earshot 11


If you’re heading down to Memphis this summer don’t miss the great ‘I Shot Ray Charles’exhibit by photographer Howard Morehead, who is showing 50 portraits of the Genius at the Stax Museum from June 7th.  It was only the 3rd time that the Impressions had played to UK fans in their 50-year career including the shows at the Albert Hall with Eric Clapton in 2001. So, Rare Soul rules and who knows when they may be back again. Like many fans I was sad to see the flagship soul magazine ‘Blues & Soul’ finally cease production. It is still available online though (see the feature below) so its not completely lost to all of us. There are a few great Soul magazines available today like ‘In The Basement’ ‘Manifesto’ and ‘There’s That Beat!’  In it’s time B&S was the trailblazer Soul Mag and saw off all its competition but in recent years it moved with the black music times and concentrated on Hip-Hop and the like but still outstripped competition for editorial quality and production.peter burns

impressions live in northampton


In America the Impressions have been pretty busy of late, putting the finishing touches to their new album I’m Coming Home For Christmas  (review next issue) and touring. Most recently appearing on their old stamping ground Chicago with the Chi-Lites, Dramatics, Emotions and the Dells at the Crown Theatre on Lakeshore Drive and taping interviews for their new DVD Movin’ On Up for Universal (review next issue too). The Tennessee House of Representatives honoured Sam, Reggie and Fred in April for their contributions to American music. So they have been a bit hard to keep up and in contact with. I really wanted details of their itinerary for their UK tour planned for May ’08 but was a little disappointed to learn that they were making only one appearance at the Northampton ‘In Crowd’ Weekender (Friday – Sunday 23 -25 May ’08) at the Park Inn Hotel. I hear that Impressions leader Fred Cash was interviewed about their forthcoming UK visit on BBC Radio 2s Soul show ‘All Dancing, All Singing All Night’ on New Years Day. And for the many of you who were not be able to make it or didn’t want to shell out for 3 nights in a hotel plus a £50.00 ticket, their concert will be broadcast later on BBC Radio 2 and will also feature on BBC 6 Music, in addition BBC Radio's Craig Charles ‘Soul & Funk’ will also review the concert. Reggie, Fred and Sam were featured on the front cover of the April edition of ‘Manifesto’ magazine and Shinehead also wrote a good article ‘Then and Now’ for ‘On The Scene’ (May/ June Issue).

When we booked in at the Park Inn on Friday, the Impressions had already arrived – in fact we bumped into Sam at the entrance. Saturday afternoon was rehearsal time and David Woods their MD put the back up band Soul Patrol through a detailed preparation until they had every cue and nuance nailed. Then the Impressions went through their paces, David leading on his synthesizer, the Soul Patrol septet (guitar, bass, sax, trumpet, drums, piano and congas) trying to get it right with very little practice and generally succeeding. The guys did about 10 songs, stopping now and then to get something just right. After an hour or so the band left the stage but the Impressions were enjoying themselves and sang a couple of numbers not in the programme like ‘I Loved and I Lost’ and ‘A Fool For You’ with David weaving keyboard magic behind them. It was a glorious sound that the few of us in attendance felt privileged to witness. When I asked about MD Woods Fred told me “David is family, he’s second cousin to my wife –we don’t play nowhere without him.” David later told me he had majored in music at the University of Illinois in 1975 – he looked way too young.


After 12 pm Motown’s Undisputed Truth finished their set and suddenly, at last, there they were, decked out in immaculate mustard and black suits and rolling into a superb set that included ‘Move On Up’, ‘Mighty Mighty…’, ‘We’re A Winner’, ‘People Get Ready’, ‘I’ve Been Trying’, ‘It’s All Right’, ‘This Is My Country’, ‘Woman’s Got Soul’, ‘Gypsy Woman’, ‘I’m So Proud’, ‘You’ve Been Cheatin’’, ‘Superfly’, ‘Choice Of Colours’, ‘Keep On Pushing’, and ‘Amen’. Ear shattering roars of approval emanated from a captivated audience at the end of each song - there was dancing, singing and in some cases crying. The enjoyment both on and off stage was evident resulting in an atmosphere that crackled with excitement. Towards the end they honoured Curtis Mayfield without who none of us would have been there. It was a seriously good performance and the Impressions gave it their all – they could only be tempted back for an encore verse of ‘Amen’ but everyone was delighted and well satisfied with what they’d witnessed –it was absolutely great. When I spoke to the guys in their dressing room as they relaxed prior to an autograph session – they too were enthusiastic about the event and were talking about an early return to the UK. We made our farewells and headed back to the bar where the chatter was exclusively about ‘the’ best gig for ages. (peter burns)

Bettye Lavette

bettye lavette at the jazz café

Bettye Lavette at the Jazz Café – was her last UK appearance before going back on tour in Texas – and Bettye gave it to us all in a sweet goodbye. The band warmed up the cool crowd with three instrumentals, then on she came - a tangible charge sizzled in the atmosphere as her intro - a tight version of ‘The Stealer’ – played out soul freestyle. Bettye moved like a cat back and forth across the stage and her slim frame mesmerizing all present in the house. The crowd were roaring at the end of the first number - upstairs in the diner everyone was on their feet. Bettye gave us a casual narration as she moved through the songs that have filled her 45 year career. In America Bettye had six hit singles between November ’62 and January ’82 and her first hit ‘My Man – He’s A Loving Man’ came early in the set. An early track she’s perhaps best remembered for ‘Let Me Down Easy’ got a rapturous applause as the lady really laid it down. It became her signature tune for a few years and she cut it again 4 years later in 1969. Though very few of her singles found favour on the charts she kept on working playing clubs, small venues and supporting other acts. Even the soul fraternity generally ignored her, perhaps her music was a little too real or her delivery a little too intense. Maybe those who are supposed to know didn’t consider her hip enough. In the Jazz Café on this particular night she was Queen and the audience let her know just how good they thought she was. Her recent renaissance has come about due to the success of her two Anti albums I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise (’05) a 10 track masterpiece cut in Hollywood with all the songs written by female singers. She was Grammy nominated but as she said “It was an honour I didn’t win but I’m older than the Grammy’s anyway”. From this album we were treated to Lucinda Williams ‘Joy’. Her second Anti album The Scene Of The Crime (’07) was even better in my opinion, recorded with the Drive By Truckers at Muscle Shoals, Bettye gives 10 blistering performances with sensational support from a hot crew that included Spooner Oldham, Patterson & David Hood and Shonna Tucker. ‘I Still Want To Be Your Baby’, ‘Jealousy’ and ‘Talking Old Soldiers’ all feature in her current live show. Other songs performed were ‘I’m Still Your Baby’, ‘You’ll Never Change’, ‘A Woman Like Me’ and Willie Nelson’s ‘Only You And Your Heart’. She was a little dismissive about Motown even though Detroit was where she came up but by ’82 when she signed Bettye was too individual to fit into any of their moulds, she couldn’t be no cog in the Motown machine. She did however cut at least one great double sided single ‘Right in the Middle (of Falling in Love)’ / ‘You've Seen One You've Seen 'em All’ that I played a lot at the time.
For her finale Bettye sent the band off and gave us a brilliant solo rendition of ‘I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got’. It was a perfect night and the club buzzed with enthusiasm. Alan Hill (the bands MD and keyboard player) filled me in on a few details then I took my chance to talk to and photograph the elegant Mz Lavette. She asked me if I had heard all the songs I wanted to and I told her it was a superb set but when I see her next time she might include ‘Right In The Middle’ and ‘They Call It Love’ she laughed and said “OK sweetie” – I leaned against the balcony rail and tried not to swoon. (peter burns

blues and soul magazine

bye bye B&S

One day in 1967 not long after I had moved to Edmonton, I bumped into John Abbey in a second hand magazine shop on Silver Street. He told me he had recently started his own magazine called ‘Home Of The Blues’ and was looking for writers. I told him that while I like some blues I was really a soul fan – He said that was OK he was thinking of changing the magazines name in the near future to ‘Blues & Soul’. A few days later I got some copies of the fanzine in the post. The early covers were printed in black & white but the inside pages were mimeographed. As far as I could see it was all concentrating on Soul.  It took me a while to get started and during that time the magazine evolved into a fully professional publication. I knocked together a couple of features based on live shows I’d seen at the time, my earliest being  ‘Ben E & Clyde’ comparing the stagecraft of two x Drifters lead singers. I followed this with an Otis Redding Discography for a memorial piece and a review of Lou Rawls live with the Ted Heath Band. My first biography was on another favourite of mine Lou Johnson. These appeared in ‘Blues & Soul’ issues #4, #5, #10 and #11. My record collection at that time was based mainly around two cities Chicago & New York and two groups the Impressions and the Drifters. So the next project was a six part series called ‘The Curtis Mayfield Story’.

A neighbour of mine who lived a couple of streets away Roy Simonds had been writing a column for Record Mirror, where I was also getting work and we got together to revive ‘Disc Info USA’ for Blues & Soul. ‘Drifters Inc’ was an even more ambitious series running into 12 parts and about halfway through B&S changed format to (almost) A4. Many of the photos that I supplied mysteriously went missing (though I did manage to recover some of them from the B&S photo files years later). I decided that after this series I was better off starting my own magazine so Roy and I did just that but ‘earshot’ was short-lived. I wrote a few things for B&S in later years. John and I stayed in contact and he offered me a job as Design Editor at the magazine, which I declined because my own design career was flourishing. Though I was only in at the beginning, B&S became a very successful and influential international magazine and I continued to feel some affinity with the magazine. Abbey started a number of reissue labels like ‘Action’ ‘Mojo’ and ‘Contempo’ then he moved to America and handed the editorship of B&S to Bob Killbourn. That was in 1979 and Bob steered B&S to even greater success. Years later in 2001 we worked together on ‘The Soul Years’ a 12 CD series based around the B&S annual polls from 1966-99 which I designed for Bob Fisher when he was at Connoisseur. Each album featured notes by a different ‘Blues & Soul’ writer. At that time Killbourn said that if I could put together a database of B&S magazines (a long term project I had partially begun) he would be interested in acquiring it. It took me a long time but in 2006 I was up to date and I called him and left a number of messages but he never got back to me (those who know Bob would say this is a typical reaction) – I kept on adding to the file, figuring I would take it to 1000 issues then try again. I was shocked and stunned when I learned the other day that B&S magazine had finished publication at issue 1000. Bob had taken his retirement and disappeared off to Cyprus without a word and the magazine is only now available on the Internet at www.bluesandsoul.com

While this has been a bit of a surprise to many of us – nothing lasts forever. There must have been some kind of plan because B&S did not launch their website until 14 February 2007 and up until issue 1000 the magazine appeared on both formats. The last printed issue appeared 18 July 2007. Since that date following issues to 1005 have appeared on line. There was a 5-month gap but things are beginning to settle down now and issues contain more content and some of the old names like David Nathan and Pete Lewis are still contributing. Check it out it’s a very professional and good-looking site. B&S made quite a difference to my life. Because of the series I wrote for them, I became both an Impressions and a Drifters historian and have continued to be connected to and write about both groups to this day. I had a book published on Curtis & the Impressions in 2003 and wrote one on the Drifters (but due to legal wrangles over ownership of the Drifters name – it still remains unpublished). B&S was the first magazine that I had anything published in and it was great to see it grow into the best and most respected magazine of its genre internationally and so I wish it a fond farewell. Though it’s a long time since I received B&S through the post, I have acquired most of the 1000 – though there are a few gaps. In recent years it has moved with the times as far as the music reviewed – so soul was not featured as often as I would have liked. ‘In The Basement’ moved in to satisfy that demand and more recently in America ‘There’s The Beat’ is also worth a look.

I have noticed recently that early copies of B&S are appearing on the Internet for silly money, it seems collectors are willing to pay over the odds for some of these issues –
I must dig out my duplicates and put them on ebay. (peter burns)

Leiber & Stoller

Part 4 – 1966 -2007

Leiber and Stoller

So here it is - the final chapter of my take on the Leiber & Stoller story. It has been a bit of a struggle to research some of their more esoteric projects and I make apologies in advance for anything that I may have misquoted or got royally wrong for one reason or another. I look forward to the publication of a fully detailed biography or better still autobiography sometime soon that will fully describe the incredible achievements of the best and most successful writer/ production team of all time.

