The Luncheon Society Flashback. An Appreciation/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller/LA-Chez Mimi/May 13 2010

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Last year, The Luncheon Society had a wonderful gathering with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two of the pioneering songwriters from the first generation of Rock and Roll; Leiber passed away today.  

The true testament of their partnership is that it lasted for over 60 years, longer than Lennon-McCartney, Jagger-Richards or anybody else.  The only pair that comes close is Barry Mann and and Cynthia Weil, who, with Jerry and Mike, co-wrote “On Broadway.”

Leiber and Stoller were quite young when they began writing together in Los Angeles in the early 1950’s, so much so that their parents had to co-sign the contract for their first record deal. Today the copy of the contract is featured under-glass at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Both knew that theirs would be a tough road but they were young and had some ideas about how songs should be written.  They were unique in that they were two Caucasian kids who wrote for African-American artists and audiences. They were enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Take a look at Big Mama Thorton’s version of “Houng Dog,” which I dare say is far more superior than the Elvis version.

Here come the hits. When fortune smiled upon them they were ready; In short order, they wrote hundreds of songs and dominated the next 15 years, with “Kansas City,” “Yakity Yak,” ”Poison Ivy,” “Smokey Joe’s Café,” “There Goes my Baby,” “Charlie Brown,” “Ruby Baby,” “Stand By Me,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Love Potion #9,” “Searchin’,” “Young Blood,”  “Is that all there is,” “On Broadway,” and “Spanish Harlem,” just to name a select few. This does not even cover all of the hits they produced out of the Brill Building in New York.

As music changed in the 1960’s, they made a second fortune allowing their songs to be used in commercials and movies. Then during the 1990’s they compiled their songs into a Broadway show called “Smokey Joe’s Café” that ran for nearly a decade on Broadway. They made a third and fourth fortune.

An Enduring Bond.  Even though both noted that their partnership is a 60 year long argument, there is an underlying respect each has for the other. Both know that there are equals to the creation of the song and together they are bigger than their parts.

The Luncheon Society is a series of private luncheons and dinners that take place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manhattan, and now Boston.  We essentially split the costs of gathering and we meet in groups of 20-25 people. Discussions center on politics, art, science, film, culture, and whatever else is on our mind. Think of us as “Adult Drop in Daycare.” We’ve been around since 1997 and we’re purposely understated. These gatherings takes place around a large table, where you interact with the main guest and conversation becomes end result.  There are no rules, very little structure, and the gatherings happen when they happen. Join us when you can.

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