Smokey Joe's Cafe - Inside Broadway
Leiber and Stoller Biography Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller met in Los Angeles, California in 1950 and began writing music together right away. Leiber served as lyricist while Stoller, a classically trained but jazz and R&B loving composer wrote the music. In 1952 the pair was invited by Johnny Otis to write songs for Big Mama Thornton, an R&B singer from Montgomery Alabama. Their first song for her? “Hound Dog” which was an immediate hit and #1on the Billboard R&B charts for seven consecutive weeks. Three years later this song would be re-recorded by Elvis Presley and become an instant classic. Leiber and Stoller went on to write additional songs for Elvis including “Jailhouse Rock” and “Treat Me Right”. Together Leiber and Stoller wrote some of the most popular songs of all time, including “Stand By Me”, “Love Potion #9”, “Charlie Brown”, “Poison Ivy”, “Spanish Harlem” and “On Broadway”. They have received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 1987, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The song writing duo is still active in the music industry today, in fact their music was recently used on American Idol. On Broadway How did a composer from Long Island, and a lyricist from Baltimore end up on Broadway? Well, in 1995 Smokey Joe’s Café, a musical revue of the songs of Leiber and Stoller began its run at the Virginia Theatre on Broadway. The show was directed by Jerry Zaks with choreography by Joey McKneely and featured 40 of Leiber and Stoller’s greatest hits. The production played for 2,036 performances and was nominated for 5 Tony Awards, including best musical. Professional productions are still playing in theatres around the world, most recently in China. Baby That’s Rock and Roll How did Rock and Roll get started? Where did it come from? Who is responsible? The roots of Rock and Roll are in several musical forms including Jazz , Gospel and R&B, but to really understand how it came to be, we have to go back to 1951 and to what is regarded as the first rock’n’roll single. “Rocket 88” was written by Ike Turner and sung by Jackie Brenston. This song is widely regarded by many to be the first rock and roll song, but others contend that 1954’s “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets was the first. Still others think that the first was 1948’s “Rock and Roll” by Detroit boxer Wild Bill Moore. Since there are so many different opinions on this subject, which one do we believe? Well, like any art form, Rock and Roll was constantly evolving, so our perception of what made a song “rock” changed with each new incarnation. All of these songs share some of the characteristics of the genre like guitar licks, drum snare accents and a “rockabilly” feel. When Rock and Roll was at it’s golden age in the 1950’s, it was welcomed by teenagers, but not so much by adults who didn’t understand why their children wanted to listen to music that was “loud and obnoxious” instead of the swing and big band music that they grew up with. Sound familiar? Cover Me Since album art was first introduced in 1939, it has evolved in both it’s format and subject matter. Initially, album covers were drawn illustrations influenced by European poster art. Alex Steinweiss is credited with creating the art form and was known for signing his creations. He argued that the art on the cover of the album would make the customer stop and look at the record and in all likelihood, buy it. In the early 1950’s technological advancements in photography allowed for illustrated covers to be replaced with “head shots” of the recording artist or photographs of a landscape or landmark. Today, cover art is a mixture of both illustration and photography and often reflects the theme of the album or the artist’s personal taste. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of some of the best known and most influential artists and music producers who have made major contributions to the music industry. The museum was founded in 1986 and is located in Cleveland, Ohio. The museum inducts a handful of artists into the Hall of Fame each year. To be eligible for induction, a group or individual must have released their first record at least 25 years ago. There are four categories: Performers, Non- Performers, Early Influences, and Sidemen. Each year, about five to seven people (or groups) are inducted into the hall of fame, this is done through a nomination process and then voted on by 1000 experts in the music industry. Past inductees have included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, James Brown, Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, U2, The Platters, The Drifters, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Ray Charles, The Four Seasons and Buddy Holly. Listen to the Music Today when we want to listen to our favorite songs we pull out our ipod and go. It wasn’t always so easy to listen to music, in fact just over a hundred years ago you would have had to go to a concert to hear it. People have been listening to music for hundreds, even thousands of years. The only thing that has changed is how we listen to it. The first widely used mechanism for playing music was the phonograph, invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. Unlike modern record players, the phonograph was a wind-up turn table that emitted sound from a large horn attached to the player. Next came the radio which started as a means of communicating between ships and in the 1920’s became the radio that we listen to today in our cars and homes. In the beginning, radios played nightly programs that consisted of live concerts and radio “theatre” shows. The next big step came in 1927 with the creation of the first electrically amplified multi-selection phonograph or as it is more commonly known the “Jukebox”. The term “Jukebox” comes from the word “Jook” which is an old African American slang term meaning to dance, it also comes from Southern “Jute Joints” or dance halls of the 1920’s where Jukeboxes would appear. This invention revolutionized dance halls as it could play a multitude of songs at the fraction of the cost of a live band. In its heyday, the Jukebox showcased artists enabling them