After the Red Bird debarkle Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller steered clear of studio and production commitments for a few months but they kept an office at the Brill Building and their songs were still finding favour in the hands of other producers like Bert Berns who recorded Freddie Scott on Shout in ’67 with ‘You’ll Never Leave Him’. Country King & Queen Johnny Cash and June Carter recorded ‘Jackson’ for Columbia. Leiber wrote this song as part of an album project with Billy Edd Wheeler, a folk singer/ songwriter from New Haven. Willie Bobo recorded the Mike Stoller instrumental Juicy as the title track of his album for Verve and this tune was also cut by Jose Santamaria and again by Sparrows Troubadours. Carmen McRae recorded the first version of ‘Flying’ for her For Once In My Life Atlantic album in London so the duo’s songbook was ticking over at a healthy rate.

The Coasters were free of their Atco contract by mid ’66 and were once more reunited with Leiber & Stoller. Together they cut their first sides for Date (Columbia) in November ’66 at A&R Studios with engineer Phil Ramone. the Coasters of the time were Carl Gardner, Will ‘Dub’ Jones, Billy Guy and newest member ex Cadillac lead voice Earl ‘Speedo’ Carroll (who had replaced Cornell Gunter in mid ’61). Their last hit with L&S had been ‘Little Egypt’ five years ago and they had only made one low visit to the R&B charts with ‘T’aint Nothin’ To Me’ culled from a live album in March ’64. The issued Date single ‘Soul Pad’/ ‘Down Home Girl’ was a perfect pop vehicle for the time but a combination of inept promotion and badly co-ordinated exposure meant that neither this, nor the two further singles released, including ‘She Can’/ ‘Everybody’s Woman’ and the brilliant ‘DW Washburn’, failed to make any commercial headway. Columbia had not yet been able to successfully sell great black music to the R&B market. So Leiber & Stoller gave ‘DW Washburn’ to the Monkees and it became their last US top 20 hit before they broke up in late ’68.

I got a bottle of wine – I’m feelin’ fine
And I believe I’ve got it made
I’d like to thank all you good people
For comin’ to my aid
But I’m D W Washburn
And I believe I’ve got it made
DW Washburn-Coasters-1968

Mike Stoller cut some instrumentals with his Sound System on Amy in ’68 that included ‘Silver Sea Horse’, ‘Professor Hauptman’s Performing Dog’s’, ‘The Perfect Wave’ and ‘Numero Uno’. Mike & Jerry made a brief return to Atlantic to produce Brook Benton on Cotillion with ‘Do Your Own Thing’ and ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ and then they cut the What’s An Uggams? album with Leslie Uggams. The LP tracks included two excellent Drifters ‘B’ sides ‘In The Land Of Make Believe’ and ‘Let The Music Play’ that they produced but had not written, ‘Flying’ ‘Some Cats Know’ and ‘I Ain’t Here’ - all songs originally written for ‘International Wrestling Match’, a play that also featured ‘Is That All There Is’. Another Atlantic session that produced no hits but two excellent sides was for Ben E King, who cut the best version of ‘Where’s The Girl’ (also recorded by Jerry Butler, Dorsey Burnette, Freddie Scott, Walker Bros, Steve Rossi, Jay & the Americans, Buddy Greco etc). But Atco threw this gem away on the flipside of ‘It’s Amazing’ and the esoteric ‘Getting’ To Me’ disappeared without trace until it’s resurrection in the UK on Kent 34 years later.

First performed by English singer Georgia Brown on UK TV in 1966 ‘Is That All There Is?’ was inspired by a Thomas Mann short story ‘Disillusionment’. Georgia never recorded it but scores of other artists have since including Tony Bennett, Maxine Brown, Julie Andrews, Guy Lombardo and many others but the classic version was cut by Peggy Lee, produced by L&S and arranged by Randy Newman in 1969 on Capitol Records. Legend has it that the song had originally been offered to Marlene Dietrich through Burt Bacharach, who declined the opportunity. Lee got the song by default but she wanted it badly. She had a lot of time for Mike & Jerry, believed in their exceptional talents and had already cut the classic on their Grammy-nominated single ‘I’m A Woman’ seven years earlier. But apparently the executives at Capitol took some convincing and it became clear that they had no intention of issuing it as a single. When Capitol asked Peggy to appear on the Joey Bishop TV show she said she would if she could sing ‘If That’s All There Is?’ and if they released it as a single. The company reluctantly pressed up 1500 copies. Peggy performed the song and they were inundated as the record an instantly big hit. Lee said later “The song had some deeper meaning for me – like it was the soundtrack to my life.” They won a Grammy for this recording. Lee’s acting career had paralleled that of Leiber’s wife Gabby Rogers (and no doubt a few other starlets) her promising first role in ‘Pete Kelly’s Blues’ (’55) earned her an Oscar nomination but like Gaby she too found no other Hollywood roles. Capitol did not seem to want any further connection between Lee and L&S despite ‘Is That All There Is’ being her biggest hit since ‘Fever’ 11 years earlier.

Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends
Then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all
There is
Is That All There Is? Peggy Lee – 1969

Ben E King’s manager heard ‘Uno Dei Tanti’ by Joe Sentieri while on an Italian vacation in 1962. He played the record to L&S when he returned to New York and they loved it. They arranged to have Atlantic lease the track, translated the lyric and made a few minor adjustments then added King’s vocal to produce yet another superb hit. Like so many of their great songs ‘I’ has been recorded hundreds of times since and been a big hit more than once. Shirley Bassey probably got the most success, but Tom Jones, Roberta & Donny, Petula Clark, Righteous Bros, Little Milton, Linda Jones, Mighty Sam. Luther Vandross and Vanilla Fudge all pressed their noses up against that windowpane. Dee Dee Warwick, who had worked with L&S many times backing the Drifters and solo on Jubilee and Tiger, cut her second version in 1969 this time for Mercury with Phil Medley and Buddy Smith and yet another great version was created.

‘On Broadway’ was a bouncy little showtune that Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann wrote and cut with Phil Spector for the Crystals in ’62 as an album track. It wasn’t very memorable. Then Goffin & King used it on a Cookies session but were not sufficiently impressed with the results to release it. Weil and Mann played it to L&S for the Drifters and they saw the real potential - but it needed a significant rewrite. So they worked on it together and produced yet another classic. Since then it has been tried and tweaked by Neil Young, George Benson, Bobby Darin, Clyde McPhatter, Lou Rawls, Jazz Crusaders, Tony Christie, Lettermen, Nancy Sinatra etc. and in ’69 high jazz tenor Jimmy Scott cut an ethereal version of the song with Arif Mardin and Joel Dorn for his Atlantic album The Source (which due to contractual problems was not issued for 31 years). Incidentally the Cookies version was also issued after the Drifters hit. Towards the end of 1970 Mike & Jerry bought the Starday/ King record company as Tennessee Recording and Publishing. They set up their own new King logo and took the Coasters into the studio to cut some hits. At last the Coasters got a chance to record ‘Love Potion No. 9’ which scraped into the top 50. They tweaked and overdubbed the Date masters and issued a handful of singles but good as they were the US public showed little interest. ‘Cool Jerk’ and ‘Soul Pad’ fell by the wayside. L&S wrote no new songs this time out and the album, unimaginatively entitled 16 Greatest Hits sold poorly. Two years later L&S sold the label on and got back to what they did best, writing songs and producing them.
Hits or no Leiber & Stoller were back in circulation and fresh offers began to roll in.

They keep some incense burning in a sardine can
Beneath a picture of Thelonious Monk
Com’on down to my Soul Pad
We got prayer rugs for kneelin (Soul Pad)
And if your soul needs healin’ (Soul Pad)
It’s a room with a feeling
Soul Pad- Coasters-1970

‘The Phynx’ (‘70) a movie directed by Lee H Katzin and starring nobody in particular with appearances by Richard Pryor, George Tobias and Joan Blondell and cameos by the Bowery Boys, Joe Louis and Dick Clark was released and immediately hit rock bottom. Maltin describes this BOMB rated movie as a way off base satire about a rock group recruited to spy behind the iron curtain. As this movie was a flop and did not make it to video or DVD. I haven’t been able to see it. Some of L&S music was used on the soundtrack ‘Tango’ written as an homage to Raymond Navarro, was one song used and ‘I’ve Got Them Feelin’ Too Good Today Blues’ was another. But Jerry and Mike don’t talk about this movie much.

In the early ‘70s L&S signed a production deal with A&M records and began working with a promising UK outfit called Stealers Wheel, whose initial album spawned ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ a #6 US/ #8 UK hit in ‘72. The twin talents of Gerry Rafferty & Joe Egan were considerable, they wrote and sang all the songs between them but Leiber & Stoller’s production gave Stealers Wheel a crisp introduction and the single provided Jerry and Mike’s last major hit. ‘Stuck In The Middle…’ was also used by Quentin Tarantino for his soundtrack on ‘Reservoir Dogs’ in ’92 and got a lot more airplay as a result. The original Stealers Wheel album, though not a huge hit, sold very well and is regarded as classic. The 10 superb songs that include ‘Late Again’, ‘I Get By’, ‘Johnny’s Song’ and ‘You Put Something Better Inside Me’ set a new benchmark for songwriting in the early ‘70s Rock genre. Various projects began to come Leiber & Stoller’s way and in 1973 they part produced an album of Very Rare Jazz Hits that featured T-Bone Walker, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Mann, Al Cohn, ‘Fathead’ Newman, Zoot Sims and the Sweet Inspirations that slipped into the realms of collectable and like quite a few of their ‘out of the mainstream’ collaborations is quite impossible to obtain

Jerry and Mike

By the time Jerry & Mike embarked on the second Stealers Wheel album Ferguslie Park the group had undergone revolutionary internal changes. The truculent Rafferty had left and returned a couple of times. The band was virtually a duo with Egan and Rafferty headlining a group of musicians on these sessions that did not perform in the band. For the sessions, Stoller arranged the horns and played electric harpsichord and his wife Corky played the harp. This album spawned two hit singles ‘Everything Will Turn Out Fine’ (UK #33 September ’73) and the Egan led ‘Star’ (UK #25/ US #29 January / March ’74). Gerry & Joe appeared on UK TV promoting Ferguslie Park as a duo but Rafferty took his leave once again and Stealers Wheel toured and made TV appearances without him, where Joe lip-synched Gerry’s leads. Eagan and Rafferty’s leads were very similar and indistinguishable to all but the experts, so they carried on performing without him. His real contribution came through his songwriting and studio work. Gerry seemed the unwilling pop star – he didn’t want no fast car and he didn’t want to tour with the group. Some of the songs on the album reflect the writers attitudes to what was going on around them ‘Good Businessman’ and ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change My Mind’. Despite the wrangles, the album was stunningly and consistently good throughout with wonderful songs like ‘Over My Head’, ‘Blind Faith’, ‘Back On My Feet Again’ and even Rafferty’s rerun of ‘Steamboat Row’ was an improvement on a great original. While Ferguslie Park did not repeat the commercial success of Stealers Wheel it did receive wider acclaim from the critics. Leiber & Stoller were not involved in any part of the Stealers Wheel story except as the producers of their first two albums and by the time it came around to the third - Right Or Wrong in 1975, disagreements between Egan & Rafferty spilled over to L&S, who were scheduled to produce it and Mentor Williams became the bands final producer. These troubled sessions rumbled on with the two artists clashing with each other and/or their management, who wanted them to tour as a band. Despite these problems the final album was surprisingly good but indecision over the sleeve and the fact that Rafferty & Egan split before it was issued, tipped the whole fiasco into a complete disaster. Two singles ‘Right Or Wrong’ and ‘Found My Way To You’ were issued by A&M but with no band to promote them they soon disappeared. Joe & Gerry were locked into contractual problems for a further 3 years before they could disentangle and continue with their solo careers. Both went on to create and record great music but it was Gerry Rafferty who had the more enduring international success


Legend has it that by the end of the ‘60s the power base of the US music business was moving to the West Coast. At that time Leiber & Stoller were not only bicoastal they were transatlantic but gradually by the end of the ‘80s they would settle back into the West. The Brill Building era was over and even labels that had established themselves in the black markets of R&B and Soul like Atlantic, were now evolving through Pop to Rock Folk and Rock. In 1974 L&S began getting back to what they really enjoyed, writing and producing their own songs. Ralph Dino (aka Ralph Palladino) and John Sembello were a pair of singer/songwriters who were teamed by their label A&M with producers Leiber & Stoller.  Together they wrote and recorded ‘Pearl’s A Singer’ for Dino & Sembello, their debut album in LA. Along with nine other cuts that included the three singles ‘Dancin’ Jones’, ‘See The Light’ and ‘Pearl’s A Singer’. None of these singles charted however and the album, though positively reviewed did not create much interest either.

