Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

The Spectropop Group

I saw her 
standing on the corner
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller you ain't nothin' but a hound dog

'Rock 'n' roll is said to have been formed from a fusion between black rhythm-and-blues and white entrepreneurship. If so, then the foremost of the fair-skinned founding fathers must be Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Before the dawn of rock, in 1950, they were both teenagers transplanted to L.A. from the East Coast. Stoller dug jazz but played with dance bands while attending Los Angeles City College. Through a drummer friend he met Leiber then a student at Fairfax High with an after-school job at a record store. They spent that summer writing songs that reflected their shared love of black pop music, and before the year was out Jimmy Witherspoon had recorded and performed Leiber and Stoller's "Real Ugly Woman" in concert...'
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Take out the papers and the trash Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber

"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")..."
>>>presented by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Smokey Joe's CafeYoung Blood, I can't get you out of my mind

"As America struggles to emerge from the Great Depression, a legend is born - well, not just one. 1933 marks the births of legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. While the rest of the country is content to listen to Glenn Miller's "String of Pearls" and Bing Crosby's "White Christmas", these two young, white, Jewish boys feel the urge to "boogie woogie". But Jerry's uncle kicks the 9-year-old off the piano for playing it while Mike takes lessons from Fats Waller's mentor! Fast-forward to 1950, when their mutual love of boogie woogie and rhythm and blues brings them together to become the most influential songwriting team in rock & roll history. .."
>>>The Official site of Smokey Joe's Cafe
Take out the papers and the trashMike Stoller and Jerry Leiber

"Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller formed one of the best and most prolific songwriting teams of the 50's and 60's in addition to their work as record producers. Their formula was to take their love of R&B music and transform it into songs that appealed to a wide audience through their unforgettable melodies, well-conceived lyrics, and meticulous methods of producing records..."
>>>presented by Tom Simon
The RobinsYoung Blood, I can't get you out of my mind

"This Los Angeles vocal group were the forerunners of the Coasters. They began as the Four Bluebirds in 1947, then became the Robins. Ty Terrell, Billy Richards, Roy Richard, and Bobby Nunn were the original members, with Carl Gardner and Grady Chapman adding in 1954. A year later Gardner and Nunn departed to form the Coasters. The Robins had two R&B Top Ten hits. "If It's So Baby" was done with the Johnny Otis Band in 1950 for Savoy, while their best-known number, "Smokey Joe's Cafe," was recorded for Atco in 1955..."
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Take out the papers and the trash The Coasters

"Possibly the most popular doo wop group of the '50s, the Coasters started on the West Coast as the Robins, scoring hits under the writing-and-production helm of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller..."
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The Coasters at Hall of FameYoung Blood, I can't get you out of my mind

"The Coasters cut a string of rhythm & blues hits that were liberally salted with humor and sung in an infectious, uptempo doo-wop style. The group struck it big with songs written for them by the duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, including such classics as "Charlie Brown," Yakety Yak," "Along Came Jones," and "Poison Ivy." During their late Fifties heyday, the Coasters' recordings - written with street smarts and R&B punch by Leiber and Stoller, sung with sly humor and verve by the Coasters, and accompanied by hot, honking sax solos from King Curtis - helped define rock and roll by appealing to and reflecting the lot of the American teenager..."
>>>presented by Hall of Fame
Jerry and Mike The Coasters

"The group began in Los Angeles in the late forties and were known as the Robins. In 1950 they had a number one hit with "Double Crossing Blues" featuring Little Esther Phillips. In 1953 they met Leiber and Stoller when they moved from Crown Records to RCA. In 1954 Robins followed Leiber and Stoller to Spark Records ..."
>>>presented by History of Rock
coasters album pic The Coasters

"This R&B vocal group hailed from Los Angeles, USA. The illustrious career of the Coasters, the pre-eminent vocal group of the early rock 'n' roll era, was built on a remarkable body of cleverly comic R&B songs by their producers, Leiber And Stoller . Under their direction, the Coasters exchanged the crooning of ballads favoured by most groups of the era for robust and full-throated R&B shouting. The group came together in 1955 from remnants of the Robins, who had a dispute with their producers/songwriters, Leiber and Stoller..."
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The DriftersYour shoes get so hot you wish your tired feet were fireproof

