Leiber & Stoller

Writing for The King

Elvis Presley called Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller his good luck charms. As well as writing some of his most celebrated songs, they also penned hits for the likes of The Drifters and The Coasters, and influenced many acts that followed. In this exclusive excerpt from Ken Sharp’s new book, Writing For The King, they talk about their time working alongside Elvis, and why it couldn’t last.

Jerry Leiber: The first time I heard Elvis, I was up at the Atlantic Records offices with Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler. Ahmet was puffing on a cigarette. They played one of Elvis’ Sun Records sides – I think it was That’s All Right, Mama – and Ahmet said, ‘What do you think, man?’ I said, ‘I think it’s pretty good.’ Ahmet said, ‘Is that all you think? That’s it’s just pretty good?’ And I said, ‘Yeah. He’s not the best country singer I’ve ever heard.’ Wexler said, ‘Elvis Presley is not considered a country singer. Sam Phillips wants 25 grand for his contract. Do you think he’s worth it?’ At that moment Miriam Abramson walked in and said, ‘Are you kidding? What do you mean, $25,000?’

Mike Stoller: The first time I received a sizable royalty check was in 1956. It was for …

by Ken Sharp
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