Faded pictures in my scrapbook
Just thought I’d take one more look
And recall when we were all in the Neighbourhood
And all those friends we used to know
All those friends where did they all go
Neighborhood-Dino & Sembello-1974

The following year L&S embarked on a project that had long been desirable to them both. Jazz diva Peggy Lee had recorded ‘Kansas City’ in mid ’61, then she cut their stylishly slinky ‘I’m A Woman’ in late 1962 after the original version by Christene Kittrell failed to register on the charts. Of the song Peggy said – “I’m A Woman fit me to a tee!” Once again Lee created a masterpiece to Benny Carter’s arrangement and producer Dave Cavanaugh got it all down. There were versions by many others, Maria Muldaur, Sammy Davis and Fontella Bass among them. The Coasters also cut the song as ‘She Can’ for Date in ’67 - but none of them came close to hers. Legend has it that L&S wrote the song as a reposte to Muddy Water’s blues boast ‘Mannish Boy’ (that was itself a new version of Bo Diddley’s ‘I’m A Man’ of ’55). Though L&S were not given producer credits, Cavanaugh did invite them to the recording session and Stoller’s arrangement ideas were used. So Mike & Jerry reunited with Peggy Lee in May 1975 for a series of sessions at A&M Studios in Hollywood to record Mirrors her first album for her new label. When L&S were interviewed at the NFT in June 2001 by Adrian Wootton at the British premiere of a new documentary about their career: Words and Music by Leiber & Stoller, they were asked about the Mirrors album by a member of the audience. Mike Stoller replied, “It's an album that's very dear to our hearts. It was the album we hoped to do after the success of ‘Is That All There Is?’ Because it has that sort of cabaret feel, those kind of songs. Hardly pop ditties. Unfortunately the record company, A&M, has been swallowed into ever-larger corporations, and we wish we could get it re-released. We're trying”. All ten songs used on the album were written by L&S and included some they had tried before with other artists. Now they took their opportunity to record a number of songs previously written for various theatrical projects that they had not been able to use - until now. Some of their earlier songs were also reworked and reconstructed to suit Peggy Lee’s vocal style. These included the previously recorded ‘Professor Hauptman’s Performing Dog’s’ and ‘I Ain’t Here’ and also ‘Some Cats Know’ (written for a proposed musical adaptation of Robert Gover’s ‘$100 Misunderstanding’). Overdubs for this track were recorded in New York (though not the vocal). Other superb cuts included ‘I’ve Got Them Feelin’ Too Good Today Blues’ and ‘Longings For A Simpler Time’.
In addition to Stoller’s head arrangements L&S used arrangers Johnny Mandell and to a lesser extent, Meco Monardo and Perry Bodkin Jr.  Mandell who had been delighted to work with the masters said, “This was no concept album. Each of their songs was like a miniature painting and when it was finished it was like being in an art gallery.” Songs that were recorded but didn’t make it onto the Mirrors album were ‘Squatty Watty Do’ aka ‘The Slime’ aka ‘The Climb’ (originally a Coasters cut), ‘Don Juan’, ‘Crazy Life’ ‘The Best Thing’, ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’, and ‘Saved’. A second A&M album conceived by Jerry & Mike in 1978 Peggy Lee Sings The Cabaret Songs Of Leiber & Stoller was planned but never materialised. The concept was to be both a reissue and an expansion of their earlier Mirrors album.  A&M proceeded to assemble a complete LP master, and even assigned a catalogue number (A&M 4734). The sleeve was designed. But the project was eventually shelved. Had it come to fruition, this album would have contained new remixes of various songs and previously unissued tracks from the Mirrors sessions plus songs newly recorded by Peggy Lee. After years of trying Peter Stoller eventually got a limited edition CD Peggy Lee sings Leiber & Stoller released in 2005. “Mike & Jerry didn’t write anything I didn’t like” said Lee when asked about the album and of her Leiber said “She did songs that almost no one else could do.”
For Mirrors the trio blended beautifully to create a perfect album - that reveals a journey through the reflections of a middle-aged woman. It’s a masterwork that had little chance of having any huge commercial success because the young only care about the young. In the 38 years since it was created, it has become an icon, something precious to be admired and revered. All those involved in Mirrors creation confessed to being very proud of the album.

But now the cop no longer whistles on his beat
We hurry home for were afraid to walk the street
Recall the time when one thin dime was really money
When funny papers made us laugh ‘cause they were funny
When life was grand in this sweet land of milk and honey
Longings For A Simpler Time- Peggy Lee-1975

Peggy Lee

After their huge success with their classic worldwide pop hit ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ in mid ’67 Procol Harum enjoyed 8 years of moderate chart success gradually winding down in the mid 70s. They had begun life as the Paramounts (led by Gary Brooker and Robin Trower) from Southend and scored only one hit after signing to Parlaphone with a cover of Mike and Jerry’s Coasters hit ‘Poison Ivy’ in 1964. Two years later they morphed into Procol Harum. By 1975 they were looking for new directions and their label Chrysalis, through Brooker’s influence, engaged the production talents of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Through L&S influence the band rediscovered rock/ r&b and cut a 10 track uptempo album entitled Procol’s Ninth that put them back on the album charts. The album contained the hit single ‘Pandora's Box’, ‘Fool's Gold’, ‘Eight Days A Week’ but only one L&S song, a reworking of the old Chuck Jackson side ‘I Keep Forgetting’. While the arrangement pays homage to the Brill Building era, the brass charts are a pleasant reminder of the magic Stoller was capable of concocting at any given moment. A later re-issue of Procol’s Ninth contained two bonus rare tracks. Though the original album put them back on top it was only 2 years later that the band broke up. There have been a number of reunions since, their legions of fans insist, dragging them back to celebrate various events. More albums were cut for different labels but Procol’s Ninth remains their last to chart.

The 25th anniversary of Leiber & Stoller’s partnership occurred in 1975 and in the UK they were interviewed and photographed for Insight a BBC Radio 1 programme that was broadcast on 28 June ’75. The Radio Times magazine also ran a 3 page feature ‘Good Time Music’ written by John Lahr that highlighted many of their considerable achievements so far – mostly the early ‘Atlantic’ years. Lahr concluded that – ‘They have set themselves new musical challenges, and their song-writing has taken a more complex turn. Stoller has studied serious music composition with Stefan Wolpe; Leiber has written lyrics with Leonard Bernstein for an abortive musical version of Brecht’s ‘The Exception To The Rule’. He is currently exploring a musical with German avant-garde playwright Peter Handke. Leiber & Stoller’s music is evolving; but in the meantime, their rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay’.

Meanwhile John Lennon co-produced his new album Rock ‘n’ Roll with Phil Spector
from which ‘Stand By Me’ was issued as a single and it went into the US top 20 (#30 UK) in April ’75.

In the mid ‘70s Elkie Brooks left Vinegar Joe and signed to A&M records as a solo artist. Her initial launch did not meet with much success, so A&M, well aware of the high levels of quality and success Leiber & Stoller had been creating for other acts on their roster, as divergent as Peggy Lee, Dino & Sembello, Stealers Wheel and more recently Procol Harum (for Chrysalis) recruited them for a relaunch. ‘Pearl’s A Singer’ was her first international hit single in April ’77 (#8 UK) and rapidly became Elkie’s signature tune.  It was taken from her second album Two Days Away  (#16 UK) for which Mike and Jerry wrote 5 of the 10 tracks that included revivals of ‘Saved’ and ‘Love Potion # 9’ plus ‘Night Bird’ and ‘You Did Something For Me’. A second single from the album ‘Sunshine After The Rain’ went to #10 UK and Two Days Away Recorded in London, New York and LA, established Elkie as a soulful diva of the first order and was so successful that a second collaboration Live & Learn was recorded in 1979. Live & Learn was cut at the Record Plant, Los Angeles and Jerry & Mike continued the soulful theme reprising the Ben E King classic  ‘On The Horizon’, Dino & Sembello’s ‘The Heartache Is On’, plus two singles ‘Falling Star’ and ‘He Could Have Been An Army’. They co-wrote ‘Not Enough Lovin' Left’ and ‘Dreamdealer’ with Elkie Brooks and Pete Gage and other highlights included Allen Toussaint’s ‘Viva La Money’ and Johnnie Taylor’s ‘Who's Making Love’. This superb album also sold well internationally and went to #34 UK in October ’79. These are two albums that really should be available paired together on one CD.

Pearl’s a singer
She stands up when she plays the piano
in a nightclub
Pearl’s a singer
She sings songs for the lost and the lonely
Her job is entertaining folks
Singing songs and telling jokes
in a nightclub
Pearl’s A Singer- Elkie Brooks-1977

Baby That Was Rock & Roll – the Legendary Leiber & Stoller was the first biographical study of the duo published as a large format volume by Harvest/ HBJ Books in 1978. With an introduction by John Lahr and text by Bob Palmer, it was dedicated to Lester Sill and featured 131 pages of great black & white photos, song lyrics and sheet music plus chronological lists of their recordings, songs and productions. This was the first real attempt by a writer to put their work into a realistic perspective.

One of the more unusual interpretations of L&S music came via Mezzo-soprano Joan Morris and her pianist-composer husband William Bolcom, who recorded an album of Other Songs by Leiber and Stoller. The album featured a number of their more unusual (and satiric) works that include ‘Let's Bring Back World War I‘ (written specifically for them) and ‘Humphrey Bogart’, a tongue-in-cheek song about obsession with the actor. ‘I Ain’t Here’, ‘Black Denim Trousers & Motorcycle Boots’, ‘I Remember’, ‘Is That All There Is?’ ‘I’ve Got Those Feelin’ Too Good Today Blues’, ‘Professor Hauptman’s Performing Dog’s’, ‘Tango’ and ‘Saved’ - originally cut by Lavern Baker but also done by Presley, Brenda Lee, the Young Rascals and Mama Lion was also recorded for and issued by Nonesuch Records in 1978.

The first attempt at a review of L&S songs Only In America was written by Ned Sherrin and Caryl Brahms in 1980 and staged in the UK at the Roundhouse. Unfortunately for all concerned it was a failure, and a major regret to Sherrin. The Only In America Double LP issued in the UK by Atlantic that same year did not even mention the review.
Donald Fagen, famous as 50% of Steely Dan, recorded his first solo album The Nightfly in 1982. For this album Fagen cut a new version of ‘Ruby Baby’ the L&S classic. When broadcaster and author Charlie Gillett played it on his Capital radio show in 1983, Stoller told him that Fagen’s producer Gary Katz had played it to them in LA just before it was released and they were thrilled with what they heard  - they both loved it. Jerry & Mike were in London for the premiere of ‘Yakety Yak’ at the Half Moon in Stepney in 1983. This was the second review written, this time by Robert Walker and set to the music of L&S, performed by a youthful cast that included Darts and the McGann Brothers. This show met with much critical acclaim and success, soon moving to the Astoria Theatre in London’s West End. The Darts cut a ‘Yakety Yak’ EP for Choice Cuts in 1983. Gillett asked them “Have you ever tried to do one of these things yourselves?” and Jerry replied “No we’ve never tried to do this. There was a show that was a similar idea Only In America - You must know about this – 2 years ago, Ned Sherrin put it together and it was done at the Roundhouse. We’ve been thinking about putting such a show together in the States. But we haven’t gotten around to it because every time we think about it, we decide - Oh well let somebody else do that - Let’s write something new.” Throughout the programme Charlie played a mixture of L&S favourites that included ‘Where Or When’ by Sinatra, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ by the Beatles and ‘You’ve Got Your Troubles’ by the Fortunes, the construction and production of which they were full of praise for. It was written and produced by Roger Greenaway who wrote & produced the Drifters UK hits of that era.

