Authors of a large part of the soundtrack to The '50s.
Jerry Leiber (1933-2011) and Mike Stoller (1933- ) met as teenagers in Los Angeles in 1950, found that they were both fans of Blues and Rhythm & Blues, and started writing songs together. Jerry wrote the lyrics; Mike wrote the music. Their first hit came in '52, an R&B song called "Hard Times" recorded by Charles Brown. They stayed in the R&B genre for a few more years, writing songs that would later become huge hits, including "Kansas City" and "Hound Dog".
In the mid-'50s, Atlantic Records hired them as both songwriters and Record Producers. They moved in a doo-wop direction, writing hits for The Drifters and The Coasters. Songs like "Charlie Brown" and "Yakety Yak" became famous for their sense of humor and understanding of '50s youth culture.
After Elvis Presley made "Hound Dog" famous, they started writing for him, including "Loving You", "Jailhouse Rock", and "King Creole". Along with Elvis, they helped popularize black music in America, with R&B hits that crossed over into the mainstream. Unfortunately, however, the collaboration was largely short lived, as Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was ticked off at the fact that the duo had a direct line to Elvis rather than going to him first.
In the early '60s, they left Atlantic for United Artists Records, and then to their own label, Red Bird. At Red Bird, they had success with Girl Groups The Shangri-Las and The Dixie Cups. They sold Red Bird in the late '60s and became independent songwriter-producers.
They won a Grammy Award in 1969 for Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?", and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. A Broadway Jukebox Musical featuring their work, Smokey Joe's Cafe, came out in 1995 and won them another Grammy.
Famous songs, and the musicians who made the famous:
- "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots": Edith Piaf (as "LHomme à la Moto")
- "Charlie Brown": The Coasters
- "Don't": Elvis Presley
- "Hound Dog": Elvis Presley
- "I Keep Forgettin'": Chuck Jackson, Procol Harum, Ringo Starr, David Bowie
- "Is That All There Is?": Peggy Lee
- "Jailhouse Rock": Elvis Presley
- "Kansas City": Wilbert Harrison
- "King Creole": Elvis Presley
- "Love Me": Elvis Presley
- "Love Potion #9": The Searchers
- "Loving You": Elvis Presley
- "On Broadway": The Drifters (co-written with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil)
- "Only in America": Jay and the Americans
- "Pearl's A Singer": Elkie Brooks (co-written with Ralph Dino and John Sembello)
- "Poison Ivy": The Coasters
- "Riot In Cell Block Nine": The Robins, The Blues Brothers
- "Ruby Baby": The Drifters, Dion
- "Searchin'": The Coasters
- "Smokey Joe's Cafe": The Robins
- "Spanish Harlem": Ben E. King (co-written with Phil Spector)
- "Stand By Me": Ben E. King (co-written with King)
- "There Goes My Baby": The Drifters (co-written with Ben E. King, Lover Patterson, and George Treadwell)
- "Yakety Yak": The Coasters
- "Young Blood": The Coasters (co-written with Doc Pomus)
- "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care": Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley
Leiber and Stoller provide examples of:
- Ascended Extra: Phil Spector, who started out as an assistant.
- Break-Up Song: Leiber's characters fell out of love at least as often as they fell in love.
- Christmas Songs: A few.
- Class Clown: "Charlie Brown"
- Crazy Jealous Guy: The title character in "Smokey Joe's Cafe".
- Dance Sensation:
- "Jailhouse Rock"
- Parodied in "The Slime" by The Coasters, though the label made them change the title to "The Climb".
- Darker and Edgier: "Is That All There Is?" is this compared to most of their other songs.
- Doo-Wop Progression: Very fond of this trope.
- The '50s
- The Four Chords of Pop
- Girl Group: They had some success producing these in The '60s.
- Heavy Meta: "That Is Rock & Roll"
- Instrumentals: A handful.
- Love Is a Drug: Taken quite literally in "Love Potion #9".
- Morality Doo-Wop: "Poison Ivy"
- The Musical / Jukebox Musical: Smokey Joe's Cafe.
- Name's the Same: "Charlie Brown" is not connected to the Peanuts character of the same name.
- The New Rock & Roll: "Yakety Yak" satirizes parental anxiety over teenage kids.If you don't scrub that kitchen floor
You ain't gonna rock and roll no more!
- One-Woman Song: "Cordelia", "Fannie Lou", "Hello, Miss Simms", "Lola", "Suzanne, You Can"
- Record Producer
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Leiber (red) was the outgoing one, Stoller (blue) was quiet and introspective.
- Silly Love Songs: By the dozen.
- Something Blues: "Back Door Blues", "Blues for Me", "Heavenly Blues", "King Solomon's Blues"
- Step Up to the Microphone / Descended Creator: Jerry Leiber himself handles the lead vocal for the obscure Coasters song "Shake 'Em Up and Let 'Em Roll".
- Subdued Section: "Hound Dog", "Charlie Brown", and others.
- Translated Cover Version: Édith Piaf's French version of "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots".
- Whole Plot Reference: "Is That All There Is?" is largely based on Thomas Mann's short story "Disillusionment".