Leiber and Stoller have remained active in the music business to which they’ve contributed so substantially, up until Jerry Leiber's death on August 22, 2011 in Los Angeles.