Jerry & Mike began to receive long overdue recognition from the US Music Industry by 1985 when they were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. By then they were already the most successful songwriting team of all time, logging up more than 150 hits on the charts worldwide. Once the recognition and acknowledgement for Leiber & Stoller’s contribution to the to the history of popular music as writers, producers, arrangers etc began to emerge, the awards and accolades started to roll in. So, as the very people that the term ‘Producer’ was invented for when they signed to Atlantic Records in 1955 as independent producers, it was only right that the Record Producers' Hall of Fame induct Mike & Jerry in 1986, after all it would not have existed without them. The following year in 1987 the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame also inducted Leiber & Stoller into their illuminated ranks – and not before time!! They should have been the first - No other artists deserved it more – ‘Hound Dog’ was a seminal Rock ‘n’ Roll classic and it was their work with Presley that laid the foundations for Rock ‘n’ Roll.  When asked by William Leith if Leiber & Stoller invented Rock ‘n’ Roll – Jerry replied “Nah – it’s just gossip”. In early 1988, the Presley recording of ‘Hound Dog’ was placed in the Grammy Hall of Fame and in 1991 the pair were presented with the prestigious ASCAP Founders' Award.

From behind the counter I saw a man
A chef’s hat on his head and a knife in his hand
He grabbed me by my collar and began to shout
You’d better eat up all your beans and boy
and clear right on out – Oooow
Smokey Joe’s Café-Robins- 1955

‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ the classic L&S song cut by the Robins was so iconic that few artists attempted a version themselves. Louden Wainwright III, the McCoys and the Leiber & Stoller Big Band cut it but a personal favourite was the Anders & Poncia version from 1969 featuring Ry Cooder on bottleneck guitar and produced by Richard Perry. It’s a stunning record but relatively unknown. The title however began to foster some interest with theatrical producers and TV documentary makers. The third attempt at a theatrical review based on their songs came about in 1995 when Stephen Helper and Jack Viertel wrote ‘Smokey Joe's Café’ which became a Broadway musical directed by Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Joey McKneely, this production struck gold and ran on Broadway for more than 2000 performances, toured the world and was finally issued as a DVD in 2006. The musical was divided into two acts and featured more than 40 L&S songs. The cast was strong and very versatile, nine members plus the band. The black vocal quartet that sang most of the Coasters and Drifters numbers Ken Ard, Adrian Bailey, Victor Trent Cook and Frederick B Owens were particularly good. ‘Neighbourhood’ began the show and was reprised a couple more times. The tempo was a little fast and they moved through the songs and sets at quite a lick. The settings, choreography and treatment worked particularly well on ‘Trouble’ though the violent threat of the original morphed into sexuality from the female viewpoint. Brenda Braxton performed ‘Don Juan’ very well and was also great on ‘You’re The Boss’ taking Lavern Bakers part - and Frederick B Owens also gave good voice for Jimmy Ricks. ‘On Broadway’ was well staged but I was disappointed that they used the George Benson arrangement and DW Washburn also fell short of expectations, though Saved which linked after it was great thanks to a stirring performance from BJ Crosby. Blonde bombshell De Lee Lively showed us all how to shimmy. And though the four female cast members were all guilty of some over singing (which sadly the audience ate up) throughout they were all great on ‘I’m A Woman’. ‘Spanish Harlem performed by Ken Ard and Brenda Braxton was beautifully choreographed and a highlight of the show. ‘Stand By Me’ brought the whole cast together for the outro. Strangely ‘Smokey Joe’s Café was hardly featured. It’s easy to see why the show was so popular with the public the vocal arrangements were tight (Chapman Roberts) and in general the performances were sharp. ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ toured the world and was received well everywhere it played. Drifter Patrick Alan, who left the group to tour Australia with a production of the show told me “Touring with Smokey Joe’s Café gave me a greater appreciation of Leiber & Stoller’s songs, we did ‘Fools Fall In Love’ and ‘There Goes My Baby’. I love Doo-wop and the 50’s stuff so I slotted right back into the Drifters when I rejoined in 2001.”

Berklee College of Music, Boston who’s Illuminati include Arif Mardin, Branford Marsalis, Donald Fagen, Quincy Jones and many others, honoured Leiber & Stoller with Carly Simon in 1998. Unfortunately due to illness they could not personally attend the ceremony but were nevertheless included on the role of honour.

In the late 90s Smokey Joe’s Café – The Songs Of Leiber & Stoller aka Baby That Is Rock ‘n’ Roll - A Celebration of the Songs of Leiber and Stoller a 90 minute long documentary was produced by Fox Lorber Associates, Inc and shown on the Performance channel. The program was written and directed by Gene A Davis and contained plenty of archive photos, interviews plus footage of many of the singers and artists associated with Leiber & Stoller in their long careers. Fans were treated to the views and opinions of Ben E King, Ruth Brown, Peggy Lee, Jimmy Witherspoon, DJ Jerry Blatt, Smokey Robinson among others who endorsed and praised our heroes achievements that were liberally dispersed throughout their story. Mike and Jerry told us how things went down from their perspective, the doc featured clips from ‘the ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ hit production of the time that Mike and Jerry had made significant input into, meeting periodically with director Jerry Zaks to help him shape the production, sharpen the links and do justice to each song. They approved of the shadow play dance and general mood of the production and must have received a great deal of satisfaction from its international success. A production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe opened in the UK at the Prince of Wales Theatre in October 1996.

In the year 2000, Mike and Jerry celebrated their 50th anniversary as a songwriting team. It was a significant achievement a milestone of considerable success.
The two partners tried to convey some token of their joint respect for each other Mike said, “Jerry is a very interesting, complex and brilliant man, he’s my best friend, he’s a great partner, a great lyric writer and thinker.” On their relationship Jerry quipped, “It’s the longest running argument in history.” But he also added “The reason we’ve lasted as long as we have, is that we need each other to be complete – neither of us has got all the talents but together we can cover all the bases.”
Mike said, “I guess it’s been a good career, but then I’ve never had another one to compare it to.” When quizzed about any future plans Jerry answered “The future is how are we going to get out of this building tonight.”
Corky Hale the classical and jazz harpist who married Mike in 1970 said, “They are like twins – you can’t think of one of them without the other.” L&S had a logo designed that visually suggested a ying – yang kind of thing but they didn’t use it very much or for very long – I would have liked it on a t-shirt with “Some Cats Know” on the back. They were also awarded the coveted Ivor Novella Award from the British Academy of Songwriters in 2000 and were also honoured with the prestigious Johnny Mercer Award. ‘ Two Drifters off to see the world, there’s such a lot of world to see...’

When the National Film Theatre hosted the UK premiere of Words & Music by Leiber & Stoller - a filmed documentary about their career written & directed by Morgan Neville in June 2001 Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller were present and came on stage to answer questions from Adrian Wootten, Director of the London Film Festival - and members of the audience.
Adrian Wootten: Welcome to the NFT, and there's also another, important, reason why you're here - you're actually receiving an award.
Mike Stoller: Well, we're having a tribute concert, which will be very nice.
AW: Which is in aid of the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy charity, on Friday night. Mojo, the sponsors of tonight's event, polled their readers and selected one question. The question is asking about what, in terms of definitive interpretations of your songs, you've heard many different versions, the question is really asking whether you were ever frustrated by being, what he describes as, 'backroom boys'? Did you ever want to be performers yourselves?
MS: I think Jerry did.
Jerry Leiber: He always looks like he tells the truth, but he doesn't. I knew that I wasn't really a good enough singer. I knew that I was good enough to make a demonstration record. And we both knew this about each other, and that's one of the reasons we've been partners and friends for so many years, because we know so many loathsome things about each other... (Laughter)...that we couldn't really hook up with anybody else because everybody in town knew it.
I have a question for you. How much did they pay for the award they're going to give us? (Laughter)
AW: How did you get into the music business?
JL: Well, Lester Sill introduced us to Modern records, to the Robins. And to Gene Norman, who had a blues jamboree, and to Johnny Otis. That resulted in the Big Mama Thornton record. He introduced us to anybody we met. He knew them all. Ralph Bass, King, Federal Records.
MS: Lester was the sales manager for Modern Records.
JL: Lester introduced us to everybody. That's how it started. We couldn't have cracked the music business in any way at that time, going to the major publishers like Chapel - they wouldn't see us. You had to be recommended, and we had no one to recommend us except Lester.
MS: We also couldn't get into the major record labels, fortunately as it turns out, because we weren't writing the kind of things that they wanted. The only labels that were interested in what we were doing were independent Rhythm and Blues record labels.
AW: How quickly did you realise that you wanted to produce records instead of just being songwriters who submitted songs to other people?
JL: By the time the Spark (with Lester Sill in ‘54) situation arose, and gave us an opportunity to do something, we had decided by that time. We had been in the business a couple of years and we'd seen some A&R men mess up our music - misunderstand it. We gave a song to Capital records, and it was kind of a jump record, the kind that Joe Liggins would make or Sonny Thompson...
MS: It came back like a 1940s swing band.
JL: Yeah, so forget it, it's over.
AW: Production has all kinds of different elements to it - was this something you learned on the job, or was Spark the opportunity for you to produce your own records?
MS: In a way it was, because we just went into the studio and did what we wanted to do. But we had a few people that you could say were mentors - people like Maxwell Davis. He would supervise sessions like ‘Kansas City’, and we would learn things from watching somebody who knew what they were doing.
JL: It was more an accumulation of experience, an overlapping of time and experience. By the way, nobody ever got to be so great - I think George Martin would be one of the tops, but nobody ever mastered every category. You'd get a great Country and Western producer and I wouldn't think, most of the time that he would want to play with Dizzy Gillespie's band. Jazz is a very special thing; it takes a very special touch. All the categories, respectively, take that, so it takes most of your lifetime to learn how to make anything well.
AW: What about Phil Spector?
JL: He was our protégé.
MS: He'd written certain things, such as five guitarists at the same time, and various other things. What we did, we recorded each guitar doing a totally thing but what Phil did, he had four guitars and three pianos and two basses and six drummers, whatever, they all did the same thing at the same time. He went for a different kind of feel. We went for instrumental clarity...
JL: He went for weight. A heavy thrust of sound. Now, the wall of sound was not something Phil invented or tried to make at all, he was just very cheap about studio costs. He used to record in a place called Goldstar, and Goldstar was like a toilet - it had nothing but echo in it. Anything you recorded in it, you got this big sound. (Laughter) We started that stuff at Atlantic, years ago, when Tommy Dowd, a master of special effects... We wanted to create thunder and lightening and water falling down in the introduction of a blues record. We talked about buying different acetates, which had all these different effects on them. He said, 'You don't need that. Just start recording and hold this mike down the toilet.' It sounded just like a storm! (Laughter)
AW: The end of the Atlantic relationship, or at least the first and most profound ending, that sounds like a pretty painful experience all round. You'd done so much work...
MS: Well, it was a loss for us, in terms of working with the Drifters...
JL: And the friendship, we were very close to Jerry Wexler
MS: And the funny thing is we still are.

