Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

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Mike Stoller, Elvis Presley, Jerry Leiber

Jerry Leiber (born April 25, 1933) and Mike Stoller (born March 13, 1933) are among the most important songwriters and music producers in post-World War II popular music.

Their history

Leiber came from Baltimore, Stoller from Long Island, but they met in Los Angeles. After school, Stoller played drums 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. At the same time, they wrote Kansas City which was also recorded in 1952 with Little Willie Littlefield but became a No. 1 hit in 1959 for Wilbert Harrison. In 1953 they wrote Hound Dog for Big Mama Thornton; it became a major hit for Elvis Presley in 1956, although in a bowdlerized version. Their later songs often had lyrics more appropriate for pop music, and their combination of rhythm and blues with pop lyrics revolutionized pop and rock and roll.

They formed Spark Records in 1953. The label was later bought by Atlantic Records, who hired Leiber and Stoller as independent producers. At Atlantic they re-vitalized the careers of the Drifters and continued to turn out hits for the Coasters. Their songs from this period include Smokey Joe's Cafe, Riot in Cell Block #9, Charlie Brown, Stand By Me, Save the Last Dance for Me, and On Broadway among numerous other hits (for the Coasters alone they wrote twenty-four songs which appeared in the national charts).

In the 1960s they founded and briefly owned Red Bird Records, which issued the Shangri-Las' Leader of the Pack and the Dixie Cups' Chapel of Love. After selling Red Bird Leiber and Stoller worked as independent producers and continued to write songs. Their best known song from this period is Is That All There Is? recorded by Peggy Lee in 1969. Their last major work was Stuck In the Middle With You recorded by Stealers Wheel in 1972.

They won Grammy awards for Is That All There Is? and for the cast album of Smokey Joe's Cafe, a 1995 Broadway musical based on their work.

Mezzo-soprano Joan Morris and her pianist-composer husband William Bolcom have recorded an album of "other songs by Leiber and Stoller," featuring a number of their more unusual (and satiric) works (including Let's Bring Back World War I, written specifically for them, and Humphrey Bogart, a tongue-in-cheek song about obsession with the actor).

Leiber and Stoller have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


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