to sell hundreds of records at once for artists like Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. In 1964 Phillips introduced the compact cassette tape player which was originally used for voice dictation due to its poor sound quality. The eight track tape followed as an answer to a compact music system with better sound. In the 1980’s the portable cassette player gained popularity with the Sony Walkman and cassette tape sales skyrocketed. With the onset of digital recording onto CD’s in early 90’s, Sony’s CD Walkman had overtaken the cassette player as the portable music player of choice. This brings us to the invention of the ipod by Apple. While CD players are still popular, the ipod, and mp3 player brought the art of listening to music into a whole other age. With its capacity to store over 2,000 songs and play movies among other things, the ipod has revolutionized not only how we listen to music, but how we purchase it. In recent years the recording industry has seen a decline in traditional album sales as people purchase their music from online sources. With technology improving everyday, and ipods, mp3 players and even phones changing, who knows how we will listen to music in the future. For the Record Want to buy the latest hit record? Pretty easy, right? Just go to itunes or Rhapsody and download it onto your ipod or computer. Well, before technology made it so easy for us to get our music from the internet, people bought records in stores. Not CDs or tapes or even eight tracks. There were records, period. There were two kinds of records – Albums, which had 12 songs (6 on each side) and 45’s which had only 2 songs (1 on each side). 45’s were very popular in the 50’s and 60’s as they usually cost about a dollar and could be afforded by most teenagers. A 45 typically had the “hit” song on one side and the “flip” or “B” side contained a lesser known number by the same artist. 1935-1977 Elvis Aron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. Elvis grew up surrounded by gospel, blues and jazz and incorporated those musical styles into his own brand of rock and roll. In 1957, he recorded the Leiber and Stoller song “Houng Dog” which was an immediate success for both the singer and the songwriters. Elvis continued his collaboration with them on the song “Jailhouse Rock” and covered over a dozen of their songs throughout his recording career. Elvis served in the military during the Korean War thus inspiring the title character in the musical “Bye Bye Birdie”. He made 33 films, recorded 131 albums and received the Lifetime Achievement Grammy at the age of 36. Elvis’ influence on American pop culture and music is still felt today. Notable Notables The fifties and sixties were a time of change, not only in music, but in the world. Below are some of the people who made great contributions to our society. Rosa Parks (1913-2005) is most famous for her refusal to give up her seat for a white man on a bus, which sparked the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. Ms. Parks continued to be a force in the fight for Civil Rights throughout her life, eventually establishing the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. Miss Parks was voted by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century and received both the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005, she was 92 years old. Martin Luther King (1929- 1968) is one of the most beloved and influential figures in American history. A noted civil rights activist who participated in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, he also fought against segregation in schools and was know for his “non-violent” approach to protest marches. At the age of 35, he was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. MLK was known for his persuasive and elegant speeches, his most famous is his “I Have a Dream” speech which was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of his hotel room on April 4, 1968. John F Kennedy (1917- 1963) - the 35th President of the United States of America, JFK was the youngest man ever elected to the office of President. He was an advocate of the Arts and often attended Broadway productions with Camelot, being his favorite show. President Kennedy also believed in the youth of America and was an avid supporter of groups like the Peace Corp and the Alliance for Progress. He is remembered for his inaugural speech and for the phrase “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas Texas. The Music Makers While Leiber and Stoller wrote the music, there were many different individuals and groups who recorded their songs. Big Momma Thornton (1926-1984) was born Willie Mae Thornton in Montgomery, Alabama. She was known for her “booming” voice and was a fixture on the rhythm and blues circuit. In 1953, Leiber and Stoller wrote the song “Hound Dog” for her which reached number 1 on the R&B charts. The Clovers were considered to be the first rhythm and blues groups to cross over into rock and roll. They combined gospel and blues for a unique sound. The group was signed by Atlantic Records in 1951 and soon after recorded their hit “Love Potion #9”. The Drifters recorded the Leiber and Stoller song “There Goes My Baby” in 1959. The song was co-written by then lead singer Ben E. King, who went onto record Leiber and Stoller’s “Stand By Me” and “Spanish Harlem” as a solo artist. The Drifters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. The Coasters (1956 to 1961) The Coasters released a string of hits written by Leiber and Stoller, including “Searchin’” “Young Blood”, “Charlie Brown”, “Yakety Yak” and their most famous recording, “Poison Ivy”. Originally named the “Robins” the group changed their name when they signed with Leiber and Stoller’s label, “Spark Records”. The Coasters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Dion Whose real name was Dion DiMucci, grew up in Bronx NY and formed the singing group “Dion and the Belmonts” which was so named for Belmont Avenue. Dion was a teen idol from 1958 to 1963 recording such hits as “I Wonder Why”, “Teenager in Love”, “Runaround Sue” and the Leiber and Stoller hit “Ruby Baby”. Dion and the Belmonts were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.