Questions from the audience
Q: What are your views on the Payola scandal of the late fifties? Do you think it was a conspiracy to destroy rock and roll?
AW: The scandal being DJs being accused of taking money to play particular records on the radio.
JL: I'll try and answer that. There definitely was... Not that I ever witnessed it, but I knew about it and people talked about it. There was Payola, there still is. It changes hands, it changes institutions, but it's still going on.
MS: I'd like to add that of course it was immoral, but in exposing Payola, what occurred was that it was no longer the independent record promoter or independent label who could get their product exposed, it then became a committee. It made the radio playlist virtually all the same everywhere. It was very difficult to get something new and unique onto the playlist. In effect, the Payola had become institutionalised and the big corporations found a way to pay off whoever was making up the lists. So in a sense, the radio was probably healthier during the heyday of Payola than it became after that.
JL: It's like tips to ensure prompt service... (Laughter)
Q: The changes in rock and roll in the sixties meant that you could no longer just listen to it and be happy; you were forced to listen to the lyrics...
JL: Oh, that's a drag, definitely... (Laughter)
Q: The influence of folk music. It became very serious and philosophical...
JL: Can you name one song that you think is like that?
Q: Bob Dylan...
JL: Well, I'd agree with you. Bob Dylan. My goodness... (Laughter)
Q: If it hadn't have been for Colonel Parker breaking the relationship, would you have liked to have continued working with Elvis Presley?
JL: Elvis was fine. If Colonel Parker wasn't there, and it was Charlie Feldman who was managing things, then we'd have made that movie with Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley might have turned into someone as fine as James Dean. He had the talent. He was unpolished, he hadn't any real professional know-how. But... Yeah...
Q: What do you think about the royalties that black artists got paid, or rather didn't get paid?
MS: Well, it is true that many black performers did not get paid justly. They were either assigned a royalty that was insignificant to what they were doing, or they were just cheated out of it. Since we worked in that field, when we started, we were also treated as black artists. Restitution should be made to these people. Unfortunately one of the people who does that, takes 50% of the money that he gets back for these people. So it's not an altruistic thing...
JL: It's about 10% less than our lawyer charges now... (Laughter)
Q: What's your take on Otis Blackwell? Why do you think he never met Elvis?
MS: I don't know, but he was great.
JL: I don't know that he never met him. Is that a fact?
Q: I understood it to be.
MS: I'm not sure. Elvis had so many influences from gospel singers and blues singers, and certainly country singers, I think that one of his major influences was Otis Blackwell's voice.
JL: Because Otis used to make the demos – ‘Don't Be Cruel’ and so on. Maybe, if it's true that Otis Blackwell didn't meet Elvis Presley, it might be because Otis used to write under two different names, and it might have been difficult at the time.
MS: I will say this. Elvis Presley's name appears on a number of Otis Blackwell's songs. Which was totally inappropriate.
JL: That's it. That's what I'm saying.
Q: Can you remember which song you first recorded, and who did it?
JL: Real Ugly Woman...
MS: Jimmy Witherspoon. 1950. December.
JL: Los Angeles, Shrine Auditorium. We used a 44 Victor mic on him. (Laughter)
Q: Was censorship of your lyrics ever an issue?
JL: One song of ours was banned in Boston, and it didn't have anything in it, but they thought that it was eulogising Hell's Angels. It was called ‘Black Trousers and Motorcycle Boots’, and they banned it.
MS: It was also considered a safety song in Chicago. (Laughter)
Q: At your charity party on Friday, will any of the original acts be there?
MS: Ben E King will be there, Elkie Brooks will be there.
JL: Tom Jones. We didn't work with him, but...
Q: Did you form The Robins, who became The Coasters?
MS: The Robins recorded our second song in 1951, and they were an existing group, and we had worked with them at RCA Victor, and when we formed our own label, they were a group that we knew were around so we started working with them. When Atlantic offered us the opportunity to work with them and produce records, two of the guys came with us and the rest of them went with their manager who formed another label that didn't survive for very long.
We needed two other people to give us the right kind of voices. So we did form The Coasters, but we didn't form the Robins.
AW: What are you going to do with all the songs in the vaults?
JL: Which songs?
AW: All the songs that are apparently in your vaults.
MS: Well, we're going to put them into musical theatre, hopefully.
AW: What have you been working on together recently?
MS: We are writing musicals.
JL: We've been in the process for three or four years. We're almost finished.
AW: That's fantastic. Are we likely to see these soon?
MS: I hope so.
AW: What about films? You obviously broke that relationship with Elvis, but did the idea of writing film soundtracks completely leave you?
MS: I'm happy when they've used songs of ours in films, I'm always happy when people use our stuff. But we've never been as keenly interested in writing for film as we have for theatre.
JL: There's another big reason I think. We've developed as producers as much as songwriters. We know exactly what we want to get out of a piece. In film, you send a song in, and you can forget it. They're going to get an arranger and the musicians, and we've had a very poor record of people interpreting our work properly. It was really in self-defence that we became producers. Film is the same thing, unless it's the film you're making. But that hardly ever happens.
Q: Would you consider writing an autobiography?
JL: He might...
MS: I might write Jerry's autobiography! (Laughter)
AW: Is there any chance of a Leiber and Stoller box set? You talk about all this material that's not available any more, that seems a perfect idea.
JL: There are a couple of production companies in New York that are interested in some sort of biography, and we're still talking about who should write it, because neither one of us are biographers.
AW: Thank you very much. It's been a great honour and a great privilege.

Edited sections from a longer interview courtesy of the NFT


“Leiber and Stoller Complain About Jailhouse Rock Musical” read a headline to a press report by James Inverne in March 2004. A disagreement had occurred between legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and the producers of the new London show Jailhouse Rock-The Musical, that was based on the classic 1957 Elvis Presley film.  Leiber and Stoller made a statement, complaining that their song ‘Jailhouse Rock’ was not, in fact, in the show. The musical’s producers, Alan Janes and Jonathan Alver, have fired back in a response released to the press in which they say that “the history of rock and roll goes far beyond one song — no matter how good Leiber and Stoller think their title is” and emphasize that the story is being used “to explore the origins of rock and roll.” They add that “the original film contained just seven songs most of which have been ignored by history and would not stand up in a West End production.”
The show does, however, contain 22 songs. (None of them Leiber & Stoller’s)
According to their statement, the producers did try to get the rights for the song “Jailhouse Rock” but were rebuffed. “Elvis Presley Enterprises, Leiber and Stoller’s publishers, were approached repeatedly by us to grant a license for the song . . . and they repeatedly declined on the basis that they were creating their own Elvis compilation musical,” says the statement. “We cannot imagine why they would now want to complain about their title not being in our show as they refused our repeated approaches.”
Janes and Alvers arrogant and inaccurate response to L&S reasonable objection can be seen in the above edited press statement. Why should anyone be able to use the gravitas of a great song (and title) like ‘Jailhouse Rock’ if it is not in the show – and isn’t that misrepresentation anyway? Why not simply use one of the other song titles in the show?  - Perhaps L&S had seen the script.

In October 2004 ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ was awarded a Grammy for the cast album of the 1995 Broadway musical based on their work. The show was also nominated for seven Tony awards, and became the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history.  After a run of nine years with over 2000 performances finally a Broadway show had done their songwriting achievements justice. After several attempts L&S songs had found a vehicle that gave them some just recognition for their 50 years of extraordinary songwriting. And the title ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ was one of their seminal songs along with ‘Yakety Yak’, ‘Hound Dog’, ‘Kansas City’, ‘Fools Fall In Love’, ‘Jailhouse Rock’, ‘Love Potion #9’, ‘On Broadway’, ‘Spanish Harlem’, ‘I’m A Woman’, ‘DW Washburn’ and ‘Is That All There Is?’ to name but a few, all songs that have changed popular music forever and are as indelibly classic as any songs written by any songwriters that you care to mention.


According to Peter Stoller, son of Mike and producer of Peggy Lee Sings Leiber & Stoller, word of mouth began to spread about an upcoming Peggy Lee CD in 2004. The work in progress was to be a twofer, which would contain the albums Mirrors and ‘Is That All There Is?’ The Australian label Raven Records was preparing it. By 2005, additional word came about the completion of the liner notes and some remixes, too. When Raven found out about the upcoming release of Peggy Lee Sings Leiber & Stoller in 2005, the record label graciously held off releasing its twofer. As of July 2007, plans to release the project seem to have been abandoned, perhaps due to two competing CDs already in the market (Peggy Lee Sings Leiber & Stoller, on A&M / Hip-O, and A Natural Woman / Is That All There Is, on EMI). Essentially, the 2005 CD Peggy Lee Sings Leiber & Stoller is a modern-day reincarnation of the abandoned 1978 project Peggy Lee Sings The Cabaret Songs Of Leiber & Stoller. A far more advanced reincarnation. (Among the significant advantages of the CD are its superior remix and also the welcome inclusion of previously unreleased masters from the 1975 sessions.) The Mirrors vinyl album had long been deleted and a collectable. L&S had been trying to get this project reissued for some time. Its first appearance on CD, in 1989, was of the blink-and-you'll-miss-it variety; within a year of its release copies were nearly impossible to locate. A Japanese reissue in 2003, although easier to find internationally through the Internet, is prohibitively priced. And none of the reissues had been completed to the satisfaction of its producers, who wanted technical control of the remix and previously unissued tracks.
Now at last thanks to their involvement with Hip-O Select's Peggy Lee Sings Leiber & Stoller CD, we can finally hear Mirrors as the album's songwriters/producers have long wished, utilizing mixing techniques unavailable in the mid-1970s. Peggy's vocals and the arresting, witty, poignant, provocative lyrics are brought to the forefront. This limited edition CD is unavailable in stores and only 5000 copies were pressed. The 20 page booklet features extensive liner notes by Peter Stoller and previously unseen colour photos of Peggy Lee plus captions on each of the tracks by L&S themselves. In addition to the original tracks the producer’s song cycle was extended to include three Capitol singles ‘Kansas City’, ‘I’m A Woman’ and the final track ‘Is That All There Is?’ plus two tracks from the Mirrors sessions that were not used and previously unreleased in any format: ‘Don Juan’, ‘I Ain't Here’. These 15 brilliant collaborations of Lee, Leiber, and Stoller make up an iconic album of music that they all described as something they were very proud of. It was released in America 9 December 2005. Let’s hope that at sometime in the near future it will become more generally available – perhaps through Raven. For now you can only obtain it from the Hip-O Select website. www.hip-oselect.com

Don Juan your money’s gone
And when your money’s gone Don
Your baby’s gone
Don Juan
Your baby’s gone
Stiff Upper Lip Now Don
You’ll have to carry on
Don Juan - Peggy Lee - 2005

There were of course as previously mentioned, a number of theatre projects including $100 Misunderstanding, The International Wrestling Match, The Mad Woman of Chailott, The Exception To The Rule (Musical), Time Step, and Oscar Wilde (Musical) and Leiber & Stoller - Autobiography that Jerry & Mike developed but either have not completed or have not been produced as yet. After initial success with Presley’s 3 best movies Loving You, Jailhouse Rock and King Creole, though a lot of their music was used on many soundtracks, without any further involvement by them, L&S stayed away from Hollywood in preference to theatrical projects. But with high levels of success come a few flops like The Phynx (70) movie and the musical version of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz that failed in Canada. Besides the earlier shows and reviews written by others but built around their songs. Another movie project reported was Puss In Boots (96), and Leiber & Stoller – movie script for their Autobiography. The Leiber & Stoller Songbook was staged at Carnegie Hall at the end of 2007 featuring a fraction of their better-known songs performed by the likes of Chuck Jackson and Ben E King.

In addition to the DVD Broadway version of Smokey Joes Café, some other DVDs have been produced - Words & Music by Leiber & Stoller was available on DVD (US format) but only in a limited edition. Though I have never been able to obtain one myself either new or second hand. The tribute show mentioned at their NFT appearance was a star-studded affair recorded in London at the Hammersmith Apollo. Ben E King, Tom Jones, Elkie Brooks, Edwin Starr, Ruby Turner and a host of others performed 29 L&S classic hits. This DVD was issued in 2001 as A Tribute To Leiber & Stoller.

The most significant documentary to deal with Leiber & Stoller’s work was of course
 Baby That Is Rock ‘n’ Roll - A Celebration of the Songs of Leiber and Stoller
Made in the mid ‘90s and discussed earlier. The man that Bob Dylan famously dubbed the contemporary poet of the 20th century - Smokey Robinson named L&S as his songwriting idols Smokey said “I grew up on Leiber & Stoller’s songs, they became my song writing idols, I loved the way they always told a story in their songs. I think they were the most complete songwriters.”