"The Drifters helped create soul music with gospel style vocals. After Clyde McPhatter was fired by the Dominoes Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records encouraged him to form a group. McPhatter discovered the other members singing at the Mount Lebanon Church in Harlem, New York. The Drifters were not only a popular for their vocals but, for their choreography. Within a year McPhatter and the Drifters had recorded "Money Honey," "Such A Night," "Honey Love," and "White Christmas." McPhatter was drafted into the Army in 1954...."
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This Magic Moment The Drifters

"Originally a backup group formed around the soaring vocal talents of Clyde McPhatter, the Drifters -- like their '50s counterparts, the Platters and the Coasters -- have turned out to be one of the most enduring "franchises" in rock & roll. Unlike other groups who lost key members along the way and never regained their artistic or commercial footing, the various incarnations of the Drifters produced distinctly memorable material every step of the way..."
>>>presented by All Music Guide
The Drifters at Hall of FameOnly in America

"The Drifters served to link Fifties rhythm & blues with Sixties soul music. They epitomized the vocal group sound of New York City. Theirs was the sweet but streetwise sound of R&B suffused with gospel influences. The material the Drifters recorded came from a variety of sources, including the songwriting teams of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, and Gerry Goffin and Carole King. All were New York-based songwriters who wrote evocatively of romance and everyday life in the big city, and the Drifters made an ideal vehicle for the convincing delivery of such scenarios. The records they cut with Leiber and Stoller (who doubled as producers) introduced the sound of strings and Latin-tinged rhythms into the vocabulary of popular music..."
>>>presented by Hall of Fame
The boardwalk's deserted... The Drifters

"The Drifters are truly unique in today's world of coming and going popular music groups. And following their 25 year long history is like reading a history of contemporary popular music. From their very first release on Atlantic Records, "There Goes My Baby" (which was also the first rhythm and blues record to incorporate violins), they were bound for stardom - with a 2 million seller under their belts in their first try. Over the next ten years there were 29 additional chart records (according to Billboard) accounting for nearly 200,000,000 sales of singles and over 80 million albums in the United States alone. ..."
>>>On Line Talent
Johnny MooreSpectropop Logo

Johnny Moore, one of the lead singers featured on many of the Drifters' big hits, died in London on December 30th, 1998 while on route to hospital. He was 64. Moore reportedly had been suffering from breathing difficulties.

Alabama native Moore joined the Drifters around the time Clyde McPhatter was drafted, but Drifters' manager George Treadwell fired the original line-up in 1958 and quickly recruited The Five Crowns (featuring tenor vocalist Ben E. King) to become the all-new "Drifters." This new line-up set the pace for the group's second wave of hits with records like 'There Goes My Baby,' the seminal Leiber And Stoller record that, for the first time on an R&B record, featured Baion rhythm and lush strings.

Between 1958 and 1961, Johnny Moore signed to Sue Records (under the stage name Johnny Darrow) and recorded a number of sides including an interesting Sonny Boy Williamson cover 'Don't Start Me Talking.' Juggy Murray, one of the only successful black record label owners in New York at the time, founded Sue in 1958 primarily as a jazz label, but his artist roster featured some R&B acts such as Ike and Tina Turner and Inez Foxx. (As a side note, I understand Murray signed a young black guitarist named Jimmy James, but times were tough, so when the Animals manager came around making queries, Murray reportedly sold him the Jimmy James contract for $750.00. James went to London, changed his name to Jimi, and, as they say, the rest is history).

Moore rejoined the Drifters in 1961 and sang with Rudy Lewis on such hits as 'Up on The Roof' and 'On Broadway.' In 1964 Moore became the lead singer after Lewis died of a suspected drug overdose. His first recording as Drifters' lead singer was the smash hit, 'Under The Boardwalk', recorded one day after Lewis died. 'Under The Boardwalk' reportedly features Phil Spector on guitar.

In the 70's, Moore and the other Drifters moved to England and signed with Bell, where they enjoyed a number of hits written and produced by Tony Macauley, Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway.

