We’ve all seen it a hundred times over: awkward teenage boys sitting together in garages across America, writing uncomfortable love songs, daydreaming of girls shrieking wildly while lifting their shirts over their heads to expose their girly parts. (Actually never mind “shrieking wildly.”) Some of those boys become accountants. Some of those boys become awkward men sitting together in garages across America, writing uncomfortable love songs, daydreaming of girls lifting their shirts to expose their girly parts. And some of those boys may be lining themselves up to be the next Leiber and Stoller.
After meeting in Los Angeles in 1950 and bonding over their mutual love for blues and R&B, Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber began writing music together while still in their teens. In 1953 their song “Hound Dog” was recorded by Big Mama Thornton (which was re-recorded three years later by Elvis Presley and remained the number one pop song for eleven weeks straight in 1956.)
That same year and at the age of twenty, Leiber and Stoller created their first record label, Spark Records. Spark was later bought out by Atlantic Records, where Jerry and Mike were then signed as independent producers. During their time with Atlantic, the duo moved their offices to the famed Brill Building in New York City and wrote and produced hit songs such as “Yakety Yak” for The Coasters, “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, and “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley, among others.
In 1964 and after years of success with Atlantic, Mike and Jerry eventually cut ties with the label to launch Red Bird Records. As was the case with their first label, Leiber and Stoller experienced success with Red Bird Records, having released hit songs such as “Chapel Of Love” by The Dixie Cups and “Leader Of the Pack” by Shangri-Las. Only two years later, in 1966, Leiber and Stoller sold Red Bird to George Goldner and began working independently.
The duo continued to work intermittently throughout the 1970s and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987. In 1995 the musical Smokey Joe’s Cafe premiered on Broadway. The show was based around their work and featured songs from the Leiber and Stoller songbook. The soundtrack, Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs Of Leiber And Stoller, won a Grammy in 1995, and the show received numerous nominations for a Tony award the same year.
The ASCAP Foundation Leiber & Stoller Music Scholarships program was founded in 1992. The scholarship offers financial aid to aspiring singers, songwriters. Two awards are given each school year.
Mike Stoller currently lives in Los Angeles, California. Jerry Leiber died in Los Angeles on August 22nd, 2011.