Tag Archives: Elvis

Music: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

Leiber and Stoller wrote Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock for that guy in the middle, whatever his name is. Uploaded by images2.fanpop.com.

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.

Their autobiography is now available. Uploaded by angelfire.com.

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)

Song: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

Remember when that mustache was cool? And that hair? Uploaded by pladevenderne.dk.

Paul Simon wrote it. Art Garfunkel sang it. And America loved it. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” won the Grammy Awards for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1971. And Rolling Stone named it number 47 in its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

But, coming as it did near the end of Simon and Garfunkel’s partnership, it didn’t come into being without some travail. Although Simon wrote it for Garfunkel’s voice, he has stated that he wishes he’d sung it himself. “He felt I should have done it,” Simon told Rolling Stone in 1972. “And many times I’m sorry I didn’t do it.”

It was their last album together. Uploaded by images.amazon.com.

Since the recording industry organization BMI named it the 19th-most-performed song of the twentieth century, it should come as no surprise that several excellent covers have been recorded. Aretha Franklin won a Grammy for Best Female R&B Performance for her 1972 version. Johnny Cash (Great American Thing No. 59) and The Jackson 5 recorded it.

And perhaps those who know that Elvis (Great American Thing No. 121) sang a lot of gospel music might have expected his outstanding version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” He recorded it in 1970 and performed it in two documentaries: Elvis – That’s the Way It Is and Elvis on Tour.

By the way, when Simon and Garfunkel sing the song now during their regular reunion concerts, they alternate singing the verses. “Your time has come to shine…”

TV Show: The Ed Sullivan Show

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Uploaded to Flickr by sebastian matus.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Uploaded to Flickr by sebastian matus.

As befits the very earliest days of television, there couldn’t have been a simpler program format. Bring on a wide variety of acts, introduced by a handsome, charismatic host. This long-running show, originally called Toast of the Town, had all of this – except the handsome, charismatic host. It had Ed Sullivan.

Ed was an entertainment columnist for the New York Daily News, and he drew upon his contacts in the early days of the show to get some of the biggest names in entertainment. Nowhere else on TV could you hear a song by a Broadway cast, watch a team of acrobats, laugh at a comedian, cringe at an opera singer, and then hear the hottest pop group of the day.

Ed Sullivan small by conffeti

The show ran from 1948 to 1971, and featured some of the era’s most memorable events. For example, Elvis appeared on the broadcast on three occasions, and indeed was shown only from the waist up during the up-tempo portions of his songs. His first appearance drew 82.6% of the television audience, an amazing number even during the three-channel era.

All America again gathered in front of the Sullivan Show in February 1964, as the Beatles performed on three consecutive Sundays. The first week they sang “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” They drew a studio full of screaming girls, and the largest audience in television history at that time.

Of course, there were some low moments as well. The Doors were instructed to change “You know I couldn’t get much higher,” to “You know I couldn’t get much better,” but didn’t, and were permanently banned from the show. Jackie Mason allegedly gave Sullivan the finger, but filed a libel suit and eventually received an apology. And Bob Dylan was scheduled to perform a protest song, and was told it wouldn’t be allowed. So he walked out and never appeared on the show.

You can watch full episodes at tv.com and see what it was like “back in the day.” Tonight’s video can’t be embed, but it’s worth seeing – ten minutes of the Best of Sullivan, including songs by the Beatles.

Singer: Johnny Cash

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by VeganMoonray

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by VeganMoonray

In its infancy, rock and roll quickly crowned its king. At the same time, another member of R&R royalty was making his name: The Man in Black.

Johnny Cash first gained fame on the Sun Records label. You might remember it best for producing a kid named Presley. In fact, along with Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, Johnny made up what the Sun marketing people called “The Million Dollar Quartet.”

His first single to make the Billboard chart, Cry, Cry, Cry, reached number 14. But it was 1956, a year in which he released two epic songs, that Johnny Cash became a household name. Seldom does an artist have back-t0-back hits with the power of Folsom Prison Blues and I Walk the Line. The latter became his first number one song.

Uploaded by popartdks

Uploaded by popartdks

Of course, if you know Johnny’s story, you know that his life spiraled out of control during the sixties due to drug use. God chose to bring him around as He often does – with a woman. June Carter not only sang some impressive duets with Johnny, but she and her family shared their strong faith with him, and patiently saw him through to a personal redemption.

Johnny Cash was the youngest person elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame conferred its membership in 1992. And in 1999 the Grammys honored him with a lifetime achievement award. He was honest, sometimes raw, and always electric. Which was obvious every time he stood on stage and said:

“Hi…I’m Johnny Cash.”