If the names aren’t familiar to you, the songs they wrote will be. Leiber and Stoller began writing songs for more or less obscure rhythm and blues artists in the early fifties, including a song that became a minor hit for Big Mama Thornton. A few years later, an unknown white boy from Tupelo recorded his version of the song. It made him a star, and launched Leiber and Stoller’s career as well. The song was “Hound Dog,” and the white boy was Elvis (Great American Things, July 29, 2009).
More hits followed, still in the R&B vein. “Yakety Yak” for the Coasters. “Stand by Me” for Ben E. King. “There Goes My Baby” by the Drifters. And several more hits for Elvis as well, including “Jailhouse Rock.” Their last major hit was “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel in 1972.
They’ve influenced a generation of songwriters, including Lennon and McCartney, and they’ve received the honors that go along with such success. They’re members of the Songwriters and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame, and Elvis’s recording of “Hound Dog” is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Of course, when the discussion involves songwriters, the natural question is, “So, what did they write?” Look at this incredible roster of major hits from the 1950s and 60s:
“Along Came Jones” (The Coasters, Ray Stevens)
“Charlie Brown” (The Coasters)
“Dance with Me” (The Drifters)
“Girls, Girls, Girls” (Elvis)
“Hound Dog” (Elvis)
“I (Who Have Nothing)” (Ben E. King)
“I’m a Woman” (Peggy Lee, Maria Muldaur)
“Is That All There Is?” (Peggy Lee)
“Jailhouse Rock” (Elvis)
“Kansas City” (Wilbert Harrison)
“King Creole” (Elvis)
“Love Potion Number 9” (The Searchers)
“Only in America” (Jay and the Americans)
“Poison Ivy” (The Coasters)
“Ruby Baby” (Dion)
“Spanish Harlem” (Ben E. King)
“Stand by Me” (Ben E. King)
“There Goes My Baby” (The Drifters)
“Yakety Yak” (The Coasters)