Gee, Who Wrote That? -
Dawn Of A Remarkable Era:
to Rewind the Fifties Home
The Music Part
by Pat Jacobs
Dick Clark and "American Bandstand" wasn't the only dominant
force during this decade (though they were probably the most
visible and well-known).
After the payola investigations of 1959 and 1960 (Clark emerged
from this totally unscathed. Others were not so lucky.) ,
songwriters and producers came to the forefront.
And the mastermind of this was none other than Don Kirshner
(Yes, THE Don Kirshner of the late-night '70s show "Don
Kirshner's Rock Concert.").
Kirshner began as a songwriter in 1958 and wanted to create a
teen version of Tin Pan Alley. That same year, he and Al Nevins
(guitarist for the group The Three Suns) founded Aldon Music.
The new company was across the street from the Brill Building,
which was occupied by well-known publishing firms. (I always
thought the Brill Building was where the new songwriters were. I
think that as Aldon Music became successful, the Brill Building
was taken over.)
Teams of new composers were quickly discovered. Just two days
after the business opened, aspiring writers Neil Sedaka and
Howard Greenfield walked in. They played a few songs for
And the rest is history.
Kirshner's friend, Connie Francis, recorded "Stupid Cupid" and "Fallin'
Sedaka also began to record his own material (which was unusual
for the time). In 1959, he was signed by RCA (which Al Nevins
helped him secure) and released 'The Diary", which launched his
Carole Klein (later known as Carole King and the subject of "Oh!
Carol", a Sedaka hit), met songwriting partner Gerry Goffin in
In 1960, the duo wrote "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and the
song was then shopped around to several record companies. ( At
one point, Johnny Mathis was suggested to sing this!).
The song was finally taken over to an independent company,
Scepter Records. Several careers were launched as the song went
to No.1 and became the first
No. 1 hit by a female group.
Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil and Ellie Greenwich-Jeff Barry were two
other prominent songwriting teams that Kirshner discovered.
These two teams composed songs
primarily for The Shangri-las, The Ronettes, The Crystals, The
Dixie Cups, and Darlene Love.
Otis Blackwell, a prominent songwriter himself ("All Shook Up"
"Don't Be Cruel" and "Great Balls Of Fire" among others),
brought in the team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. This duo wrote
mostly for Elvis Presley and The Drifters.
The team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, already renowned for
their classic '50s hits, most notably with The Coasters, often
worked in conjunction with several of the Brill Building
regulars. (One of Leiber's sons has continued the tradition: He
"Forever Your Girl" by Paula Abdul!)
As the hits began to happen, Aldon Music became a publishing
empire; Kirshner and Nevins became very wealthy.
In 1963, the duo sold Aldon. Kirshner left for a high-paying
position in the Columbia Screen Gems Television Music Division,
supervising the company's record and music publishing, where he
would make rock and roll history again.
There were a few singers who wrote or co-wrote their own
material (or most of it) and for others, but they were the
exception to the rule for this time. This select group included
Paul Anka, Antione "Fats" Domino (who co-wrote with bandleader
Dave Bartholomew until 1963), Chuck Berry, Johnny Tillotson, Del
Shannon, Jimmy Jones, Ray Charles (some, such as "What I'd Say",
but not all his hits), Roy Orbison, Gary "U.S." Bonds, Johnny
Preston, Little Richard, Bob Dylan, Curtis Mayfield, Gene
Pitney, Smokey Robinson, Johnny and Dorsey Burnette, Brian
Hyland, Hank Ballard, Brian Wilson, Tommy Roe, Sam Cooke, The
Everly Brothers, and Bob Gaudio (Four Seasons member who
co-wrote with Bob Crewe.)
Jackie DeShannon (Yes THE Jackie DeShannon) and Motown's Janie
Bradford were two more of the few female songwriters around.
And then there's the writing/production collaboration of
Holland-Dozier-Holland and Burt Bacharach-Hal David.
Many rock and pop classics came from these very
creative, talented minds.
Johnny and Dorsey Burnette wrote " It's Late",
"Waiting in School", "Believe What You Say", and "A
Little Too Much", among others, for Ricky Nelson.
"Blowing In The Wind", one of the decade's first
and best-known political songs, was written by an
up-and-coming Bob Dylan (There'll be more on him
Songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint was
responsible for bringing Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, Cris
Kenner, and others to the forefront, thus creating a
"New Orleans sound".
Janie Bradford co-wrote with Berry Gordy the
classic "Money" by Barrett Strong , and also "Too Busy
Thinking About My Baby" by Marvin Gaye, "Your Old
Stand By" by Mary Wells, and numerous others.
Roy Orbison's first big songwriting success was
"Claudette" by the Everly Brothers.
Tommy Boyce (of later Boyce and Hart fame) also
launched his career writing "Be My Guest" for Fats
Gary "U.S." Bonds (real name: Gary Anderson. His
name change was due to a shop poster for government
U.S. bonds!) co-wrote "School Is Out", "School Is In,"
"Dear Lady Twist", "Twist Twist Senora", and for you
country music fans, Bonds also wrote "Friend, Don't
Take Her (She's All I Got)", a big hit for Johnny
Paycheck in 1972.
William "Smokey" Robinson, besides writing and
producing songs for his group, The Miracles, also
produced and wrote for Mary Wells. And several early
Supremes records! (On those early efforts, Diana Ross
has a nasal Mary Wells-type sound, and you can hear
Mary and Flo clearly!) There'll be more on Robinson
Curtis Mayfield, besides writing for his group,
The Impressions, also wrote for and produced Jan
Bradley ("Mama Didn't Lie"-1963) and Major Lance.
