I don’t know where or when I first saw the writing credit of “Leiber and Stoller”. It may have been the first time I read the credits for the song “Kansas City”. Maybe it was on a Herman’s Hermits record or maybe on a Little Richard or a Beatles record. I was to hear the song many, many more times. It became one of their most recorded songs and it was a twelve bar jam favorite for many a 60s band.
I was to hear more of their songs over the years including these:
- On Broadway (The Drifters and George Benson)
- Ruby Baby (The Drifters and Donald Fagen)
- Love Potion No. 9, Poison Ivy (The Clovers)
- Stand By Me (Ben E. King)
- Yakety Yak, Youngblood, Searchin’ (The Coasters)
- Is That All There is? (Peggy Lee)
- Hound Dog (Big Mama Thornton and Elvis Presley)
They were both just two young guys in 1952 who loved rhythm and blues. Their first hit was “Hard Times” by Charles Brown when they were both only nineteen years old.
They seemed to have a knack for blending pop lyrics with rhythm and blues as well as memorable lines at the break like in these songs:
“Love Potion No. 9” – “I held my nose, I closed my eyes, I took a drink”,
“Charlie Brown” – “Why is everybody always picking on me?”
“Yakety Yak” – “Yakety Yak, Don’t Talk Back”
The Eclectic Vinyl Orchestra didn’t set out to cover “Leiber and Stoller” tunes but as I started researching some of our songs, I realized we were covering three of them by different artists:
- Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley)
- Three Cool Cats (The Coasters)
- Saved (Laverne Backer, The Band, The Commitments)
We still may add a few more since in the 50s, their songs and their productions were everywhere.
As with a lot of my peers, I first heard the song “Hound Dog” sung by Elvis Presley but they originally wrote it for Big Mama Thornton.
I heard them speaking about the song in a podcast several years back and I found this on Wikipedia.
“Jerry did not like Elvis Presley‘s cover of “Hound Dog.” The song had originally been recorded by Big Mama Thornton. Presley heard a rhumba band cover it in Las Vegas and decided he wanted to do it, too. Leiber says in the duo’s 2009 autobiography: “I didn’t like the way he did it….” Leiber was mad that Presley changed the lyrics. “The song isn’t about a dog, it’s about a man, a freeloading gigolo. Elvis just played with the song; Big Mama nailed it.” Leiber goes on to concede that sales of 7 million records “took the sting out of” the changes.”
I’ll talk about some of the “Leiber and Stoller” songs EVO performs in future blogs but I’ll end with the great Maria Muldaur covering, “I’m a Woman” one of their songs back in 1974