By Todd Baptista
"There is no such thing as Coasters/Robins," remarks Carl Gardner, the pioneering lead tenor who sang with both groups. "Let me set that record straight. The only connection to the Robins was myself and Bobby Nunn." Still, one can trace the origins of the Coasters, one of the most prolific and entertaining acts of the 1950s and '60s to the days when songwriters-producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and manager-distributor-publisher Lester Sill (1918-1994) were churning out R&B classics with the Robins at their fledgling Spark label in Los Angeles.
Originally formed around 1945 by tenor Terrell "Ty" Leonard, born in Mississippi in 1928, and Crockett, Texas-born brothers Billy (1928-2007) and Roy Richard (1929-1983) at Alameda High School in San Francisco, the group, then known as the A-Sharp Trio, was influenced by the Delta Rhythm Boys, Golden Gate Quartet, and Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, among others. Settling in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles after World War II, the group found the city on the cutting edge of a new style of music. "Rhythm and blues was born in Los Angeles," Leonard asserted in an interview with this writer a dozen years ago.
Baritone and bass singer Ulysses "Bobby" Nunn (1925-1986), originally from Birmingham, Alabama, guitar ace Pete Lewis (1913-1970), and the A-Sharp Trio all came to the attention of bandleader Johnny Otis, via talent shows held at his neighborhood club, the Barrelhouse. Lewis earned a job in Otis' band and did extensive session work, the trio became regulars at the club on weekends, and, in early 1949, Otis suggested they add Nunn to form a quartet.
That spring, the group made their recording debut, appearing as the "Four Bluebirds" on Margaret and Otis Rene's Excelsior label. Their first record, "My Baby Done Told Me", appeared on the flip side of Johnny Otis' novelty, "Courtroom Blues".
After cutting several sides for Aladdin Records and their subsidiary, Score, as the Robins (Nunn would also record as a solo artist during this time), the Robins came to the attention of Ralph Bass (1911-1997), A&R director for Herman Lubinsky's New Jersey-based Savoy label, who suggested to his boss that the firm snatch up the Robins, Otis, and his vocalists, Mel Walker, and the then 13 year-old Little Esther.
"Lubinsky came out to the club and met with Johnny Otis," Leonard recalled. "He offered $20 to buy us drinks, but Otis told him we didn't drink." Back in the dressing room, Otis apparently offered the Robins $2 of the original sum. Upon learning that Lubinsky had actually proffered a $20 bill, Nunn, according to Leonard, set off after Otis for the remainder of the cash. "Otis chased Lubinsky out the door of the club, and there we went. The man was running down the street, and when he looked over his shoulder, he saw Otis chasing him, Nunn chasing Otis, the rest of us chasing Nunn, and a bunch of people from the club running outside" to watch what transpired. "I came all the way out here to make you f***ing stars and this is how you treat me?!" the 53-year old hard-nosed record exec exclaimed.
Despite that auspicious meeting, Lubinsky signed them all and soon struck gold. The Robins' "If It's So, Baby", hit Billboard's R&B chart in early 1950, and "Double Crossin' Blues", by the Johnny Otis Quintette with vocals by the Robins and Little Esther spent nine weeks at #1 on the list, one of three #1s the Otis clan had that year, beginning in early March.
Things began to go sour for the Robins in early 1950, however, when they hit up Otis for an increase in salary via their manager Ed Fishman. According to Leonard, the bandleader subsequently fired the quartet and booted them from his scheduled winter-spring Savoy Barrelhouse Caravan package tour. One additional session for Savoy that February produced enough useable masters so that the company could continue to churn out records on their hot property through the end of the year. None drew much attention. "(Savoy) was a horrible and difficult company to work for, but it had a big name and distribution power to get a record out to the public," Gardner contends. "That's what you wanted."
Nunn cut some sides for Dootsie Williams' Blue and Dootone labels as a solo artist before the quartet signed on with John Dolphin's Recorded in Hollywood logo in June, backing Maggie Hathaway on four sides and cutting two tunes on their own. Their next stop was the Bihari brothers RPM label, where they recorded both alone and with Mickey Champion as the Nic Nacs ("Found Me A Sugar Daddy", "Gonna Have A Merry Christmas") on November 2, 1950.
On the parent Modern label, the group began their association with Leiber and Stoller in March of 1951, waxing one of the duo's first commercial recordings, "That's What The Good Book Says", as Bobby Nunn with the "Robbins" (sic- a spelling later used in several bookings and ads). Born weeks apart in 1933, Baltimore native Leiber and the Long Island-born Stoller met in Los Angeles in 1950 when Jerry was a senior at Fairfax High and Mike was a freshman at Los Angeles City College. The budding songwriters began their association with Lester Sill, who signed on as their agent, in early 1951.
"I was a clerk in a record shop on Fairfax Avenue and I was about 16," Leiber told interviewer Adrian Wootton in 2001. "School finished at 3, and I worked from 3:30 to 6:30. One day a man came in who was very well dressed. He was wearing a beige suit with a very thin blue stripe, and I was wondering where I could get a suit like that. His name was Lester Sill, and he was the head of promotions and sales at Modern Records. (We) started chatting, and he had some records under his arm and he said, 'When you grow up, what do you want to be?' I said, 'I'm going to be a songwriter.' He said, 'That's interesting, have you written any songs?' I said, 'I've written some lyrics, but I don't really have any music. They're actually all written to eight-bar/twelve-bar blues.' He said, 'Why don't you sing me one?' So I sang about eight bars of a song and he said, 'You're a songwriter, that's a good song. Now you've got to get some music to it.' He said, 'I met a guy who played the dance last week and he's a real good piano player. I think you should call him up, he'd be very interested in writing songs.' Well, I took the number right away because Lester Sill told me I was good, and if I got a lead sheet on a song, then he'd take me someplace. So I called him up." Stoller, in fact, wasn't interested in writing music, but Leiber was persuasive. Soon, a partnership was formed.
"(Lester) introduced us to Modern Records, to the Robins, to Gene Norman, who had a blues jamboree, and to Johnny Otis," Leiber continues. "That resulted in the Big Mama Thornton record ("Hound Dog", a #1 R&B record in 1953 cut in August of 1952 with backing by Otis and his band, featuring Pete Lewis on guitar). He knew them all. Ralph Bass, King, Federal Records. Lester introduced us to everybody. That's how it started. We couldn't have cracked the music business in any way at that time, going to the major publishers. They wouldn't see us. You had to be recommended, and we had no one to recommend us except Lester."
Thornton, Jimmy Witherspoon, who was the first to record an L&S tune, (the live recorded "Real Ugly Woman" in December, 1950), Floyd Dixon, Roy Hawkins, Charles Brown, and Little Willie Littlefield (who first recorded the classic "Kansas City" as "K. C. Lovin'" in August, 1952) were among the artists cutting Leiber and Stoller compositions in 1951-52 while the Robins virtually disappeared from the radar.
