Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote so many classic rock ‘n’ roll songs that it’s hard to know where to begin. As tributes have flowed after Leiber’s death on Aug. 22 at age 78, I’ve heard songs that I never knew were theirs. Topping that list is “Kansas City,” their first hit. The clip presented here was recorded by Fats Domino in 1956, but the tune goes back to 1949. There are more than 100 different covers of it.
“Hound Dog” was written for Big Mama Thornton in1952. She recorded this clip with blues guitarist Buddy Guy in 1965. Elvis made the song his own in 1956, and it made him a star. He had a national audience when he gyrated his hips on the Milton Berle Show in June of that year.
Encore: My favorite Leiber and Stoller song – if I had to pick only one – is Stand By Me, sung by Ben E King, who also shares the songwriting credits. A must-listen is NPR Fresh Air’s 1991 interview with Leiber and Stoller.
Jerry Leiber (right) looks over Elvis Presley’s shoulder at the sheet music for “Jailhouse Rock” in Los Angeles in 1957. His songwriting partner Mike Stoller stands to the left. Stoller played the piano in the film. [Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images/NPR]