You know, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote ‘Hound Dog’ for Big Mama Thornton in the 1950s. Then Elvis Presley got hold of it, and the rest was history. Leiber and Stoller have like seven thousand hits from ‘On Broadway’ to ‘Poison Ivy.’
They were at Elaine’s last night for a book party, in from Los Angeles. David Ritz has just co-authored their original biography, called ‘Hound Dog’ (Simon & Schuster). The thing about Leiber and Stoller is, they’ve always been outspoken. Stoller says in the book that he was uncomfortable at first when Presley took the song and changed the lyrics. But he adds it wasn’t like Pat Boone covering Little Richard. ‘Pat Boone was insipid,’ he says.
Stoller says Ahmet Ertegun passed on signing Elvis because Colonel Parker wanted $25,000. So RCA got him. Ahmet’s elegant widow, Mica, came by Elaine’s to pay respects to the songwriters last night. I asked her which of Ahmet’s acts was her favorite. ‘Ben E. King,’ she said, ‘but I was always a Rolling Stones fan.’
The book party was like a meeting of the real Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lesley Gore and Leslie Uggams turned up, also. Legendary producers Phil Ramone and Tommy LiPuma posed for pictures together. It was a tasty appetizer before the Apollo main course — a Monday music night in New York.
But wait: the last chapter hasn’t been written. Stoller has a musical called ‘Laughing Matters’ opening at the Pasadena Playhouse this November. Iris Rainer Dart, author of ‘Beaches,’ supplied the book and lyrics. Leonard Foglia, director on Broadway of ‘Thurgood’ and ‘Master Class.’ is in charge. The producer of the show told me last night it’s coming to Broadway. Ritz will have to add a chapter to the paperback of ‘Hound Dog.’