Press releases from the era suggest that several of the group's members had entered the military, although available records have failed to provide specifics. A few of the Robins, however, were making more money pimping than performing. "Some, I understood, had left to join the army," Gardner explained in his 2007 autobiography. "(But) Billy Richard, assisted by his dutiful wife who was known as Big Helen, the madam, ran a very exclusive house of prostitution in Los Angeles. Ty Terrell also had his own little hustle going (as) favorite errand boy for the legendary Hollywood producer, Jack Warner."
Bobby Nunn remained active in music circles during the Robins' down period and appeared at the center of several litigations between Savoy and Hamptone Records, which had recorded him as a soloist back in 1949. Once resolved, Nunn and Little Esther teamed up for "Double Crossin' Blues" producer Ralph Bass, cutting "Saturday Night Daddy" and "You Took My Love Too Fast" for Federal on July 25, 1952.
In early 1953, Jack Lewis, a young entrepreneur who owned California Music, a one-stop distributorship in Hollywood, and was also working as a manager and producer for several artists, hooked up the Robins, jazz trumpeter Shorty Rogers, and Milt Trenier with RCA Victor Records. By this time, the group had become a quintet, adding tenor Grady Chapman, who was born in Greenville, South Carolina on October 1, 1929. "Grady was brought in to share leads almost equally with Bobby Nunn," Gardner explains. "With Grady and Bobby, the Robins made some fine recordings." By this point, Chuck Landers, promoter and disc jockey Gene Norman's business partner, had taken over the role of Robins' manager.
With Shorty Rogers leading the band, the Robins cut four tunes in Hollywood in January of 1953, including the soulful, "A Fool Such As I"/"My Heart's The Biggest Fool", which became their RCA debut the following month. The equally spellbinding "How Would You Know" emanated from a four-song session held in late July with veteran arranger and tenor saxist Maxwell Davis at the helm.
Arguably, the first Robins session to make use of the comic stylings that would later blossom into a Coasters trademark took place on September 15, 1953, resulting in the entertaining "Empty Bottles", produced by Danny Kessler, the rocking "Get It Off Your Mind", in which Nunn and Chapman assume the roles of a bickering man and woman, and the equally amusing "Ten Days in Jail", which was written and produced by Leiber and Stoller.
Despite a near half-dozen releases on RCA in 1953, the Robins remained street hustlers, doing their best to earn a buck. Late that year, they returned to the Biharis, where Sill had spent 10 years as a sales manager, recording six songs which would be issued under the names Drifters (Crown 108, 1954), Robins (Crown 106), and Robbins (Crown 120).
According to Gardner, "Ten Days in Jail", if it wasn't inspired by, certainly mirrored Chapman's own penchant for running afoul of the law. "When Ty Terrell asked me to be their lead singer in late 1953, Grady was serving time in jail," he explains. Born in Tyler, Texas on April 29, 1928, Carl Edward Gardner headed West in the hope of establishing a singing career, and settled in Watts in early 1953. Frequenting the local clubs, he first heard and met the Robins at Johnny Otis' new club, the Oasis, and was introduced to the members by Otis himself.
The Robins became familiar with Gardner's powerful tenor on the club circuit as well, and when Chapman became incarcerated, Terrell approached Gardner about filling in. "I didn't come to L. A. to be with (a) group, (but) I needed a job desperately, so I agreed. After all, it would give me high visibility and would only be for a short time 'til Grady got out. Right away, I wanted to incorporate some of my pop tunes and styling into the act but our manager, Chuck Landers, balked at the idea."
Meanwhile, on February 28, 1954, a press release was issued announcing the formation of Leiber and Stoller's Spark Records, with Lester Sill on board as national sales manager. "My father came up with the idea," Stoller told researcher Randy Poe. "The partners were Lester, my dad (Alvin), a friend of Lester's named Jack Levy, and Jerry and myself." The company, started with a $4,000 investment, was a result of the team being stiffed by Peacock owner Don Robey after Thornton's "Hound Dog" hit #1. "That started Spark Records," Stoller confirms. "Not getting paid on a million-selling record sparked the idea that we could have our own record company and our own publishing company. The idea was that Jerry and I shouldn't end up being screwed out of our royalties again."
In addition, the team would finally have the opportunity to produce and present music as they saw fit. "By the time the Spark situation arose, we had been in the business a couple of years and we'd seen some A&R men mess up our music, misunderstand it," Leiber explains. "We just went into the studio and did what we wanted to do," Stoller told Wootton. "But we had a few people that you could say were mentors, people like Maxwell Davis. He would supervise sessions like 'Kansas City', and we would learn things from watching somebody who knew what they were doing. The Robins recorded our second song in 1951 and they were an existing group, and we had worked with them at RCA Victor, and when we formed our own label, they were a group that we knew were around so we started working with them."
Sessions at Radio Recorders on Santa Monica Boulevard and later in Bunny Robyn's Master Studios on Fairfax Avenue, produced, among
others, the ethereal ballad, "If Teardrops Were Kisses", novelty tunes like "The Hatchet Man" and "Whadaya Want?", which Chapman led, making the group a sextet, and the comical classic, "Riot In Cell Block #9". With its siren and machine gun opening inspired by the old radio series Gang Busters, Leiber and Stoller's seriocomic tale of prison life sold close to 100,000 copies, a good number for a tiny startup independent like Spark. "I remember rehearsing that in our little office on Crenshaw," Stoller told interviewer Randy Poe in 1992. "We were really unhappy with the reading that Bobby Nunn was giving it, so we asked Richard Berry to come in, and he just gave it an incredible reading right away." "Bobby didn't want to do the song," Terrell opined more than 40 years later. "What we didn't know at the time was that (Leiber and Stoller) understood our culture better than we did."
In addition to Sill's skill as a salesman, he also knew enough about the business to keep costs down. "Sometimes a businessman like Mr. Sill would offer the owner of a recording studio a small percentage of potential royalties, instead of actual monetary payment, to keep his expenses down," songwriter and pianist Al "B. Bumble and the Stingers" Hazan explains. "Since Mr. Sill had a reputation for being successful, it wasn't hard for him to work such deals. The usual amount paid to the studio in such a case would be between one-half to one cent per record sold. Sometimes a recording studio could make more on one of those deals, if the record was a hit, then they might make the rest of the year renting studio time." Somewhere along the way, Sill also became the Robins' manager.