Del Shannon (born Charles Westover) wrote for
Brian Hyland and also composed "I Go To Pieces",
"Runaway", "Hats Off To Larry", "Little Town Flirt",
and "Keep Searchin."
Gene Pitney wrote "Hello Mary Lou" for Ricky
Nelson, "He's A Rebel" for the Crystals (Darlene Love
singing the lead), and "Rubber Ball" for Bobby Vee. He
was the first rock star to perform at the Oscars for
the nominated song "Town Without Pity."
Bob Gaudio started with the Royal Teens and
co-wrote their hit "Who Wears Short Shorts". Along
with Frankie Valli , he founded the Four Seasons. He
and writing partner Bob Crewe wrote "Sherry", "Big
Girls Don't Cry", ' Rag Doll", "Walk Like A Man", "Bye
Bye Baby", "Silence Is Golden", and "Can't Take My
Eyes Off You", among others. Gaudio also co-wrote with
his wife, Judy Parker, creating the gems "Who Loves
You" and "Oh What A Night (December 1963)", two later
Four Seasons hits. Gaudio later worked with Neil
Diamond and became a writer/producer for film albums.
Jackie DeShannon (born Susan Myers, she began
using the name of Jackie DeShannon in 1959) wrote or
co-wrote "Dum Dum" by Brenda Lee, "When You Walk In
The Room" and "Needles and Pins" by The Searchers,
"The Great Imposter" by The Fleetwoods, and later,
"Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes.
Luther Dixon was the Shirelles' producer and a
gifted songwriter as well. He wrote "Boys", "Mama
Said", and "Soldier Boy", in addition to others.
The trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote and
produced for Martha and the Vandellas ("Come and Get
These Memories", "Heat Wave", "Nowhere To Run", "Jimmy
Mack"), Marvin Gaye ("Can I Get A Witness", "You're A
Wonderful One", "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You"),
The Marvelettes, and others in the Motown stable.
(There'll be more on them later.)
Here are some of the King-Goffin hit list:
"Chains" and "Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby"-
The Cookies, "Locomotion"-Little Eva, "Crying In The
Rain"-Everly Brothers, "Every Breath I Take"-Gene
Pitney "Go Away Little Girl"-Steve Lawrence "Halfway
To Paradise"-Tony Orlando "Hey Girl"-Freddie Scott "I
Can't Stay Mad At You"-Skeeter Davis "I Just Want To
Stay Here"-Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme "I'm Into
Something Good"-originally by Earl-Jean, remade by
Herman's Hermits. "Oh No Not My Baby"-Maxine Brown "Up
On The Roof"-The Drifters "One Fine Day"-The Chiffons
Mann-Weil wrote: "On Broadway"-The Drifters "Who
Put The Bomp" (Mann wrote this with Gerry Goffin and
sung this hit) "Uptown" and "He's Sure The Boy I
Love"-The Crystals "My Dad"-Paul Petersen "Blame It On
The Bossa Nova"-Eydie Gorme "Only In America"-Jay and
The Americans "Bless You"-Tony Orlando "Saturday Night
At The Movies"-The Drifters "I'm Gonna Be Strong" and
"Looking Through The Eyes Of Love"-Gene Pitney
"Walking In The Rain"-The Ronettes
Mann with others: "She Say (Oom Dooby Dom)"-The
Diamonds "Footsteps"-Steve Lawrence "I Love How You
Love Me"-Paris Sisters "Patches"-Dicky Lee
From the catalog of Greenwich-Barry: "Tell Laura I
Love Her"-Ray Peterson "Do Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He
Kissed Me"-The Crystals "Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home"
"Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" and with Phil
Spector "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)"-Darlene
Love "Be My Baby" and "Baby I Love You"-The Ronettes
"What A Guy" and "The Kind Of Boy You Can't
Forget"-The Raindrops "Do Wah Diddy"-originally by The
Exciters, remade by Manfred Mann "I Wanna Love Him So
Bad"-The Jelly Beans "Chapel Of Love" and "Iko
Iko"-The Dixie Cups
Some of the tunes of Pomus-Shuman: "I'm A Tiger"
"Turn Me Loose" and "Hound Dog Man"-Fabian "A Teenager
In Love"-Dion and The Belmonts "Hushabye"-The Mystics
"Go Jimmy Go"-Jimmy Clanton "Save The Last Dance For
Me" "This Magic Moment" and "Sweets For My Sweet"-The
Drifters "Viva Las Vegas" "Surrender" "Little Sister"
and "Marie's The Name (of His Latest Flame)"-Elvis
Presley "Suspicion"-Terry Stafford and "Can't Get To
Losing You"-Andy Williams
Pomus with Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller:
Lieber-Stoller wrote or co-wrote: "Stand By Me"
"Spanish Harlem" (with Phil Spector) and "I Who Have
Nothing"-Ben E. King "Is That All There Is?"-Peggy Lee
"Bossa Nova Baby"-Elvis Presley "On Broadway"-The
The duo also discovered Neil Diamond, as a
songwriter. Diamond sang later.
Bacharach-David created: The songs of Dionne
Warwick, "Baby It's You"-The Shirelles "Any Day
Now"-Chuck Jackson "Magic Moments"-Perry Como "Make It
Easy On Yourself" -Several singers have had a hit on
this. "Only Love Can Break A Heart" "Twenty-Four Hours
From Tulsa" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty
Valance"-Gene Pitney "There's Always Something There
To Remind Me"-Several singers had a hit on this song
too. "Wives And Lovers"-Jack Jones