Between 1973 and 1975, the group, still fronted by Moore, enjoyed six UK Top 10 hits, including Come On Over To My Place and Kissin' In The Back Row Of The Movies. >>>presented by Spectropop

It's a Lover's Question Clyde McPhatter

"As the lead singer for Billy Ward & His Dominoes and the Drifters, Clyde McPhatter was one of the most important R&B vocalists of the '50s. His high, passionate vocals were charged with gospel inflections, as well as blues -- his fusion of the sacred and the secular was crucial in the develpoment of R&B and soul. While his recordings with Ward and the Drifters were his most influential, McPhatter's solo records were equally excellent, as well as popular -- his first nine solo singles were all Top 10 R&B hits, and three of those -- "Treasure of Love," "Long Lonely Nights," "A Lover's Question" -- were number one. However, his career began to slide in the '60s as he became increasingly depedent on alcohol. His abuse eventually led to his early death in 1972, yet Clyde McPhatter's legacy could be heard throughout the soul and R&B of the '60s and '70s, particularly in the seductive smooth soul of Al Green and the Spinners...."
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Ben E. KingI have to beg your pardon...

"As new lead singer for the Drifters, King crooned the soulful smashes "There Goes My Baby," "Save the Last Dance for Me," and "I Count the Tears" before heading out on his own in 1960. The vocalist's own Atco singles mirrored the sumptuous production of his Drifter sides, and "Spanish Harlem," "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)," and the R&B chart-topping "Stand by Me" were all huge successes..."
>>>presented by All Music Guide
Run Mascara, run mascara, run mascara, run... The Exciters

The Exciters are considered among the best girl-groups of the 60s, due in no small part to the dynamically vibrant lead vocalist Brenda Reid, production skills of Leiber and Stoller and top rate songwriting. Access here for the Exciters page at Spectropop
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Jay and the AmericansMan, you're in trouble plenty

"Jay & the Americans managed to consistently record hit songs and put four of them in the top ten in the 60's. All were recorded for United Artists.

The original lead singer of the group was John "Jay" Traynor, who had been with the Mystics in the late 50's. He got together with a group called the Harbor Lites in New York City late in 1959 from among a group of students at New York University. Among the original group members were Sandy Deane [nee Sandy Yaguda], Sydelle Sherman and Kenny Vance>>>presented by Tom Simon

Jose's on his way Jay & the Americans

"Jay and the Americans were formed in 1961 in Brooklyn, New York. The group auditioned for record producers Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller who signed them to United Artists. Their first hit "She Cried" (top 5, 1962) was sung by the original vocalist, Jay Traynor. Soon thereafter, Traynor was replaced by Jay Black who san lead on all future recordings by the group. Jay and the Americans were a stable unit for the entire 1960s, and recorded many big hits, among them "Come A Little Bit Closer," "Cara Mia," and "This Magic Moment"..."
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Jay and the AmericansMan, you're in trouble plenty

"Jay Black wasn't even in the band when they got their first big hit, "She Cried," which went to #5 in 1962. Produced by Leiber and Stoller, the booming percussion and soaring strings, as well as the sad melody, was reminiscent of their work with the Drifters, though in a much Whiter mold. Jay Black had replaced lead singer Jay Traynor by the time of their second hit in 1963, "Only in America" (neither of them, by the way, were actually named Jay; their first names were conveniently changed to fit the band's billing).
>>>presented by All Music Guide
Only in America/Land of opportunity/Can they save a seat in the back of the bus just for me... Only in America