National distribution for Leiber and Stoller's product, however, remained a difficult problem, particularly on the East Coast. That issue was solved within weeks of the Robins' final Spark release, the Gardner-led "Smokey Joe's Cafe", which appeared in September of 1955. The song was intelligent, funny, and very popular on the West Coast. Soon audiences and rival record company executives began to take notice. "Beginning with 'Smokey Joe's', the songs started to grow into what they were going to become, three-minute playlets – much like radio plays," Leiber told Poe.
In November, Leiber and Stoller met with Decca Records about a possible deal that would have moved all of their artists, masters, and production to the major industry player. Decca would get the services of L&S, sales chief Lester Sill, the Robins and several other artists on their talent roster. Sill, who was becoming more involved in the publishing and concert promotion field, also owned a distributorship, Platter Sales Company, which operated out of an office on Melrose Boulevard in Hollywood.
The deal with Decca, however, failed to materialize. "We couldn't get into the major record labels, fortunately as it turns out, because we weren't writing the kind of things that they wanted," Stoller explains. "The only labels that were interested in what we were doing were independent rhythm and blues record labels." Enter Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, and Atlantic Records.
"'Smokey Joe's' got to Atlantic through Nesuhi Ertegun, who was (on the West Coast)," Stoller recalls. "He made his brother and Jerry Wexler aware of these big hit R&B records that were getting some pop airplay also and selling widely in the L. A. area. They listened to our stuff, and approached us with the notion that we give up the record company and make records for them."
"Leiber and Stoller felt that they needed to move on, so when Atlantic made an offer that they couldn't refuse, they sold out the entire Spark label," Gardner sums. "They were having distribution problems. This deal would allow them to be independent producers for the Atco label, a division of Atlantic. Leiber and Stoller asked me to come with them to this new label."
By this point, dissention had begun to plague the Robins. "I began to get the feeling that the guys were not interested in going anywhere," Gardner writes. "They were quite satisfied with their careers as they were. I wanted more. I was constantly working and rehearsing and thinking of ways to improve the overall act. We became more sophisticated, more stylish. (But) there was constant bickering among some of the guys (and) some started to drink heavily. The other Robins were not too happy about the deal (with Atlantic) and decided that they would stay in Los Angeles as the Robins. Lester Sill was to select the name for the (new) group."
"After we got together, Jerry and Mike asked me if I knew anyone who would like to join us," Gardner continues. "I asked Bobby Nunn if he would leave the Robins, and he did. I then asked a guy by the name of Billy Guy, who lived on 38th Place, just across from where I lived, if he was interested in joining a group."
Born in Itasca, Texas, Delmar "Billy Guy" Phillips (1936-2002) had been singing at Otis' Oasis club and also recorded with Emmanuel Perez as Bip & Bop for Aladdin Records in 1955. He accepted the offer, as did Nunn's friend, Thomas "Leon" Hughes, a veteran of the Hollywood Flames and Lamplighters born in Los Angeles County on August 26, 1932.
"When Atlantic offered us the opportunity to work with them and produce records, two of the guys came with us and the rest of them went with their manager who formed another label that didn't survive for very long," Stoller states. "We needed two other people to give us the right kind of voices. So we did form the Coasters, but we didn't form the Robins."
Why Lester Sill didn't bring the Robins name to New York and Atco Records with Leiber and Stoller has been a matter of conjecture for years. Terrell contends that he had copyrighted the Robins name, and that the manager could not use it when they moved to Atco. In any event, the Robins - Leonard, the Richard brothers, Grady Chapman, and 19 year-old utility voice H. B. Barnum - signed on to disc jockey Gene Norman's new Whippet label, recording "Cherry Lips" and "Out of the Picture".
Initially, Atco reissued "Smokey Joe's Cafe" by the Robins and chalked up national sales in the 100,000 range. The record hit #10 on the national R&B chart and became the model for the longest running musical revue in Broadway history.
On January 11, 1956, the Coasters -Gardner, Guy, Nunn, and Hughes- made their recording debut at Robyn's studio. The comical, Latin-tinged "Down in Mexico" became a top 10 R&B hit in the spring on Atlantic's Atco subsidiary with the returned Herb Abramson at the executive desk. With co-leads from both Nunn and Guy, Gardner shined on the classy ballad, "Brazil", and the B-side, "One Kiss Led To Another", cracked Billboard magazine's pop list that fall. The Coasters were on their way.
"Billy, like myself, was from Texas," Gardner recalled, "(and) turned out to be a brilliant, bold-voiced baritone. Vocally, there wasn't much that Billy couldn't do. Leon Hughes, on the other hand, was primarily a dancer and unfortunately was not one of the greatest singers. Bobby Nunn had a great baritone voice and was very talented. As we began to tour, I found this new unit a welcome change from the Robins. They seemed to want a career very badly and were apparently willing to work hard for it."
While three of the Coasters' first four recordings were appearing on Billboard's various R&B and pop charts, the quartet lived true to their moniker. Adding 17 year-old Texas-born guitarist Adolph Jacobs (born April 15, 1939) to accompany them on the road, the Coasters began their prolific touring schedule with a week at the Palace in Chicago on April 20. Touring with Mickey and Sylvia, the group also appeared at the city's Regal Theater before making their debut at Harlem's famed Apollo on May 11.
Through the summer, the Coasters shared the stage with everyone from Fats Domino and Clyde McPhatter to fellow newcomers Della Reese and Gene Vincent, and were often backed by Los Angeles pianist and arranger Ernie Freeman and his band. By November, they were in New York, appearing with the Cardinals at the Apollo. "They had almost nothing original," Cardinals lead singer Ernie Warren recalled some 40 years later. "Except for 'Down In Mexico', they were doing all of the Ravens' tunes."
After nearly a year of constant touring, the Coasters returned to Master Recording in Los Angeles in mid-February. "I was talking to Jerry Wexler one day
in his office, and he said, 'Look, I know that you guys don't write with anybody else…(but) I got a title that Doc Pomus came up with," Leiber told interviewer Randy Poe. "He can't find a way to make the song happen. Doc asked me to show it to you. It's called 'Young Blood'.' I said, 'You got it, invite me home for dinner, and I'll write it in the car.' By the time we got to his house, the lyrics were 90% written."
"Young Blood" was innovative and entertaining, infused with topical teenage lyrics and comedic timing. "Most of the stuff Jerry and Mike wrote was very funny," lead singer Gardner agrees. "They were just a great team. I often wondered how they could write so well for black artists."
Jacobs joined the group in the studio for the session. Hughes did not. "Leon Hughes was unavailable, so we got Young Jessie to come in and sub," Stoller confirmed to Poe. "Each of the guys took one of the lines, and they were cracking up when they were doing it." Born in Lincoln Manor, Texas on December 28, 1936, Obediah "Young" Jessie relocated to Los Angeles around 1950 and, by 1951, was singing with several classmates in a group that evolved into the Flairs, who recorded for Recorded in Hollywood and Flair from 1953-55. Jessie was tabbed by Leiber and Stoller to record a version of Big Mama Thornton's current release, "I Smell A Rat", for Modern in the spring of 1954, and the raspy-voiced baritone was subsequently featured on four singles for the label, including the regional hit, "Mary Lou".
