Jerry Lieber (at right, in photo), of the ’50s songwriting team Lieber and Stoller, died Monday in Los Angeles at age 78. It’s unbelievable, looking back, at the number of great songs these guys wrote: Hound Dog, Kansas City, Yakety Yak, Searchin’, Poison Ivy, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Chapel of Love, Leader of the Pack, Jailhouse Rock, Love Potion No. 9, There Goes My Baby, Ruby Baby, Loving You, Stand By Me, On Broadway, and on and on. One of my favorites is the little-known Loop-de-Loop Mambo, which was playing on the radio in LA (DJ Dick “Huggie Boy” Hugg) at 4 AM one morning in the early ’50s on my first trip to LA in my roommate’s Ford convertible — have loved LA ever since. Lieber wrote the lyrics, Stoller the music. They wrote Hound Dog for Big Mama Willie May Thornton, and hated Elvis’ interpretation. even though it became a mega-hit..
“Jerry was an idea machine,” Stoller says in their 2009 memoir Hound Dog. “For every situation, Jerry had 20 ideas. As would-be songwriters, our interest was in black music and black music only. We wanted to write songs for black voices. When Jerry sang, he sounded black, so that gave us an advantage . . . His verbal vocabulary was all over the place – black, Jewish, theatrical, comical. He would paint pictures with words.”