Most people know Leiber and Stoller as songwriters.
They wrote "Hound Dog," "Yakety Yak," "Charlie Brown," and they produced Big Mama Thornton's version of "Hound Dog" (before Elvis's), Wilbur Harris's version of "Kansas City," and a whole bunch of blues performers who were trying to cross over. Before they came to New York they produced the Robins ("Smokey Joe's Cafe"). When they came to New York they brought some of the Robins with them and changed the name to the Coasters. These songs were amazing social commentaries about certain groups of people.
They not only wrote all of those songs, they were the producers, and on those records the sax player was King Curtis.
In those days an engineer understood how to mike a room. It was like Weegee taking a photograph - you had one chance to capture what was going on in the room... you can "hear the room" in those recordings. When we did it, it was stereo - you had two tracks and you had to put the lead vocal on one track and just about everything else on the other track.
[Leiber and Stoller] started working for Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic, and produced the Drifters, including "There Goes My Baby" with Ben E. King singing lead, and "Save the Last Dance For Me."
BIG-TIME SUCCESS WITH JAY AND THE AMERICANS
You do a cover of "There Goes My Baby" on your new record. But it's very different.
We do it as a shuffle. But in those days it had a Latin flavor. Anyway, we auditioned for Leiber and Stoller. They were so hot as producers that United Artists had given them an independent record deal, and they started recording us and we had hits. The first was in 1961, which for me seems like yesterday... "She Cried" became a Top 5, then we had "Only in America," "Come a Little Bit Closer" "Let's Lock the Door," "Some Enchanted Evening," [and] "Cara Mia" which was a huge hit.
Then in 1968 I got involved with these two guys who knocked on our door once - Donald Fagen and Walter Becker [later of Steely Dan fame], who became part of the last incarnation of Jay and the Americans, actually playing on a couple of our last hits - "This Magic Moment" in '69 and "Walking in the Rain" in '70. I produced their early "Becker and Fagen" albums which have subsequently come out as bootlegs.