"'Searchin'' was a hectic last side," Leiber recalls of the date. "We always had to get four sides in three hours because that made two singles. We were pressed for time. I think we had eight or nine minutes left." "We just got into it," Stoller continues. "I had worked out a very old-timey piano lick that struck me as being kind of fun, and it worked."
The catchy piano accompaniment, Guy's rough-hewn lead, and Leiber's imaginative lyrics, citing various detectives from television shows and motion pictures, captured the public's imagination. Paired on Atco in March, both sides quickly scaled the R&B charts. "Young Blood" spent one week at #1 and reached #8 on the pop list as well. "Searchin'" hit #3 on Billboard's pop chart and spent the first of 12 weeks at #1 on the R&B list in early June, actually replacing "Young Blood" in the top spot. It wound up being the biggest R&B hit of the year and the sixth biggest R&B hit of the entire decade according to Billboard figures. Steve Allen displayed the Coasters' gold record award and featured them on his national television show on August 25, still with Nunn and Hughes on the lineup. "Billy was actually laughing at the lyrics," Gardner confessed, watching the video decades later. "We thought it was stupid. But it was a big million-seller, just like that." Following the huge success of "Searchin'", The Coasters' first LP was released in November, comprising seven early Coasters recordings and seven of the Robins' Spark sides.
On July 24, in the middle of a Midwestern tour, the group stopped in at the Chess Records studio to cut some highly-anticipated follow-up material. "That session took place in Chicago because 'Searchin'' was such a big hit," Stoller explained to Poe. "We didn't have anything in the can to release as a follow-up. They were appearing in Chicago, so Jerry and I flew out there. We did three sides. As it turned out, none of them were hits." Two, "Idol With The Golden Head"/"My Baby Comes To Me", were issued in August. Despite the quality of the material, "Idol" only reached #64 on the pop chart. "It was never a hit, but aficionados who like certain kinds of obscure Coasters pieces always seem to like 'Idol With The Golden Head'," Leiber offers. "I love (it) because it's a funny song." The third Chicago recording, "What Is The Secret Of Your Success?", and "Sweet Georgia Brown", cut in February, failed to click when paired that fall.
"Life on the road began to take its toll on some of us," Gardner writes in his autobiography. "We started to drink heavily. Bobby Nunn and Leon Hughes apparently couldn't deal with the success and were unable to control their drinking habits. During the (fall 1957) tour, while in Virginia, they went back home to Los Angeles. I had always believed that they were just lonely for their families. I later learned that Lester Sill had fired both of them because he was tired of their misconduct." In a sworn affidavit signed by Hughes in 1960, the singer stated that "Mr. Sill called a meeting, explained the circumstances, and politely requested that Nunn and I withdraw from the group."
Before full-time replacements could be secured, Gardner and Guy found themselves in New York's Capitol Studio for a four-song session which produced the group's next release, "Gee Golly", an Alan Freed favorite, its flip side, "Dance!", and "Wait A Minute", which would remain unreleased for three years. Just three voices were present, as Gardner and Guy were joined in the lineup by another Atlantic alumnus, Tommy Evans (1927-1984), who had replaced Jimmy Ricks as bass singer in the Ravens at various points between 1954 and 1956 and recorded and performed with the Drifters from August, 1956 to May, 1958. Like Jessie, however, Evans was only hired for the session.
Faced with replacing two of the group's four voices, Sill unsuccessfully tried to persuade Jessie, whose first Atco solo disc had just hit the streets, to forgo his solo career to fill Hughes' spot. When that didn't work, Sill drafted Cornelius "Cornell" Gunter (1936-1990), a high tenor singer he knew from their mutual association with Modern Records. A founding member, lead singer, and songwriter with the Flairs, Gunter had begun recording in 1953, working with various incarnations of the L.A. group, along with the Ermines, before recording a handful of solo sides for Liberty, Dot, and Eagle in 1957. Louisiana-born bass singer and United States Air Force veteran Will J. "Dub" Jones (1928-2000), who had spent the past two years with the recently dissolved Jacks/Cadets, signed on as Nunn's replacement. Jones, who had begun his career as a gospel singer, was best known as the narrator's voice in the Cadets' national smash, "Stranded in the Jungle", also waxed for Modern. Thomas "Pete" Fox, who sang with both men in the Flairs and Jacks/Cadets, recognized them as unique talents. "Cornelius was one of those guys you couldn't categorize. He could sing bass! He sang lead on a lot of stuff. When we were doing our parts, we'd work out the harmony and Cornelius would make up a part right on the spot. He never sang it the same way twice. That's the way he was. He couldn't remember it anyway. You couldn't pin him down. He was a free spirit, but he always sang the right stuff. We were like sidemen musicians, you know, going from band to band. I was impressed with the low notes that Dub could hit. Dub was dropping down to low B-flats right off the keyboard. I remember once (arranger) Maxwell (Davis) sat at the piano and just started taking him down- dum-dum-dum-dum. I said, 'Wow, I can't believe this'. I couldn't believe he could sing that low. I'd never seen that before. I was very impressed."
Visiting his hometown of Tyler, Texas on vacation, Gardner received a call from Sill to return to Los Angeles to meet the new members of the group and prepare for a concert in Hawaii. "I thought to myself, that's not possible," Gardner admits. "How could these guys know our routine in such a short time? The first time I laid eyes on them was in the first class cabin of the jet, just prior to takeoff. Lester introduced us, and my attention quickly turned to Cornell. He was a very young, flamboyant, big guy (and) he was built like a prizefighter. But it was his appearance that gave me my first jolt and prompted me to ask, 'Are you gay, or just a big woman?' Cornell said, 'Now, what makes you think that, honey?' I replied, 'Because you look like that, sister', (and) we both just fell out laughing. Will Jones came from a musical background and was one of the greatest bass singers that ever lived."
"During our flight to Hawaii, we discussed our routines and what we would do at rehearsal," Gardner continues. "When we arrived in Hawaii, we started to rehearse for the show. These new guys were pros and we had no difficulty. Billy and I were amazed at (their) professionalism. We were a perfect team."
