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Mike Stoller

March 12, 2018

Mike Stoller, who teamed with Jerry Leiber to write dozens of popular songs that would become permanently lodged in the brains of the baby boom generation, was born in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens, NY, on this date in 1933. Among the many hits written (some together with other songwriters) by Leiber and Stoller were “Kansas City” (recorded by Wilbert Harrison); “Hound Dog” (Big Mama Thornton, and later by Elvis Presley, who recorded more than 20 of their songs, including “Jailhouse Rock”); “Ruby Baby” (Dion and the Belmonts); “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,” “Poison Ivy,” “Young Blood” (The Coasters); “Smokey Joe’s Café,” “Riot in Cell Block #9” (The Robins); “On Broadway,” “There Goes My Baby” (The Drifters); “Stand By Me” (Ben E. King); “Only in America” (Jay and the Americans); “Love Potion #9” (The Clovers); and “Stuck in the Middle with You” (Stealers Wheel). Stoller was a college freshman when he met high school senior Leiber in 1950. Within two years, they were turning out rhythm and blues hits that achieved “crossover” status by finding white audiences for black performers. In 1987, the duo was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 2012, the year after Leiber’s death, Stoller was commissioned to write “Charlotte” ahead of the Democratic National Convention in that city that summer.

“I knew all about Leiber and Stoller. They were those bad white boys who wrote the blackest songs this side of the Mississippi. I loved what they did.” —Ray Charles

Watch Stoller and Leiber on a 1958 episode of the What’s My Line? TV quiz show in which the establishment’s anti-rock-and-roll bias is on full display.