Songwriters celebrate book, look to new work
Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber — the guys who wrote “Hound Dog,” “Kansas City,” “Stand by Me,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Is That All There Is” and dozens more classic R&B, pop and rock hits — have finally taken a breath long enough to pen their autobiography (with the help of music bio pro David Ritz).
And like their best songs, “Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography” (Simon & Schuster) is short, snappy, colorful, funny, a little rude … and you might even be able to dance to it. At their Conga Room book launch party in L.A. on June 16, the legendary tunesmiths were feted for their contributions to American music.
After more than five decades of hits and kudos, does the fan worship ever get old? “I never feel worshipped,” Stoller replied, “just tired.”
It’s clear, however, that weariness isn’t a word in the dictionary or either music man Stoller or mirthful wordsmith Leiber. Both are working on getting their long-dreamed-of Oscar Wilde musical to the stage, and Stoller is deep in prep for “Laughing Matters,” his musical that debuts at the Pasadena Playhouse Nov. 13. Featuring a book by “Beaches” author Iris Rainer Dart, music by Stoller and Artie Butler, the tuner will be directed by Leonard Foglia, who recently staged the Broadway production of “Thurgood,” starring Laurence Fishburne.
Still, if you want to know why Peggy Lee was a handful, Edith Piaf was a genius, Sinatra was their idol, Elvis was cool, his manager Colonel Tom Parker was a jerk and how Leiber got out of racing James Dean in his fateful and fatal Porsche — or how neither of them got out of giving their hit record label to the Mafia — well, you’ll have to read the book.