It’s an amazing story, one of those great tales from the early days of Rock and Roll.
In 1956, Mike Stoller took his wife to France for 3 months. After wandering around the countryside in late spring and early summer they return home on the Italian liner, the SS Andrea Doria. It was the largest, the most spectacular, and safest of all of the Italian liners. As Mike and his wife crossed the Atlantic, he purchased a copy of A Night to Remember, a best-seller by Walter Lord and considered the definitive reading on the sinking of the Titanic.
At 11 pm on July 26th, the Stockholm, a smaller passenger liner, crashed into the Andrea Doria and it began to list starboard and take on water. So instead of reading about the Titanic in Walter Lord’s book, he is actually living it. He thought, “That’s it; I’m a goner and I’m going down on the Titanic just like all of those poor souls who perished at the bottom of the Atlantic.”
However, the crash took place off the coast of Massachusetts in a heavy shipping lane and within a short period, there was a massive effort to rescue the passengers before if sank to the bottom of the Atlantic 11 hours later.
Mike Stoller and his wife were rescued and they met Jerry Leiber at the dock in New York. Leiber brought a full set of dry clothes for both Mike and his wife and once he made sure that his friends were okay, he exclaimed, “You won’t believe this, but Hound Dog is a #1 hit!” Stoller was taken aback and said, “You mean Big Mama Thornton’s version,” who did it in 1953? “No,” Leiber replied, “Its Elvis Presley.” “Elvis Presley?” Stoller replied incredulously, “who’s that?”
Watch Big Mama’s version. She simply whacks Elvis with big ol’ purse of hers. Look for a young Buddy Guy on that video. Nobody messed with her.
Stoller had been out of the country and had not seen the explosion of “Black Music” that was recorded by White Artists like Elvis. In the span of 12 hours, Mike Stoller went from the brink of death to superstardom. Continue reading