February 21, 2007
Mike Stoller, Elvis Presley and Jerry Leiber
Sometimes visiting Artie Wayne On The Web, is like going to the Turf Bar and Grill, after a long, hard day at the Brill Building! You never know who you’re gonna’ meet…but you know you’re gonna’ have a good time!
The last time I saw Mike Stoller, was at a quiet dinner with my late manager Marty Machat. Mike kept us spellbound with his tale of having been rescued from the Andrea Doria, the luxury liner that was shipwrecked in 1956!
The last time I saw Jerry Leiber, was at a little sushi bar, in Hollywood. He had me, and my friend, Patti Dahlstrom laughing so hard…that we forgot that we had an opening to go to at the Troubador!
The first time I became aware of Leiber and Stoller, the songwriter/ prodcers, was in 1956 when I saw their names on an Elvis Presley Record, “Hound Dog”. It wasn’t long before I considered them the equivelant of a “Name Brand”, and would buy one of their creations without even hearing the song! I became impressed with more than their songs and productions, however, when I realized how much they helped define the image of the artists they worked with!
Although Elvis had dozens of hits in his remarkable career, 30 years after he passed away, whenever there’s a tribute to him you”re sure to hear “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” by Mike and Jerry. Both songs are full of humor and rebellion…and embody the Spirit of Elvis!
Until I saw their photos, I assumed they were “Negroes”, which African-Americans were called at the time. Their output of hits with deep roots in West Coast Rythym and Blues, The Robins, The Clovers and “Big” Mama Thorton was legendary but it wasn’t until their smash hits by the Coasters, “Young Blood” and “Searchin'”, did they start to leave their indelible mark on the Pop Music Market!
Although they produced many hits over the years for the Coasters, Drifters, Ben E. King, Stealers Wheel and Peggy Lee, the most memorable recordings they made are the songs they wrote or cowrote for those artists. These signature songs include, “Stand By Me”, and “I Who Have Nothin” for Ben E. King, “Yakity-Yak” and “Charlie Brown” for the Coasters, “Love Potion Number 9” for the “Clovers”, “There Goes My Baby” and “On Broadway” for the Drifters, as well as, “Is That All There Is? for Peggy Lee.
I never knew Mike and Jerry well, but I knew their songs intimately…and there was never a time that I’d be around them when I didn’t hope that a little of their “Magic” wouild kinda’ rub off on me!
Copyright 2007 by Artie Wayne
December 15, 2006
Jerry Wexler, Neshui Ertegun, Bobby Darin, and Ahmet Ertegun
AHMET ERTEGUN 7/3/23 – 12/14/06
When I started in the music business in 1960, Ahmet Ertegun was a already a mythical figure. In 1947, he and Herb Abramson, founded Atlantic Records and soon became a threat to all the Major labels. He built a roster of African-American artists including Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, the Clovers, Ray Charles, the Drifters, and the Coasters. As the company, grew he signed white pop artists, Bobby Darin, Vanilla Fudge, The Rascals, disco artists Archie Bell and the Drells, Chic, Sister Sledge as well as rock artists J. Geils band, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.
Jerry Wexler, who as a Billboard magazine writer changed the name of the genre from “Race Records” to the more respectable Rhythm and Blues, became a partner with Ahmet and his brother Neshui. Together they turned their little record company into one of the major forces of the 20th Century! When they brought, the Muscle Shoals Sound and Stax distribution deal into the equation, Memphis Soul dominated the charts. During this period the combined the talents of Atlantic artist Wilson Pickett and Stax writer and producer Steve Cropper co-wrote and produced hits, “In The Midnight Hour” and”634-5789″. Steve also co-wrote some and produced most of the recordings of another Atlantic artist, Otis Redding, including,”(Sitting’ on the) Dock of the Bay”. Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd produced classic records by Aretha Franklyn and Dusty Springfield at Stax studios in Memphis Muscle Shoals studios using their musicians and songs in each location.
I had a lot of respect for Ahmet because he not only was head of a successful record company, he was a songwriter, “Don’t Play That Song” by Ben E. King and a producer, “Mack the Knife” by my mentor, Bobby Darin. He also had the unique ability, not only to actually listen to what a person was saying…but to make you feel like you were the only person in the world, at that particular moment. I remember being introduced to him by Quincy Jones at a party for Duke Ellington. Although he was surrounded by people all night and we only talked for a few minutes, at the the end of the evening he shook my hand and said, “Nice meeting you, Artie”. Wow! I met my personal hero and was validated…all in the same night!
I saw him again when he sold Atlantic to WEA, the same company that owned Warner Brothers Music, whom I worked for. I had the pleasure of being in charge of getting cover records on Progressive Music titles, which Atlantic owned, and Ahmet was more than happy to turn me onto his favorites, which included, Ray Charles’, “I Got A Woman” and “Hallelujah, I Love Her So”, which he also happened to produce!
Quincy was overbooked to score films, and asked me to help him get someone to do the music for “Come Back, Charleston Blue”, which was the sequel to Sam Goldwyn, Juniors’ highly successful Blaxploitation film, “Cotton Comes To Harlem”. He got me the job and screen credit of musical consultant. The first composer to come to mind was Atlanic artist Donny Hathaway, who was riding high with his first album and single, “The Ghetto”. So Donny, in his Kongol Cap and me in my “Superfly” hat, “bop” into a screening of the film and had a commitment from both Sam, Jr. and Donny as soon as the lights came back on!
I also suggested to Sam that I go to Atlantic Records in New York and find two or three singles by other top artists on the label that were about to be released and include them in the film, as well as the soundtrack album. Sam loved the idea, but not as much as Ahmet and Jerry! Ahmet played me product they were about to release and took me to sessions in progress, including Aretha Franklyn, as she recorded,”Angel”. This was an obvious hit to me and one of my first choices! It made me feel good that Aretha remembered me as the co-writer of “Here’s Where I Came In” (Raleigh/ Wayne), which was recorded on her first session at Columbia! Then producer Joel Dorn, invited me to hear the new sides he was mixing with Chart Topper, Roberta Flack and newcomer Bette Midler. Now I had a few more contenders!
When the film was finished, score done and all the songs I found were inserted into the soundtrack. As the tapes were being mastered, Donny Hathaway, who was prone to severe mood swings, had a sudden change of heart and insisted that only his music be used on the soundtrack! I was disappointed, but encouraged at the same time, when Ahmet called me to tell me how much he appreciated what I tried to do…and how he was looking forward to working with me again.
Although It never happened, I’ll never forget the kindness and encouragement he gave me when I needed it most.
Until we meet again, R.I.P. Rock In Perpetuity!
Respectfully, Artie Wayne
From my forthcoming book, “I Did It For A Song”
Copyright 2009 by Artie Wayne
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