With the exception of guitarist Jacobs, who left in early 1959, the new Coasters would remain in tact into the spring of 1961. They moved from Los Angeles to New York with Leiber and Stoller in January of 1958. On March 17, they made their first trip to Atlantic's home studio, at 234 West 56th Street in New York City with Tom Dowd engineering. Stoller again took the piano bench with session great "King Curtis" Ousley (1934-1971) joining the band for the first time on tenor sax. "King Curtis was sometimes known as the fifth Coaster," Gardner states. "He was a sensational musician. It seemed that he could just feel the direction of our music better than any other musician. He played on every one of our New York recording sessions. His performances were always impressive, clean, and note perfect. His solo breaks on all of the Coasters' records have no equal in Rock to this day."
A novel arrangement on "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart", featuring Jones, Gunter, and a smoldering horn part from Curtis opened the date, and was followed by the humorous Gardner-led "Three Cool Cats", which took 12 takes to complete. "Stewball", based on an old Leadbelly song, wound up the session and remained in the can for more than two years. Sandwiched in between was another Leiber-Stoller classic which would become synonymous with the Coasters.
"('Yakety Yak') was written very quickly," Leiber confesses. "I had this beautiful little duplex on Washington Square in the Village. Mike came down one afternoon to work, and he sat down at the piano." "Jerry was boiling water to make some tea, and I was playing a rhythm that struck me as being funny – kind of in the mood of the Coasters,' Stoller adds. "And I just started yelling, 'Take out the papers and the trash!'", Leiber continues, "and he was right into it with the piano riff." Stoller shouted out the next line, "or you don't get no spending cash", and within 15 minutes the duo had finished the song. "It was like automatic writing," Leiber confirms. "The song just wrote itself." With fresh, comical, teen-geared lyrics sung in unison, effective call-and-response patterns, with Dub admonishing, "don't talk back!" and Curtis' stellar accompaniment, "Yakety Yak" rocketed up the charts after its April release, spending seven weeks at #1 on the R&B chart and a week atop the pop lists, earning another gold record. It also reached #12 on Great Britain's pop chart. "We had hit our stride," Gardner beams. "'Yakety Yak' turned out to be an enormous success for us and was taken as a virtual anthem by America's white youths."
The group spent nearly the entire remainder of the year on the road. Multiple trips to Harlem's Apollo Theatre, the Howard in Washington, and Dick Clark's American Bandstand television show, where their second gold disc was presented, were integrated with successful West Coast tours in the summer and fall, including a 17-day stint on the autumn edition of "The Biggest Show of Stars for 1958" tour which took the Coasters all over the Northeast and Canada.
During an East Coast swing, the group returned to the studio on August 8, cutting four songs including their next release, "The Shadow Knows". Backed with "Sorry But I'm Gonna Have To Pass", an homage to Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line", the Guy-led "Shadow" was, according to Leiber, "a musical send-up of an old radio serial entitled The Shadow". Lacking the broad appeal of "Yakety Yak", the double-sided novelty disc failed to click on a national level.
On December 11, the Coasters were back at Atlantic's New York studio, recording the song that would earn them their third gold record in less than two years. "Contrary to 'Yakety Yak', when I tried to write 'Charlie Brown' as a follow-up in the same sort of mode, it took me weeks to do it," Leiber confesses. "I remember borrowing Jerry Wexler's desk, looking out on 57th Street and agonizing over that lyric – desperately trying to get it going. In one sense, you could say 'Charlie Brown' is more artful because it was really crafted, whereas 'Yakety Yak' might be better art, but it's less artful because it was spontaneous."
An ode to an incorrigible class clown, "Charlie Brown" had it all, from its "fee fee fi fi fo fo fum" unison opening, to Curtis' rocking tenor break, to Dub's stop-time hook, "why's everybody always picking on me?" Backed with the Afro-Cuban styled "Three Cool Cats", the record hit store shelves in January of 1959 and began selling immediately. "Charlie Brown" spent three weeks at #2 on the Pop list and rose to the same slot on the R&B chart late that winter. In the United Kingdom, the record peaked at #6.
A long succession of road gigs followed, with appearances on the Biggest Stars of '59 tour, theatre dates, and visits to American Bandstand on the calendar. On television, the Coasters played the song up for all it was worth, with Dub sitting on a stool in the corner of a makeshift classroom wearing an oversized dunce cap and Gunter hoofing his way through the sax break.
By this point, guitarist Adolph Jacobs who opted to remain on the West Coast, left to attempt a solo career. He recorded "Walkin' & Whistlin'" for the Class label in the summer of 1959, led his own band for many years, and worked with a host of jazz and rock'n'roll artists including Kent Harris, Little Richard, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, and Don & Dewey. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he even played behind a Coasters group led by Dub Jones and Billy Guy.
Replacing Jacobs was Elbert McKinley "Sonny" Forriest, a 24 year-old Pendleton, North Carolina native who had already performed and or recorded with Sil Austin, Big Jay McNeely, Jackie Wilson, and Dee Clark. Unlike Jacobs, Sonny (1934-1999) was not a member of the group per se, and worked as a contracted guitarist for the Coasters from early 1959 through the latter part of 1961.
On March 26, 1959, the day before commencing their spring tour, the Coasters recorded the successful follow-up, "Along Came Jones", and its eventual B-side, "That Is Rock & Roll". A clever parody of the traditional damsel in distress television and film Western, the title was inspired by a 1945 Western comedy film of the same name that Stoller's music composition teacher, Arthur Lange, had scored. "Originally, at the end of the chorus, one of the Coasters would say, 'And he was wearin' a white hat', and another would say, 'And he was ridin' a white horse', and then Dub would come in and say, 'Well, of course, of course, of course'," Leiber recalls. "I proposed that version to Jerry Wexler, and he said, 'Man, you don't need to do that. It's funny as it is. You don't have to shove everybody's nose in it.' So I cut it."
World-renowned swing jazz guitarist George Barnes (1921-1977), who worked with blues pioneers Memphis Minnie and Big Bill Broonzy, played banjo on the session, which also included guitar virtuoso Tony Mottola, Curtis on sax, and Stoller on piano. "Mike Stoller played piano on most, if not all, of the Coasters' recordings," Gardner clarifies. "I loved the way he played, especially on our recordings in New York during March of 1959 when we recorded 'Along Came Jones' and 'That Is Rock & Roll'." "To be frank, it didn't do what I wanted it to do, which was sound like a New Orleans-type of number," Leiber recalls of the latter side. "In fact, one of the Coasters was having trouble singing a couple of lines on the bridge, so I ended up singing them myself."
"Along Came Jones" entered the Hot 100 in May, peaking at #9 during a 12-week stint. In the R&B market, the disc reached #14. When the record broke nationally, the Coasters were on tour in the Pacific Northwest with Ernie Freeman and his band.
