Recorded in 1951 by legendary blues and piano player Floyd Dixon, Jerry Leiber’s sexually suggestive tune “Too Much Jelly Roll” was right at home with other Dixon good-time jump blues, including innuendo-filled songs such as “Red Cherries,” “Wine Wine Wine” and “Baby Let’s Go Down to the Woods.”
Key lyric: “My brother died last week, doctor said he was ill, too much jelly roll up and got him killed. Too much jelly roll ain’t good for a good man’s soul.” ()
This 1950s blues cut, marked by a downtrodden saxophone and a melancholy piano, was the first-ever charted hit by the songwriting duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
Key lyric: “When I lost my baby, I lost everything I had.” (Blues Forever Records)
One of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s best-known hits, the song has been covered by the likes of Little Richard, the Beatles, Muddy Waters, the Everly Brothers, Dion and Sammy Davis Jr., among many others. Most cover versions refer to the song as “Kansas City,” but Little Willie Littlefield’s is a slick little number, with guitar screeches and near spoken-word verses, all leading to a dancey release in the chorus.
Key lyric: “The old folks boogie, and the children, too, but nobody boogie like me and you.” (Federal Records)
An early doo-wop group, the Robins eventually spun into the Coasters, and this early ode to girls, diner food and rejection became a namesake Leiber and Stoller song, as it inspired the name of a 1995 stage musical based on the duo’s works. The call-and-response hand-clap ditty also was covered by Buddy Holly.
Key lyric: “Hey man, be careful, that chick belongs to Smokey Joe.” (Collectible Records)
Though “Hound Dog” wasn’t written for Elvis Presley, the artist covered the tune and subsequently aimed to work closely with Leiber and Stoller. Presley recorded more than 20 songs written by Leiber and Stoller, including “Jailhouse Rock,” “Loving You” and “King Creole.” Originally, “Hound Dog” was more of a straight blues song and was written for Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton.
Key lyric: “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog cryin’ all the time.” (Associated Press)
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote the song for the iconic R&B soul outfit the Drifters in 1956. It went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 when singer-songwriter Dion released his version of it in 1962 and when it was included in the acclaimed musical revue “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” Like most Leiber and Stoller tunes, it resurfaced a dozen more times throughout the decades, including a stint as a country hit recorded by Billy “Crash” Craddock in 1974 and a surf-inspired selection by the Beach Boys, first recorded in 1965 as an outtake and then released in 1993 in the box set “Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys.”
Key lyric: “Each time I see you, baby my heart cries. I tell ya I’m gonna steal you away from all those guys.” (Play Records)
Ben E. King, who will forever be associated with “Stand by Me.”
(Los Angeles Times)
Before the steady back beat of this pop track became a hit for English pop group the Searchers, it found a wide audience for R&B group the Clovers when it was first written by Leiber and Stoller in 1959. A song revolving around mystical romance, it captured the squeaky-clean sentiments of the Free Love movement just before the dawn of the 1960s. It was later covered more than two dozen times by a myriad of artists, including the Coasters and AC/DC.
Key lyric: “I told her that I was a flop with chicks. I’ve been this way since 1956. She looked at my palm and she made a magic sign. She said ‘What you need is Love Potion No. 9'.” (Atlantic Records)
With minimalist, playful rhythms -- imagine a drummer having his way with anything that could be found in a New York alley -- “I Keep Forgetting” is something of an odd R&B cut, bordering on cabaret. One of Jackson’s most-remembered songs, it was later tackled by David Bowie and prog-rockers Procol Harum.
Key lyric: “It’s plain to see you’re finished with me, but I just can’t get it through my head.” (Fontana)
Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller during the 1960s, the tune became a hit for American singer Peggy Lee in November 1969. It was originally inspired by the 1896 story “Disillusionment” (Enttäuschung) by German novelist Thomas Mann and was recorded by several people before Lee, including Dan Daniels in March 1968 and Tony Bennet in 1969. It found fame in modern pop culture thanks to cover versions by artists such as P.J. Harvey, whose version popped up on the soundtrack for the 1996 biopic “Basquiat” about the influential New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Key lyric: “Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball. If that’s all there is.” (Getty Images)