There were two or three documentaries made about the history of Atlantic records. One for their 40th anniversary and Hip To The Tip made in 1987.Judging by the lack of due respect paid by the folks at Atlantic in these docs when they gave L&S only the merest mention for all the hits that they wrote and produced for the Drifters, Ben E King, Ruth Brown, Lavern Baker etc. It seemed indeed unfortunate that with the passing of all those years, they had not been forgiven for their earlier court action against Atlantic. BUT it was good to witness their reunion for the The House That Ahmet Built DVD in 2007 made just before Ertegun’s unfortunate death. After years of silence, with the previous Atlantic documentaries hardly mentioning L&S in the labels success story, Ahmet finally acknowledged their tremendous contributions when he said in their presence “More than anybody Jerry & Mike were responsible for the great growth of Atlantic Records, they were responsible for more innovation, more hits. They really, are probably just as important as anybody else in the history of our company.” “I’ve been telling that to people for years” Jerry interrupted  “I know…” – Ahmet admitted. - “but it’s true”

Of course there have been many vinyl and CD compilations down the years and most of them are acknowledged at the end of this series. Added to them and also issued only in the USA - some time during the ‘90s was a 2CD box set released on Leiber & Stoller’s own label out of 9000 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles. Leiber & Stoller the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s & ‘80s, featuring 47 tracks and notes by Randy Poe. The box set was not dated and no rare or previously unavailable tracks were included.

The truly creative twin inventors of popular music culture of the past 60 years Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller have done more than any other songwriters and record producers to elevate and define their own brand of totally individual and soulful music. Jerry & Mike were always cutting edge, innovative and classy. Their influence enriched many genres, beginning with the Blues, R&B, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Humour, Soul, Latin, Jazz, Classical, Rock, Pop, Show tunes and a few they invented themselves. They have been awarded and honoured by every music organisation and Hall of Fame in existence but the greatest tribute to them has been paid by the major and minor artists of the time that have recorded their songs. A broad sweep of talent that defies any classification but good taste and quality. It has been said that because of their connection with Elvis Presley, L&S may always be associated with Rock ‘n’ Roll – Well OK but they will also be indelibly linked with all the other genres mentioned above – a few of the artists to record their songs include Anders & Poncia, Chet Atkins, Lavern Baker, Count Basie, Beach Boys, Beatles, Jeff Beck, Brook Benton, Elkie Brooks, Charles Brown, James Brown, Maxine Brown, Ruth Brown, Solomon Burke, Jerry Butler, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Clovers, Coasters, Ry Cooder, Bobby Darin, Dion, Fats Domino, Lonnie Donegan, Drifters, Billy Eckstine, Everly Brothers, Donald Fagen, Brian Ferry, Aretha Franklin, Bill Haley & the Comets, Roy Hamilton, Lionel Hampton, Betty Harris, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Howlin’ Wolf, Isley Brothers, Chuck Jackson, Tom Jones, BB King, Ben E King, Peggy Lee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Julie London, Johnny Mathis, Clyde McPhatter, Carmen McRae, Bette Midler, Johnny Otis, Esther Phillips, Edith Piaf, Elvis Presley, Lou Rawls, Otis Redding, Cliff Richard, Jimmy Ricks, Rolling Stones, Freddie Scott, Stealers Wheel, Barbra Streisand, Joe Turner, Luther Vandross, Dee Dee Warwick, Muddy Waters and Joe Williams among many hundred others! With practically every important singer recording at least one of Mike & Jerry’s songs it is perhaps more surprising to discover those that didn’t. Frank Sinatra was one who didn’t although he did record ‘The Girls I Never Kissed’ a song inspired by Johnny Mathis ‘An Open Fire’ that was an L&S song.
Leiber and Stoller also have had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame since 1995.
Of course they do!  (peter burns)

Series acknowledgements:

Leiber & Stoller Interview - Brill Building, New York.
1&2 October 1972

‘Mike And Jerry’s Looney Tunes’- Norman Jopling & Peter Burns
 Cream Magazine January 1973

Bob Palmer/ John Lahr - ‘Baby That Was Rock & Roll’ - (HBJ Books) 1978

Roger Dopson – ‘The Red Bird Story’ (Charly Records) 1996

Peter Stoller – ‘Peggy Lee sings Leiber & Stoller’  (special CD edition Hip-o Select) 2005

Ken Emerson - ‘Always Magic In The Air’ (Fourth Estate, London) 2005

John Lahr – ‘Good Time Music’ (Radio Times feature) 1975

Albums showcasing Leiber & Stoller’s work discussed in this series -
‘Leiber & Stoller Present - The Spark Story’ (Ace CD) 2001
‘Poison Ivy – The Songs Of Leiber & Stoller’ (Sanctuary CD) 2003
‘The First Of Leiber & Stoller’ – (El Toro 2CD) 2004
‘The Leiber & Stoller Story’ Volume 1 - 1951-56 (Ace CD) 2004
‘The Leiber & Stoller Story’ Volume 2 - 1956-62 (Ace CD) 2006
‘The Leiber & Stoller Story’ Volume 3 - 1962-69 (Ace CD) 2007
Leiber & Stoller - ‘Only In America’ (Atlantic 2LP) 1980
Elvis Presley sings Leiber & Stoller (RCA LP) 1980

great vocal moments

O.V. Wright  - That’s How Strong My Love Is

Our story, as is so often the case, begins in the church, and with one of Memphis’s leading male gospel quartets, the Sunset Travelers. The group had first recorded for Don Robey’s Duke label in 1953, but after just two releases had temporarily vanished from view. The group’s fortunes changed in 1957 when a young Memphis singer named Overton Vertis Wright (O.V. for short) was brought into the group to sing lead. With Wright firmly established, Don Robey released five Sunset Travelers singles on his Peacock label between 1960 and 1964, all with O.V. on lead. By then the group’s music had evolved to encompass more progressive material, giving them a sound not unlike that of another fine male quartet, the Highway QC’s. But it was Wright’s voice and commanding stage presence that made them special. Taking his cue from such pioneering quartet leads as R. H. Harris and Archie Brownlee (O.V.’s own particular favourite) Wright developed a style that was diamond hard, yet mournful and effortlessly inventive. By the group’s fifth and final single with Wright on lead they were on something of a roll, and the slow minor key classic “On Jesus Program”, coupled with the catchy gospel soul of “Another Day Lost” proved to be their biggest seller.

Hardly surprising then that in 1964 O.V. Wright was given the opportunity to switch to the potentially more lucrative field of R & B. Writer and friend Roosevelt Jamison had penned a song titled “That’s How Strong My Love Is”, and thought it might be a suitable vehicle to launch O.V.’s secular career. Jamison initially took the song to Steve Cropper at Stax, who suggested a few alterations to the lyric, but label boss Jim Stewart thought it was still a little too close to gospel to be commercially viable. Not to be deterred, Jamison took it to the fledgling Goldwax label whose owner Quinton Claunch was more enthusiastic. The resulting recording is one of the most hauntingly beautiful of all the early southern soul ballads, and one that has been covered by numerous artists over the years.

The intro, with it’s memorable organ riff, and delightful guitar fill is deceptively simple but sets the scene beautifully. Wright delivers the opening line “If I Were The Sun Up There” as if he were still with the Sunset Travelers, splitting the single syllable “were” into several separate notes. It is clear from the outset that O.V. in switching from gospel to R & B is making no concessions whatsoever. But then writer Roosevelt Jamison had shrewdly come up with a song that was so close to modern, cutting edge gospel that it must have been hard for Wright to stop himself singing “That’s How Strong God’s Love Is”. The combination of sonorous horns and Clarence Nelson’s rumbling guitar give the song a deep, haunting quality, which is heightened by the ever more exotic imagery of Jamison’s lyric. In fact lines such as “If I Were A Fish That Had Been Cast Upon The Land” sound as if they had been lifted straight from a Biblical text. Another memorable line, “Even Be The Wind From A Roaring Storm” brings another moment of artistry from
O.V., as he takes the word “roaring” to places most singers only dream of. And there’s more, as he doubles up on the word “my” of the title, floating his voice upwards and extending the first “my”.


In the minor key middle eight O.V. is joined by a female chorus, who lift him even higher, until he is almost screaming out the lines –
 “Even Be The Rainbow After My Tears Are Gone, I Would Wrap You In My Colours And I Would Keep You Warm”.
Wright even allows himself a little Sam Cooke-ism, as he emphasises the “d” of the word “would”, making it into “would-a”. The middle eight turns out to be the song’s climax, as the record fades at the beginning of what appears to be an unresolved third verse. It raises the question as to whether this was done to keep the record below the three-minute mark, or whether there simply was no third verse.

Unfortunately the release of the Goldwax single brought with it a major snag. Wright was still a member of the Sunset Travelers, and therefore still under contract to Don Robey, who came looking for his man. Quinton Claunch, knowing that Robey was not a man to trifle with, wisely backed down and Wright returned to the Houston based company. However, the local success of “That’s How Strong My Love Is” was not lost on Robey, who was quick to remove Wright from the Travelers and re-launch his solo career on his R & B based Back Beat label. The rest is soul history, as Wright, with Willie Mitchell producing, went on to record a whole string of superlative records, many of which saw action on the R & B charts.

Meanwhile, back at Stax, Steve Cropper immediately cut Otis Redding on Jamison’s song; basing his version on the demo Jamison had left him. Released as the flip of “Mr. Pitiful” the result was a big success for Otis, and it is interesting to compare the two versions. Otis’s is a little brighter and more instantly appealing, whereas Wright’s version is darker with a more gospel-based chord structure. The first spate of covers – including the one by the Rolling Stones – were based on the Stax version, but virtually all the later ones, from Candi Staton’s onwards, returned to the Goldwax original. Hardly surprisingly many gospel records have also borrowed heavily from it over the years, most notably the Victory Five’s “If I Were The Sun Up There”.

Tragically O.V. Wright died on 16th November 1980 at the age of 41, robbing the world of a singer whom producer Willie Mitchell described as being “the greatest blues artist I ever produced”. Praise indeed from a man who worked with such greats as Al Green and Otis Clay.