Following a week at Harlem's Apollo with the Falcons over the Fourth of July Holiday, the group returned to the studio, completing five songs, including "Poison Ivy" and "I'm A Hog For You", which comprised both sides of the Coasters' August single. "Hog" was a song that Leiber and Stoller had been tinkering with for over a year. During their July sessions, the group was called in to complete overdubs on their original August 1958 master.
"Either side can come off for top honors," Billboard's reviewer wrote. "´Ivy´ is an interesting bit of material that compares a gal to the well-known weed. ´I´m A Hog For You´ is a peppy blues effort that is also performed with the hit sound."
That fall, "Poison Ivy" rocketed to the top of the R&B charts, hitting #1 for the first of four weeks on October 5. In 16 weeks on the pop list, the record climbed to #7, earning the group their fourth gold record. "Poison Ivy" was a surprise hit," Stoller admits. "In our minds, 'I'm A Hog For You' was the A-side. 'Ivy" was a one-taker at the end of a session. It sounded fine, but we thought it was a B-side when it came out. Fortunately, in those days, record companies didn't make single-song deejay copies, because this is the one that took off right away." "'Poison Ivy' is really the other side of the coin from 'Charlie Brown'," Leiber adds. "It's about a female teenager who's pleasure- and trouble- bound."
"We ended 1959 with a big bang," Gardner writes. ''Poison Ivy' topped the charts twice, and remained on the charts for four months. These recordings kept us on the road. The Coasters were well-received by those in the R&B market, and were totally embraced by the wider, and largely white, national market."
In October, Atco issued the group's second LP, The Coasters' Greatest Hits, a 12-track compilation, which was followed a month later with another single, the unison-led "What About Us", a story of haves and have-nots, and the Guy-led tale of a poker-playing monkey, "Run Red Run". Both sides made the R&B and pop charts, with "Red", which featured some frantic piano playing from Stoller, clawing into the lower rungs of the Top 40.
On November 26, the Coasters performed "What About Us" on American Bandstand. "I always felt that this (song) didn't come off as well as it could have," Stoller confessed to interviewer Randy Poe. "I don't know whether it was in the performance, in the band, (or) in the mix. I thought the song was amusing and, obviously, a protest. 'Run Red Run' was definitely very political and also very funny." "Once the monkey knows how to play, he knows how to understand other things," Leiber adds. "Once he understands that he's being cheated and exploited, he becomes a revolutionary."
Equally radical and innovative were the issues and ideas that Leiber and Stoller were infusing into popular music while creating a product that was topical, entertainingly funny, and commercially successful. The duo produced six new masters at a February 26, 1960 session in New York, including a version of Jimmy Dorsey's 1944 chestnut, "Besame Mucho". Broken into two parts, the song would comprise both sides of the group's March release, with the Jones-led Part 1 climbing to #70 pop that spring.
The string of road dates continued unceasingly. On March 18, they began a two-week stint at the Apollo with the Isley Brothers and Dave "Baby" Cortez. On April 16, they embarked on the latest Biggest Show of Stars tour with Lloyd Price, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Clyde McPhatter, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, and others all through the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and other Eastern states.
In June, the Guy written and led "Wake Me, Shake Me", an ode to the tardy garbage collector who doesn't want to get out of bed, became their next release, peaking at #51 pop and #14 R&B during the early summer.
In mid-June, the Coasters returned to the studio in a decidedly different vein, cutting a dozen lushly-orchestrated soft-jazz standards as solo tracks. The impetus for the new direction was Gardner himself. "Atlantic had been recording novelty songs like 'Run Red Run' and 'Wake Me Shake Me' that were more street wise. But I wanted to go in another direction with music. I wanted Leiber and Stoller to write different kinds of songs and I wanted to do pop."
After "Besame Mucho" failed to make the Top 40, Gardner approached the duo with his idea. "I felt this was a good time for me to ask them to let us do the pop album," Gardner writes in his autobiography. "They finally decided to grant my request. My excitement level immediately rose. This was my kind of music, (with) 12 songs, some by Tin Pan Alley's most celebrated writers."
A full orchestra, led by arranger Stan Applebaum, cut the instrumental tracks. "All 12 songs were to be completed in just two days," Gardner recounts. "I was totally horrified. We were not given the time needed to study what the orchestra had done. I needed to feel their interpretation. However, to my surprise, the orchestration was magnificent."
Once the backing tracks were completed, the Coasters came in to cut the vocals for what would become the One By One album in July. Gunter did "Easy Livin'", "Autumn Leaves", and "On The Sunny Side Of The Street". Dub sang "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To", "The Way You Look Tonight" and "But Beautiful", while Guy tackled "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You". "Moonlight In Vermont", "Moonglow", "Satin Doll", and "Willow Weep For Me" were Gardner solos. "For me, it was a most magical time," Gardner sums. "I truly loved that album."
Music reviewers were equally impressed. In Billboard, editor Paul Ackerman wrote that the album "taps an even broader vein of the consumer market than earlier (Coasters) records. It will appeal not only to youthful fans, but to adults of cultivated and more advanced musical taste." Disc jockeys began playing "Satin Doll" but Atco apparently resisted releasing the song as a single for fear it would fracture Gardner from the Coasters. "Atlantic refused to promote the album," Carl insists. "If the song had become a hit, I would have left to go out on my own. They (knew it). The Coasters were making (too) much money for them."
Immediately after the session wrapped, the Coasters kicked off another extended tour that took them to twelve states ranging from Maryland and Florida to Texas and Wisconsin. On July 8, they were in Chicago for a weeklong stint with Ray Charles at the Regal. On the 29th in New York, they recorded three titles including the A-side of their September single, the splendid "Shoppin' For Clothes". The song was inspired by Oklahoma-born singer-songwriter Kent Harris, who recorded the original version, as "Clothes Line", under the name Boogaloo and His Gallant Crew, for Crest Records in 1956.
"We had a rehearsal going one day, and we were a couple of tunes light," Leiber recalled to Poe. "Billy Guy came in and said, 'Man, I heard something on the radio that knocked me out. I said, 'What's the name of it?' He said, 'I don't know'. Of course, if he had known the title, or the artist who recorded it, we could have sent out for it. So, Billy recited the few lines of the song that he remembered, and I loved it. So I took the lines that Billy remembered, and Mike and I sat down and wrote the rest of it. Eventually, we sorted out the writer credits." Highly regarded by Coasters fans today, "Shoppin' For Clothes" only made it to #83 pop in Billboard and #57 in Cash Box and failed to make the R&B lists when it was released in the fall of 1960.
