Download Smokey Joe`s Cafe - The Songs of Leiber and Stoller History

yes no Was this document useful for you?
   Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the workof artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Document related concepts

Augsburger Puppenkiste wikipedia , lookup

Musical theatre wikipedia , lookup

The Muppets (film) wikipedia , lookup

Development of musical theatre wikipedia , lookup

A Chorus Line wikipedia , lookup

Smokey Joe’s Cafe - The Songs of Leiber and Stoller
If Smokey Joe’s Café was a newly-written musical, it would be hailed as one of the greatest pieces of
songwriting ever done for the Broadway stage. The fact that the show is a collection of pop songs
written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in the 1950s and 60s is no less remarkable. This material,
without the aid of a book stringing dramatic action together and without ever being intended to exist as
a coherent body of work on its own, provides the basis of an electrifying performance that recapitulates
a golden age of American culture.
The songs performed by the musical’s cast performers include a series of hits forged in the memory of
the era, including “Hound Dog”, “On Broadway”, “Charlie Brown”, “Love Potion #9”, “Jailhouse Rock”,
“There Goes My Baby”, “Yakety Yak”, “Kansas City”, “Spanish Harlem”, “Poison Ivy”, and “Stand By Me”.
But the true genius of the Leiber/Stoller collaboration becomes evident as the lesser-known material
takes its place proudly beside the hits and fills out the production with a series of musical surprises that
keep the production speeding along.
The songs of Leiber and Stoller are perfect material for the stage. Each one is a self-contained storyline
written around a sturdy, hummable melodic hook. The classic themes of love won, lost and imagined,
dovetail with slice-of-life cameos. Stories of wanderlust, aspiration and nostalgia are neatly capsulized
without ever straying into cheap sentimentality. This combination of deeply-felt emotion, leavened by
the light-hearted determination never to take anything too seriously, makes for great pop music as well
as compelling musical theater.
Baltimore native Leiber and New Yorker Stoller’s roots are in the pre-rock era sounds of rhythm & blues
and gospel. In 1950, the two met in Los Angeles, where they began writing and producing material for
blues artists like Jimmy Witherspoon and Little Esther. In 1951, the two scored their first R&B hit with
Charles Brown’s recording of “Hard Times”.
Leiber and Stoller were still only 20 when their epochal “Hound Dog” became one of the hottest-selling
songs of 1953, in a version by blueswoman Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, backed by the Johnny Otis
band. The song was so popular it spawned a number of pop and country cover versions, but when Elvis
Presley covered it in 1956, “Hound Dog” became synonymous with the emergent style of rock ‘n’ roll.
Elvis eventually recorded 20 Leiber and Stoller compositions including the title tracks for “Jailhouse
Rocks”, ”Loving You”, and “King Creole”.
After writing “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” and “Riot in Cell Block #9” for the Robins on their own Spark records,
and scoring a hit in 1955 for The Cheers with “Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots,” Leiber and
Stoller made history by signing the first independent production deal, with Atlantic Records. The Robins
were recast as The Coasters and went on to become one of the most popular groups of the late 50s,
based on catchy Leiber and Stoller story-songs like “Searchin’”, ”Young Blood”, ”Yakety Yak”, ”Charlie
Brown”, ”Along Came Jones”, ”Poison Ivy”, and “Little Egypt”.
In 1959, the songwriting team had hits “Kansas City” for Wilbert Harrison and “Love Potion #9” by The
Clovers. That same year, Atlantic turned over The Drifters to its crack production team and
Leiber/Stoller proceeded to lay the foundations for soul music as well as the Phil Spector sound. The
latin rhythms and string section behind lead vocalist Ben E. King on “There Goes My Baby” would
become a soul music staple. Spector, who co-authored “Spanish Harlem” with Leiber after King went
solo, was a keen apprentice who used the eclectic production values learned from the Leiber/Stoller
sessions to fashion his own distinctive sound.
In 1964, Leiber and Stoller formed Red Bird records and supervised the production of memorable hits ”Chapel of Love”, ”People Say”, and “Iko, Iko” for the Dixie Cups and “Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand)”,
”Leader of the Pack”, and “Give Him a Great Big Kiss” by the Shangri-Las.
Leiber and Stoller combined on various projects during the late 60s but still found time to deliver hits to
such varied sources as The Monkees (“D.W. Washburn”) and Peggy Lee (“Is That All There Is?” and “I’m
a Woman”). In the 1970s, the team continued to produce, overseeing the Stealer’s Wheel hit “Stuck in
the Middle With You.”
The innate theatricality of the Leiber/Stoller canon made it only a matter of time before their material
was adapted to the stage. In 1980, British director Ned Sherrin mounted a theatrical compendium of
Leiber and Stoller songs entitled “Only in America” at the Roundhouse Theatre in London; in 1983, the
English roots-rock band The Darts organized a London ‘Yakety Yak’, built around the Leiber/Stoller
catalogue. Leiber calls that production “the Liverpool version”.
Now, with Smokey Joe’s Café, we finally have the definitive adaptation the Leiber/Stoller material to the
stage, originally directed by Jerry Zaks with the whole-hearted approval of the writers. Conceived by
Jack Viertel and the Jujamcyn Theatres, the show presents fresh musical arrangements of Leiber and
Stoller classics by Louis St. Louis.
The Professional Summer Theatre of The University of Alabama
The University of Alabama, Department of Theatre and Dance, Box 870239, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0239
Main Office 205/348-5283 - Fax 205/348-9048 - UATD Box Office 205/348-3400 - Gulf Shores Box Office 251/968-6721 -