“That’s How Strong My Love Is” is readily available on a Kent CD titled “The Goldwax Story Volume 1”. The song has also been included on a recent re-issue of the O.V. Wright Box Set, on Japanese P-Vine, which features all his Back Beat / ABC material.(mike finbow)

Ray Ellis – booklet notes from 2001 Connoisseur Collection CD “O.V. Wright Giant Of Southern Soul”.
John Ridley – booklet notes from 2001 Kent CD “The Goldwax Story Volume 1”.
Cedric J. Hayes & Robert Laughton - The Gospel Discography 1943 –1970



the last goodbye

The last goodbye

ike turner - born  5 November 1931 in Clarksdale, CA,  Ike Turner, a child protégé musician grew up surrounded by music and by the age of 11 was playing piano behind bluesmen Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Nighthawk Jr. He formed his band ‘The King’s Of Rhythm’ while still at high school and their mentor BB King recommended them to Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis. On the way to their first recording session their sax player Jackie Brenston  wrote ‘Rocket 88’ and it became a #1 hit on the US R&B singles chart. In the years since it’s release this has been one of the celebrated sides hailed as the very first Rock ‘n’ Roll recording. In addition to paying guitar with his band, Turner also worked as a producer/ writer/ talent scout for Sun and Modern Records.  While working in St Louis with the band in 1958, Ike met and married Anna Mae Bullock who he reinvented as the diva to front the new Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Together they had a string of R&B/ Pop hit singles on Sue Records starting with ‘A Fool In Love’ an ‘It’s Gonna Work Out Fine’. The Revue earned a big reputation for it’s exciting, sexy routines on tour. The medium hits continued on Kent, Loma, Modern, Blue Thumb, Minit, Liberty and United Artists into the mid 70s. They cut a successful version of John Fogerty’s ‘Proud Mary’ that went to #5 R&B/ 4 Pop in February ’71 (winning a Grammy for them in the process) and ‘Nutbush City Limits’ climbed to #11 R&B/ 22 Pop 2 years later. When Phil Spector decided that he wanted to produce and record Tina in 1966, it became the turning point for both his and their careers when ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ flopped in America (but peaked at #3 on the UK pop charts). Tina left Ike in a mid ‘70s blaze of publicity with accusations of brutality and drug abuse. Her subsequent biography and movie ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ (’93) badly damaged Ike’s reputation despite denials on his part and counter accusations of exaggeration for dramatic effect. Ike’s cocaine addiction led to arrests and a jail sentence in 1989 when the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame decided to induct him into their membership. Here & Now his 2001 album contained a new version of  ‘Rocket 88’ and was Grammy nominated. Risin’ With The Blues (2006) was a Grammy winning album in 2007.  Turner died 12 December 2007 aged 76.

john stewart - born 5 September 1939 in San Diego, John Stewart grew into a singer/ songwriter/ guitarist who went on to cut 45 solo albums, over 20 more with the Kingston Trio and 3 with his first group the Cumberland 3. His vocal style has been described as a mix of Presley and Cash, his songs reached the pop charts through the Monkees and the country charts through Rosanne Cash, Nanci Griffith, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Joan Baez. He only broke through to the pop chart himself in 1979-80 when ‘Gold’ went to #5 and both ‘Midnight Wind’ and ‘Lost Her In The Sun’ were top 40 US hits. Though mainstream pop fans are less aware of Stewart’s work and influence, he is well respected by those in the West Coast Folk and Folk Rock circles. died 19 January 2008 from a stroke.

joe zawinal - born 7 July 1932, Joe Zawinal Jazz keyboard wizard and founder of Weather Report  (with Wayne Shorter) his influential works spanned five decades. He wrote songs for and played with Cannonball Adderley (wrote Mercy, Mercy, Mercy) & Miles Davis (In A Silent Way/ Bitches Brew) as well as his own band the Zawinal Syndicate. His talents for music were evident from an early age and so Joe studied piano, clarinet and violin at the Vienna Conservatory despite his poor background. Had his own club ‘Birdland’ in Vienna. Because of his efforts to combat pollution in Senegal, Zawinal was made a Goodwill Ambassador for the Australian Government. Played with High-flyer Maynard Ferguson, Dinah Washington and many greats of Jazz. Best remembered for his music with Weather Report Heavy Weather (‘Birdland’), I Sing The Body Electric and Black Market.
After a split with Shorter in ’85 he formed Weather Update that didn’t take so well but Zawinal continued to create, compose, perform and experiment with different kinds of influences. died from cancer aged 75 on 11 September 2007.

willie t - born 6 February 1944 in New Orleans as Wilson Turbinton, he grew up in musical surroundings on Calliope street. Willie T formed a group the Seminoles with brother Earl in the late 50s. Gigged at Specialty with mentor Harold Batiste’s band. Began to perform as solo on AFO and cut 2 singles for them ‘Why Lie’ and ‘Always Accused’. This accomplished musician/ singer/ songwriter/ arranger/ composer/ producer scored a big R&B pop crossover with ‘Teasin’ You’ for a small label Nola which was picked up and distributed by Atlantic in February ’65. He played with Herbie Mann, Weather Report, Dr John and worked for Cannonball Adderley’s production company. Together they cut a great album I’m Only A Man in 1968. Willie formed the Gatur label with his cousin Ulis Gaines and cut records as the Gaturs. In addition to those already mentioned Willie also cut sides for Cinderella and United Artists.  He produced Margie Joseph on Volt and the Wild Magnolias (an Indian Mardi Gras group) for Polydor. Mr T was much sampled by hip hop through the 90s and he made a brief appearance in Taylor Hackford’s movie ‘Ray’ died from cancer 11 September 2007 - the same day as Joe Zawinal.

clyde otis – born 1925 in Prentice, MS, Otis began playing the drums in his teens and songwriting while serving his national service in the US marines. Early song successes included ‘That’s All There is To That’ recorded by Nat King Cole. Clyde formed a long running songwriting partnership with Brook Benton and provided further songs including ‘Looking Back’ and ‘Take A Look’. Otis also wrote under the pseudonym of Cliff Owens for Presley (‘Don’t Cha Think It’s Time’,  ‘Any Way You Want Me’ and ‘Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby’ (originally by Ivory Joe Hunter)). In the late ‘50s Otis became A&R manager and Recording Director at Mercury Records. He wrote a string of very successful ballads with Brook Benton and Belford Hendricks that included ‘Endlessly’, It’s Just A Matter Of Time’, ‘The Same One’, ‘Thank You Pretty Baby’, ‘Kiddio’ and ‘The Bo Weevil Song’. He teamed Benton in duet with Dinah Washington and scored big hits with ‘Baby (You Got What It Takes)’ and ‘A Rockin’ Good Way’. For Dinah he wrote and produced solo ‘This Bitter Earth’ and her legendary version of ‘What A Difference A Day Makes’. He wrote for and produced many other great singers including Sarah Vaughn, Timi Yuro, Aretha Franklin and Clyde McPhatter, who signed to Mercury in 1960. During this period McPhatter cut ‘Ta Ta’, ‘One More Chance’, ‘High School Social’, ‘You’re Moving Me’, ‘Before I Fall In Love Again’ and ‘I’ll Stop Anything I’m Doing’. 10 years later when McPhatter was at his lowest ebb, Otis persuaded MCA/ Decca to cut an album with him called Welcome Home (McPhatter had spent some disappointing years trying to scratch a living in the UK). It was produced by Barker/ Harris/ Young and arranged by Belford Hendricks who co-wrote several songs for the project with Otis. Cut in Philadelphia it turned out to be McPhatter’s final farewell. Clyde Otis, the legendary songwriter and producer died 8 January 2008 in Englewood Hospital aged 83.



The Bert Berns Story

The Bert Berns Story - Volume 1 – Ace

Another fascinating instalment in Ace Records superb series exploring the great writer/ producers of the ‘60s. This time compiled and expertly annotated by Rob Hughes, Mick Patrick & Tony Rounce. Bert Berns didn’t receive the recognition due to him during his woefully short but blindingly bright career. But by the look of it, this 2 part CD celebration of his work should go some way to correct that situation. Great informative notes and record reviews flesh out this wonderful collection of Berns early productions. There are a few songs and versions here that I hadn’t heard before. Bert spread his songs around and besides the hits there are many of the more unusual cuts that were every bit as good but for one reason or another missed the charts. Mel Torme’s ‘You Can’t Love ‘em All’ also done by Solomon Burke and the Drifters, shows another side to the song. Familiar Berns grooves (like Twist & Shout) also run through the tracks that were not as obvious when they out as singles. Brightest of these highlights are ‘Come On & Stop’ Marv Johnson, ‘Moment Of Weakness’ Jimmy Radcliffe, ‘You Can Count On Me’ Roy Hamilton, and ‘Pour It On’ Sammy Turner but there’s no need to cherry pick, it all sounds good to me – Roll on volume 2. There is a lot of mileage in this producer/ writer format and long may it run.

The Coasters On Atco - There’s A Riot Goin’ On – Rhino 4CD Box

Not many previously unissued tracks included here if you’ve got 50 Coastin’ Classics or the Sequel CD Series already - but this is the most complete set issued so far. I wonder what happened to the Robins ‘A Touch Of Heaven’, or the Coasters ‘I’m Fallin’’, ‘Guitaritious’, ‘Dog Face’, ‘Wedding Days’, ‘Giving Up’, ‘I’m A Humdinger’, ‘Cottonfields’, ‘Skylark’, or ‘Speedball’ and if these titles are ever likely to emerge on CD. They have got to be preferable to rejected similar takes of the better-known Coaster classics. Nevertheless this excellent compilation was put together when Bill Inglot, Rachel Gutek and the ‘A’ team were still in residence at Rhino, it contains 113 Coasters / Leiber & Stoller (mostly) productions that are classic in their genre which let’s face it was pretty specialised. Sadly for them the Coasters were no where nearly as good after L&S left Atco and try as they did, they could not regain hit momentum with their later records on Date, Turntable and King. 99% of their best work can be found on Atco and for now it’s all here on this compilation. I hear Atlantic UK are planning a complete Drifters Box set along these lines that may also take in the Bell/ Arista/ Epic eras as well. Planned for release in early 2009.

Dells – Always Together – The Great Chess Ballads – Shout

Of the many great American vocal groups few match up in consistency or quality to the Dells. This superb Shout set compiled and annotated by Clive Richardson, concentrates on their great Chess ballads. Here this choice selection features 21 of the best they recorded over their celebrated 50 year career and includes ‘Please Don’t Change Me Now’, the stunning title track ‘Always Together’, ‘Since I Fell For You’, ‘Soul Strollin’’ and their classics ‘I Can Sing A Rainbow/ Love Is Blue’ and ‘Oh What A Night’ – Plus the previously unissued ‘You Changed My Life Around’. Great songwriters provided the Dells with many fine songs down the years like Bobby Miller, Terry Callier & Larry Wade besides those from within the group like Chuck Barksdale & Michael McGill and all those mentioned made contributions to this fine collection. Richardson’s informative notes and the sharp graphic image of this package add to its desirability – highly recommended.

Main Ingredient – Spinning Around - The Singles 1967-75 – Kent

Though this talented trio formed as the Poets in 1964, then changed their name to the Insiders, they didn’t make any commercial impact until they became the Main Ingredient with ‘You’ve Been My Inspiration’ in mid 1970. They showed early influences of the Impressions (and Johnny Pate’s arrangements) but gradually developed a unique sound of their own. They cut a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘I’m So Proud’ that went in to the R&B top 20 then ‘Spinning Around’ went to #7 in April ’71. Adding a little Temps into the mix ‘Black Seeds Keep On Growing’ also went top 20 but just as the wistful lead and songwriting of Donald McPherson had begun to establish the MI on the US R&B and Pop charts he suddenly died from leukaemia. A neighbourhood friend Cuba Gooding stepped in as new lead and ‘Everybody Plays The Fool’ became their career hit when it went gold at #2R&B/ #3 Pop. The Main Ingredient went on to have 10 more chart hits with RCA over the next 6 years including their final top 10 hit ‘Rolling Down A Mountainside’ and most of which are included in this fine CD. Compilation and top notes by Tony Rounce as usual.

Doris Duke – Woman – Shout

Doris Duke had a couple of US R&B hits with ‘To The Other Woman’ and ‘Feet Start Walking’ in 1970 but by the mid ‘70s she’d dropped off the radar. According to David Nathan’s notes, Doris had toured the UK as a back up singer with Nina Simone in 1968. When recording opportunities dried up Stateside, John Abbey brought Doris to the UK to cut this album for Contempo Records in 1975. Duke’s gospel soaked vocal style is so infectious and this album is surprisingly soulful considering it’s UK roots. There are just 9 tracks but there’s not a dud among them and they contain a slow version of ‘Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone’ and the two singles ‘Woman Of The Ghetto’ and ‘Grasshopper’ – Yes I guess I’m going to have to find Ms Duke’s other albums and take a closer listen.