The tour dates continued steadily through the fall and winter months, with frequent visits to the Apollo and other so-called chitlin' circuit stops. Often, the Coasters toured with Little Anthony and the Imperials, Bo Diddley, Brook Benton, Lloyd Price, the Drifters, and Ray Charles and his Revue, including Betty Carter and the Raelettes. "Traveling through the South was not easy for black entertainers," Gardner admits. "We would travel to a gig by bus, and were not allowed to stay in any big hotels or eat in their restaurants. We would stay in black, roach-infested motels and send our (white) managers to get food for us. While on the road, the bus driver would stop in the supermarket and buy crackers and cheese so we could eat on the road." Despite their star status, the Coasters were not immune to confrontations with white racists, even at gunpoint, while touring in the South.
On December 7, a fairly unproductive Los Angeles session notable for the absence of Leiber and Stoller was produced by Lester Sill and Lee Hazlewood. Despite crack West Coast players including Plas Johnson and Ernie Freeman, it took nearly 30 takes before "Ridin' Hood", a hip adaptation of the classic children's story, was finished. That lone master would remain in the can until 1962.
From December 23 through January 3, 1961, the Coasters appeared at the annual Brooklyn Paramount Theater Christmas show, along with Chubby Checker, Ray Charles, Neil Sedaka, the Drifters, Shirelles, Dion, and others. Atco dipped into the vaults for their January release, selecting the December, 1957 recording of Bobby Darin and Don Kirschner's "Wait A Minute" led by Guy, and "Thumbin' A Ride", a holdover from the previous July sessions. "Wait A Minute" hit #37 on the pop chart during the winter and spring months. The Coasters made a pair of weeklong appearances at the Howard in Washington, performed on the NBC-TV show, Saturday Prom, on February 25, and made regular trips to the Apollo. "We were what you would call rock and roll slaves," Gardner writes. "There were times that I didn't have any money to send home. I was barely making ends meet. Fortunately, we lived in hotels that only cost us $58 a week."
Like many of the acts of the day, the Coasters took up residence at places like the Cecil Hotel and the Hotel Theresa, located just steps from the Apollo at 7th Avenue and 125th Street. "We would do five shows a day at the Apollo," Gardner recalls. "The most money we would get was $5,000 a week, to be divided among the four of us after the manager and agent took out their fees."
Back in New York, Leiber and Stoller brought the group into the Atlantic studio on February 9 to record their latest efforts, "Girls Girls Girls", and "Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)", perhaps the ultimate creative playlet. "I've always loved the out-of-tune saxophone that played behind pathetic striptease acts in fifth-rate dives," Leiber confesses. "Our saxophonist didn't play out of tune, but he tried to capture the essence of that sound." "This was the epitome of the comic playlets that we were writing fot the Coasters," Stoller adds. "I think 'Little Egypt' was really the last word in that bag. Although it wasn't as big a hit as 'Yakety Yak', 'Charlie Brown', and 'Along Came Jones', I think it was more interesting in the construction."
Atco saw the potential in the song as well, releasing it as the Coasters' next 45 in April. They were rewarded with a 12-week stint on the pop chart with the disc peaking at #23, their highest placement since "Poison Ivy". In the R&B market, "Little Egypt" topped out at #16. An April session at Los Angeles' Gold Star Studios with Sill and Hazlewood producing in place of Leiber and Stoller again, failed to capture any magic. Of the four completed masters, two, "Hongry" and "Teach Me How To Shimmy", would be relegated to B-side status in the years to come while the others simply sat on the shelf.
"Girls Girls Girls", the story of a typical preoccupied teenager, was released in two parts in August. "We did the song two different ways," Stoller clarifies. One was in a 12/8 feel and the other was sort of a march. They both sounded pretty good, so we ended up putting them out back-to-back." Although the song would later be recorded by Elvis Presley as the title track of a 1962 motion picture, Part II of the Coasters original barely scraped the Hot 100, stalling out at #96.
By this point, changes had begun within the Coasters organization. "Leiber and Stoller's comical compositions had always been tailored to suit Billy and myself from the start," Gardner writes. "I would say that Billy and I were the essence and backbone of the Coasters. Cornell was not. His flamboyance and gaiety on stage began to distract from our usual routines. Cornell did get us laughs, but, unfortunately, it was not the type of laughs that I wanted. To his dismay, the Coasters just did not have a spot for another lead singer like Cornell Gunter. Being very talented, extremely slick and underhanded, Cornell would eventually find who and what he wanted. That was when he decided to leave."
Manager Lester Sill, who remained on the West Coast and was becoming more and more active in the production end of the business with Lee Hazlewood, turned over the managerial reigns of the Coasters to veteran New Yorker Pat "Lover" Patterson. A one-time valet for the Orioles, Patterson had managed the Five Crowns and Ben E. King, and was associated with the latter before, during, and after his stint with the Drifters. "He was a manager, one of the singers, I guess talent coordinator for the local talent in Harlem," King recalled to interviewer Gary James in 1993, "He was living right across the street from where my dad had his restaurant."
Patterson suggested the ultimate replacement for Gunter in the person of Earl "Speedo" Carroll, lead singer for the flashy, influential R&B vocal group, the Cadillacs. Born in New York City on November 2, 1937, Carroll and his group, originally formed at P.S. 139 in Harlem as the Carnations, had a long string of successful singles for Josie Records, beginning with "Gloria" in 1954. "Speedo", a #3 R&B hit in early 1956 became the group's signature tune. With dancing tutledge provided by the famous team of Honi Coles and Cholly Atkins, eye-catching suits, crisp arrangements and backing from Jesse Powell and his band, the Cadillacs were fan favorites with ballads like "You Are" and "The Girl I Love" and jump tunes including "Woe Is Me", "Peek-A-Boo", and "My Girlfriend". Carroll was a born showman, infusing the comedic stylings of black actor Mantan Moreland to the rock'n'roll stage. Having gone from Josie to Mercury/Smash in 1960, Carroll had failed to click with a new label and an all new group of Cadillacs.
"I had management problems," Carroll explained to XM Satellite Radio disc jockey Matt The Cat in 2007. "We couldn't see eye to eye and things weren't going (as) well as I thought it should be. I was offered different positions elsewhere. I thought about it, and I talked to my family about it, and I spoke to the guys, and they thought it was a good move that I was making, being that I wasn't happy in the position I was in. So, I made a move, and that's basically when I went with the Coasters. They offered me a position. They were going to Chicago for nine days. 'They said 'Speedo, we'd love to have you in the group. Think about it. We'll be back in nine days and if you want the spot, you've got it.' I said O.K."
When the Coasters returned from a trip to the Regal with Ray Charles and Betty Carter, Carroll made the move. "I thought about it, and I said I'm going to take a shot at it. I went with them, and I stayed with them over 20 years. It was a good experience. I traveled all over Europe and America and I was happy. We made arrangements for me to change my position with them after a while. I was on salary at first, and then I was made one of the four partners with the group." "Speedo was very funny," Gardner declares. "He blended quite well into our kind of shows."