The Drifters in the Midst of the Civil Rights Era

By Randy Poe

The songwriting talents of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller are indisputable. A tip-of-the-iceberg list of their credits as a team includes "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Love Potion # 9," "Yakety Yak," "Charlie Brown," "Poison Ivy," "Kansas City," "I'm A Woman," "Searchin'," "Treat Me Nice," "Love Me," "Is That All There Is?," and many of the Drifters' recordings, including "Ruby Baby," "Drip Drop," "There Goes My Baby," and "Fools Fall In Love."
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil have also had a long string of hits as a twosome; among the many are "Blame It On The Bossa Nova," "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place," "He's Sure The Boy I Love," "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration," "Here You Come Again," and "Just Once."
But when all four writers came together, as they did on a couple of occasions for the Drifters, the results were truly astounding.
One such collaboration was the now-classic, much-covered "On Broadway." Another effort by this quartet of legendary writers resulted in the controversial, original recording of "Only In America."
The year 1963 marked the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. JFK was in the White House; George Wallace was the newly-elected governor of Alabama; and Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. were the two most important symbols of hope among America's black community - a community that rightly believed the good intentions of the Emancipation Proclamation had yet to be embraced by America at large.
Before the year was out, King would make his famous "I Have A Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial; Wallace would stand in the doorway of the University of Alabama, unsuccessfully attempting to prevent the entrance of that school's first black students; and JFK would be assassinated.
On April 12th of that same year, Leiber & Stoller took the Drifters into Atlantic's recording studio in Manhattan to cut four sides: "Rat Race," "If You Don't Come Back," "I'll Take You Home," and "Only In America."
Jerry Leiber explains the songwriters' relationship with the Drifters, and the events that led up to this particular session:
"Before we started producing the Drifters, the Coasters had been 'our group.' Mike and I wrote almost everything we produced for them.
"But the Drifters were completely different. We sort of inherited them from Ahmet [Ertegun] and [Jerry] Wexler. When Ahmet and Jerry first began producing the Drifters, they were a straight R&B act. But after various personnel changes, they had evolved into a 'sweet soul' group.
"Writing 'sweet soul' songs was not necessarily our bag. Our bag at that time was writing radio comedy plays for the Coasters - gags set to music. So when we were given an assignment by Ahmet or Jerry to produce sides for the Drifters, we would - more often than not - assign the writing to the hot writers of the day: Doc [Pomus] and Morty [Shuman]; Goffin & King; Bacharach & David; and, of course, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil."
"One of the songs that Barry and Cynthia brought us was an early version of 'Only In America,'" says Mike Stoller. "In its original form, it was an obvious protest. The lyrics, as I recall them, were about sitting at the back of the bus."
Not wanting to turn the Drifters into a soul version of the Weavers, Leiber & Stoller imbued the Mann & Weil song with the more subtle kind of antiracism they had so successfully slipped into many of the Coasters recordings. (Such was the case with the Coasters' hysterical "Along Came Jones" - in which an African-American man switches from one TV channel to another, only to discover the hero of every show is always the same Caucasian cowboy.)
"We thought Barry and Cynthia's song was good," says Leiber. But it was too straight a protest song. I thought it needed to be a bit more playful and comic…."
"…And a lot more ironic," adds Mike.
Irony was certainly in full force when the session took place. On the very day the Drifters were recording "Only In America" in New York City, Martin Luther King, Jr. was being arrested and placed in solitary confinement in a Birmingham jail a thousand miles away.
When Leiber & Stoller took the finished recording to Jerry Wexler for his nod of approval, the reaction wasn't exactly what they were expecting.
After hearing the Drifters' lead vocalist sing about becoming a millionaire or possibly growing up to be President in the "land of opportunity," the Atlantic exec was not amused. "Wexler looked at us and said, 'Are you guys nuts? They'll lynch us!" recalls Leiber.
Although disappointed with Jerry Wexler's reaction, L&S knew that the track was a good one, even if the song wasn't ready to be thrust upon the public at large - at least not by the Drifters.
"We had a deal with United Artists at the time which allowed us to sell them masters," says Leiber. "Wexler was more than happy to let another label buy this master, which he had no intention of putting out."
Jerry and Mike turned to Jay & The Americans - an act with which they had scored a Top 10 hit, "She Cried," the previous year. Jay and the gang were a squeaky-clean, extremely white bunch whose past and future hits would include "Come A Little Bit Closer," "Let's Lock The Door (And Throw Away The Key)," and "Cara, Mia." The biggest hit of their career would come in 1969 with, ironically, a cover of the Drifters' "This Magic Moment."
Using the original master of "Only In America," Leiber & Stoller replaced the Drifters' vocals with the voices of Jay Black, Sandy Yaguda, Kenny Vance, and Howie Kane.
Jay & The Americans' single of "Only In America" was a Top 25 hit on the pop charts. "And then I bumped into Barry Mann," says Leiber. "He said, 'Hey man, how could you do that to our song?' I said, 'Atlantic was never going to release the Drifters' version, so we changed it from a powerful protest into patriotic pap."
More than four decades have passed since the day the Drifters recorded "Only In America." In places such as Birmingham, Alabama, major changes have taken place: The schools have long since been integrated; all races drink from the same water fountain; and an African-American now serves as the city's mayor.
But over four decades years later, in much of the U.S., it would seem that things haven't changed nearly enough. The irony of the Drifters' recording of "Only In America" still remains abundantly apparent.

Randy Poe is the President of Leiber & Stoller Music Publishing. He has written the liner notes to over 100 albums, and is a recipient of the ASCAP/Deems Taylor award for his book Music Publishing: A Songwriter's Guide. His most recent work, Squeeze My Lemon: A Collection of Classic Blues Lyrics, features a foreword by blues legend B.B. King.

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