Delfonics – La La Means I Love You/ Sounds Of Sexy Soul – Kent 2fer

When I first heard the Delfonics I thought that they would soon be as big as the Drifters, Temptations, Dells but for a number of reasons it didn’t quite work out that way. They were big - with huge soul & pop hits like ‘La La Means I Love You’, ‘I’m Sorry’, ‘Break Your Promise’ and the sensational ‘Ready Or Not Here I Come’ and they hit the R&B charts 20 times in a 6 year period but it didn’t seem to last that long. It’s true many great US vocal groups have come and gone after a handful of hits but lead singer William Hart was a very talented and original lyricist. Even when master arranger and writing partner Thom Bell inevitably took his leave you felt that the Delfonics had the durability to keep the hits coming. Their first 2 albums plus the epic bonus track ‘You Got Yours And I’ll Get Mine’ have been coupled on this fine Kent CD.  It took 3 years for the Delfonics to break through in the UK, so it was not until April ’71 with ‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time’ that they achieved the first European hit and their biggest  ‘La La Means I Love You’ reached #19 Pop on re-issue. Ballads were what they did best and the proof is in tracks like ‘My New Love’, ‘Somebody Loves You’ and ‘Everytime I See My Baby’ - More to come from the delicious Delfonics

Spellbinders – Chain Reaction – Shout

Listening to this album today it’s hard to understand why the Spellbinders were not huge stars. OK you can compare lead singer Bobby Shiver’s crystal clear lead vocals to the Platters Tony Williams and although there was some similarity his style and phrasing were quite different. The groups  ‘For You’ was their only hit single in December ’65 when it reached #23 on the US R&B charts. The Spellbinders mentor Van McCoy wrote several good songs for them besides the hit - ‘Baby I Miss You’ and catchy cuts  ‘That’s The Way You Make Me Feel’, ‘Chain Reaction’ and ‘Help Me’ were all good enough to chart – but they didn’t and the Spellbinders were not around for long.  Other non McCoy tracks like ‘A Little On The Blue Side’, and  ‘I Need Your Love’ deserve a mention and Shivers even manages to breathe new life into worn out old clichés like ‘Danny Boy’, ‘Since I Don’t Have You’ and ‘I Believe’. Clive Richardson’s sleevenotes fill in the biographical info to this attractive package, so don’t miss the Spellbinders this time around.

Alicia Keys – As I Am – J

Classy 14 track fourth all Alicia album – you can’t fault this album or the obvious super talents of Alicia herself. In such a short time her success has established her at the very top of her genre and her popularity shows no signs of abating. In the UK she often appears on TV – a favourite of tastemaster Jools Holland. I must confess that I find some of these songs rather hard going. One or two seem like Alicia’s wants list  - OCD on what she wants, makes her sound needy and ‘No One’ the single performed on UK TV – is a touch repetitious. I don’t think she should scale down for the young or hip-hop markets - PR is death to creative talent. I know times have changed but the kind of obsession on ‘Like You’ll Never See Me Again’ was guaranteed to send any reasonable man runnin’ in the other direction not so long ago. Maybe the object of her desire is a bad boy. Good luck with that. I suppose the level of your success changes what you write and sing about but I hope that this album is not a general indication of direction and is more a passing sample. While Alicia burns with genuine passion and desire, unlike many of her contemporaries who just seem to have an eye on the main chance I wonder how many of the choices she makes are governed by the advice she takes. The music is great and I love her voice so maybe the fault lies with me because I listen to the lyrics too closely. For me album highlights are the breathless  ‘The Thing About Love’, ‘Lesson Learned’ and ‘Sure Looks Good To Me’. Visually powerful package from J.

Oscar Toney Jr – Loving You Too Long – The Contempo Sessions – Shout

After Toney’s flurry of singles on Bell in the mid ‘60s and the superb debut album with his big vocals matched by Papa Don’s epic productions, we expected more success for Oscar. But his trip to the top was a brief one. With Bacharach & David’s classic ‘Message to Martha’, ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ and ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’ Oscar continues his big ballad tradition. A good bluesy version of ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ and the soulful ‘Everything I Own’ and once he’s in the groove he can’t really go wrong with ‘My Girl’, ‘…Loving You Too Long’ and Syl Johnson’s ‘Is It Because I’m Black?’ Cut in the UK in the mid ‘70s this album The Contempo Sessions is definitely deep soul. Toney gave his best on this set and after listening to the album you have to wonder just why he wasn’t a huge star. Good informative notes from Clive Richardson as usual.

Luther Ingram – Pity For The Lonely – Ko Ko Singles 1 – Kent

Luther Ingram – I Don’t Want To Be Right – Ko Ko Singles 2 – Kent

Luther Ingram was a great vocalist/ songwriter, perhaps because he recorded on Ko Ko rather than Stax or Volt, he didn’t achieve the profile of Redding, Johnnie Taylor, Ike Hayes etc but Luther did have 20 R&B hit singles in America between 1969-87. Now with the release of these 2 CDs, Kent have issued all A & B sides from Luther’s Ko Ko singles output, we can get a more detailed portrait of his core recordings. Before Ko Ko in 1965 Ingram cut some early sides for Smash but by now he had evolved into an accomplished singer/ songwriter. His first hit however ‘Pity For The Lonely’ after 10 years in music was not self-penned. He did write the follow up ‘My Honey & Me’ though and it made the Top 20. Listening to these tracks it is clear that Luther should have had greater success from the beginning ‘You’ve Got To Give Love’ was a mighty good start. The ballads sold better than the uptempo sides and ‘Ain’t That Lovin You’ went #6 R&B/ 45 pop in May ’70. The sociologically orientated ‘The Other Man’ could have been a bigger hit but it was not until June ’72 that Luther made a significant commercial breakthrough with ‘(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right’ which topped R&B singles and went to #3 on the Hot 100. This soul classic was written by Staxmen Homer Banks/ Raymond Jackson & Carl Hampton and produced by Ko Ko label owner Johnny Baylor. Not many songs this good come along too often and for Luther this should have gone international as it was his career recording but for some mysterious reason it did not. The same team wrote the follow up ‘I’ll Be Your Shelter’ and that hit #9 R&B in December ’72 but gradually, though there was no quality drop, sales fell back to mid table hits. Compiler Tony Rounce tells it like it was in his detailed notes for both CDs that cover 38 tracks in all.

Drifters – Drifters Now/ Love Games – Cherry Red

Drifters – There Goes My First Love – Cherry Red

Drifters – Every Nite’s A Saturday Night – Cherry Red

Great to see that a reissue label has finally re-released the UK half of the Drifters catalogue. Now every track cut for Bell/ Arista is available on CD. The rarer 3 Epic sides will be issued later this year on Atlantic’s Drifters Definitive Volume 2.

The first two Bell albums Drifters Now/ Love Games now available on one 2fer were recorded mostly in the USA. Now was a disappointing UK intro, the appalling sleeve was a major turn off that made the album look like a reissue instead of a UK reintroduction. Pity because the album was good listening - great reworkings of ‘You’ve Got Your Troubles’ the best version of ‘Love Me, Love The Life I Lead’, ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘Something Tells Me…’, ‘Say Goodbye to Angelina’ and ‘Always Something There To Remind Me’ were all on the money. By the release of Love Games theDrifters were back on top with ‘Like Sister & Brother’ and even after lead Bill Fredericks had quit, Johnny Moore was there to keep the hits rolling on with ‘Kissin’ In The Back Row…’ and ‘Down On The Beach Tonight’. Love Games became the Drifters biggest selling Bell album registering at #51 on the UK Pop Album chart in December ’75. There Goes My First Love also sold pretty well and was about their accomplished album of the era. It contained their best Bell cut ‘Harlem Child’ (another missed opportunity for a hit single) and Clyde Brown’s debut  ‘The Juggler’.  Also included was ‘And With No Regrets’ a favourite of Johnny’s (played at his funeral 22 years later). This album also contained the hit singles ‘Hello Happiness’, ‘Can I Take You Home Little Girl’ and the title track. Bonus Arista singles included are ‘It Looks Like I’m The Clown Again’ and the rare and wonderful final Moore recording ‘Closely Guarder Secret’ – that should have been another huge hit. Every Nite’s A Saturday Night, their only Arista album was a most disappointing final album from the Drifters but it will not be the one that they are remembered for. Roger Greenaway’s Hit Factory had finally run out of road. It seems the team had been unable to take the Drifters on to even greater glory. The song spectrum that they provided was in the end too narrow and relied too much on reruns and old ideas. The production and writing teams missed the opportunity to build on this huge success and move forward and frankly they’d had enough of Ms Treadwell’s interference in the creative process. While this collection had its share of catchy, pretty entertaining pop songs, they lacked the art required to become classics – they just stick in the mind like jingles - the Drifters deserved better. If someone had given the compilation a little more thought, a more interesting listen could have easily been achieved.  Listen to the 9 bonus tracks available here and you’ll see what I mean. Hats off to Cherry Red Records for finally making these tracks available.

Allen Toussaint – What Is Success – Kent

This album is a new improved reworking of the 1985 Kent issue From A Whisper To A Scream with 6 tracks added. Toussaint is a scandalously under rated Crescent City genius who has created a wonderful and original songbook during his 50-year career but due to his lack of success as a singer, he has not been as widely celebrated as his contemporaries Smokey Robinson and Curtis Mayfield. Artistically he has been their equal, though his songs and production successes have not been as generally recognised by the public as by other singers and writers. Toussaint’s classic ‘From A Whisper To A Scream’ was famously cut by Esther Phillips and ‘Working In A Coalmine’ and ‘Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky’ are better known by Lee Dorsey but his versions are among those on the original 11 track CD. Of the new additional 6 tracks there’s ‘Get Out My Life Woman’ also a big hit for Dorsey. Unless you are a student of Toussaint’s work, his songs will be familiar to you through some of the wide variety of singers who have recorded them from Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt to Boz Scaggs, Lowell George and many more plus of course a host of New Orleans soul artists like Betty Harris, Aaron Neville, Zilla Mayes and many more.



Tearing Down the Wall of Sound

– Mick Brown – Bloomsbury 2007

From early on Spector often suffered from a bad press. The problem came about because he blew his own trumpet a little too often and a little too loudly for some peoples liking. This gave them the ammo and they shot him down ad infinitum. He was pictured as a 5 foot titan on elevator shoes - heading for a fall. Brown paints his childhood bleak, he was a sickly kid, bullied and abused at school. The son of a Jewish father who gassed himself with the exhaust in his car, he was further damaged by the neurosis of his mother and sister. Spector developed a persecution complex that would never leave him. It and the revenge he felt for those around him, became the core driving force that motivated him to his obsessive success. With this much negativity it is surprising that he managed to make as much good music as he did. Spector got the title of his first hit song ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ from his father’s tombstone but he and his group the Teddy Bears couldn’t find a follow up. Though Mick Brown is a good writer and he gives us a clear inside track on much of the Phil Spector story, some important aspects are murky. I wanted to know more about his early dealings with Lester Sill and the reasons behind him recommending Spector to Leiber & Stoller Productions, who were also not discussed much in this book even though it was in Spector’s time with them, as their apprentice, that he found the blueprint on which he built the Wall of Sound. Also the period when the Dion album was cut could have been more interesting and informative. Spector was a character all right but I never believed the tortured genius myth. When you stand him up next to the truly great writer/ producers like Leiber & Stoller, Ertegun & Wexler, Bacharach even Bob Crewe or Thom Bell he falls a little short. Spector’s best work matches any of theirs but his portfolio is so uneven – it’s best representation is probably Back To Mono (1958-1969) the 4CD box issued in 1991.
I expect and look forward to more documentaries once the Clarkson case is settled and I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more books, though despite my few niggles this is the best and most revealing I have read on Phil so far.



Hustle & Flow (2005) Director: Craig Brewer – 115 minutes

Terence Howard – DJ, Anthony Anderson – Key, Taryn Manning – Nola,
DJ Qualls – Shelby and Taraji P Henson – Shug.
DJ’s sick of his life in the hood pimping and dealing. He’s already in his late 30s and he wants out - something clean and creative that he can feel good about. But it’s a hard change to bring about and our unlikely hero struggles to make those around him, who rely on his present lifestyle, understand. The dialogue is better than cool, it’s inspirational and it’s more what they say than what they do that drags you into their world > “…every man has the right to contribute a verse“ says Shelby who reminds you of Harry Dean Stanton when he was starting out. Memphis writer/ director Craig Brewer put together a good cast that makes the story real - and it could have so easily have been just another cliché. But once DJ, Key and Shelby start putting the track together - you’re hooked. Of course cutting a good track and getting it out there are two different things. Ike Hayes is about the only other sympathetic character outside the crew and DJ gets into deep trouble trying to make things happen. John Singleton backed the movie that got its world premiere in Memphis, Tennessee. I’m looking forward to more from Craig Brewer.

Budget CD

© earshot (peter burns) may 2008


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