On September 25, the new lineup entered the studio with the Upsetters, a dynamic and popular stage band that had worked and toured with Little Richard, Little Willie John, and Sam Cooke. "(Ain't That) Just Like Me", led by Guy, and the Gardner-fronted "Bad Blood" were recorded and became the group's next coupling in November. Both sides failed to make the national charts.
Four days after the session, the group began a new tour at New York's Rockland Palace, located at West 115th Street and 8th Avenue. Billed as the "Battle of the Century Tour", the show starred Jackie Wilson and Jerry Lee Lewis and also included Ruth Brown, the Vibrations, and Chris Kenner. The troupe played clubs and concert halls in the Northeast and Midwest through the end of October.
Two older tracks, "Ridin' Hood" and "Teach Me How To Shimmy" were released as the next Atco single in February, 1962, but also failed to draw much attention. That month, Sonny Forriest left and was replaced by Thomas "Curly" Palmer, a veteran R&B stage guitarist who was born in El Paso, Texas on August 15, 1929. Unlike Forriest, Palmer, who had worked in the bands of Lloyd Price and Sonny Thompson, became an official member of the Coasters, and has played on all of the group's studio dates and road gigs for nearly 47 years.
In March, the group was back at the Apollo for a week with Price, Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, and Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns. On May 11, the Coasters performed before 13,000 fans on a blockbuster Porky Chedwick produced concert at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, along with nearly a dozen other groups.
On July 31, two new songs were recorded at Atlantic's new New York studio, "Bull Tick Waltz", and "The Slime", which Leiber and Stoller subsequently changed to "The Climb". "We came in with 'The Slime', and Jerry Wexler said, 'Man, that's a very noxious title. Please don't do that,'" Leiber recalls. "We said, 'But, it's a send-up. They're doing the Mashed Potato and the Slop. We want to top the Slop with the Slime!' He said, 'I don't think you have to do that.' So, we changed the song to 'The Climb'. In the end, it didn't really make much sense, but the French went nuts over it. It was a hit in France, and they even came out with a diagram of how to do Le Climb!"
"The Climb", with Dub leading, was issued in September, backed with an instrumental version of the song. The group's fourth LP, Coast Along With The Coasters, was issued in August. That summer, Billy Guy made his debut as a solo artist, recording under his own name for ABC-Paramount. Since the Coasters' name was owned by their management and the artists themselves were likely contracted as employees, Guy would probably not have had a pact with Atco and thus was free to sign on with anyone as a soloist. His first single, "As Quiet As It's Kept", was followed by a fall release, "She's A Humdinger".
Guy continued to record and tour with the Coasters, who remained busy through the fall and winter months. In September, they appeared with the Contours and Aretha Franklin at the opening of a new Pittsburgh club called the Zanzibar. In November, they were featured at the Apollo with Sam Cooke and the Crystals for a week before heading back to Pittsburgh for another Chedwick spectacular at the Syria Mosque Theater with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, the Isley Brothers, Olympics, Clovers, Little Esther, and others.
On January 10-11, 1963, a one-song session produced "The P.T.A.", a Guy-led Leiber and Stoller production that was released as the A side of their 22nd Atco single later that month. It sank without a trace. It was a harbinger of difficult times ahead for Gardner and the Coasters.
As Leiber and Stoller's work took on more of a biting, social commentary, creative differences with Atlantic/Atco and the Coasters themselves began to develop. "There are only so many 'Charlie Brown's and 'Yakety Yak's you can do," Leiber relates. "The things that seemed exciting for us by then were songs that were deemed by the record companies- and by the Coasters themselves to some degree- to be too inflammatory," Stoller adds. "I was becoming more and more disturbed with the lyrics of our songs," Gardner agrees. "In the back of my mind, I could often hear Johnny Otis' voice telling me how far I had gotten off track. I knew I was losing my pride and professionalism. I was now getting deeper and deeper into the liquor bottle. I was drinking up to two fifths of booze a day. The road had cost me my wife and children due to excessive travel. Many nights in my hotel room, I would cry myself to sleep."
With an eye on independent production work, Leiber and Stoller branched out in 1964, leaving Atco to form Red Bird Records. Their first effort, the Dixie Cups' "Chapel Of Love", spent three weeks at #1 that spring. Eleven of the label's initial 30 singles hit the top 40, including the Shangri-Las' "Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)" and "Leader Of The Pack". Utilizing the talents of the songwriting duo Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Leiber and Stoller were as successful as ever.
Guy continued edging toward a solo career, leaving the group for extended periods of time beginning in 1963. A late summer project with Harold Logan and Lloyd Price's Double-L label produced "Women (The Prophet)". During Guy's absences, Gardner, Carroll, Jones, and Palmer enlisted the services of Billy's one-time writing partner, Vernon Harrell, to fill the void on stage.
Soon, the group had to contend with competing road groups led by Gunter and Nunn. After leaving the Coasters, Cornell had formed D's Gents with several others including Dells' veterans Johnny Carter and Chuck Barksdale, touring as Dinah Washington's backup group. After waxing a pair of unsuccessful solo singles for Warner Brothers in 1962, Gunter formed his own Coasters in late 1963 with former Penguins Randy Jones, Teddy Harper, and Dexter Tisby. "He became my first parasite," Gardner candidly admits, and "was quickly embraced by none other than Dick Clark. From this point on, Dick would not hire the real Coasters, but would always use Cornell's phony group. They would work all over the United States and were preventing (us) from getting any work."
Bobby Nunn formed a West Coast-based group that year as well, using the name The Coasters Mark II. After being dismissed from the group in 1957, Nunn and Hughes teamed up with Billy Brown, Burrell Carpenter, and Andre Goodwin to record two singles as the Dukes for Flip Records in 1959. "How'd you like to sing with the Coasters under another name?" Hughes asked Brown, his Watts neighbor, according to researcher Steve Propes. Brown sang lead on a sweet ballad called "I Love You", but the act soon drifted apart. Next, Nunn recorded with Native American voice actress Ginny Tyler and provided background vocals on some of Dorsey Burnette's sides. With Robins' founder Billy Richard's nephew, Billy Richard, Jr., Alley Cats and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans alumnus Bobby Sheen (1941-2000), and, later, Robins' lead Grady Chapman, Nunn grabbed his share of gigs in California, eventually snaring the bass singing Randy Jones away from Gunter's group. "We found our performance fee constantly low-balled by Cornell," Gardner explains. "He was extensively booked, and (stated) he owned the Coasters name exclusively. That was just one of the many lies Cornell would tell."
With Gunter and Nunn working for cheaper money and the departure of Leiber and Stoller from Atco, the official Coasters were facing numerous challenges. "The Coasters still had several years to go with Atlantic Records," Gardner writes. "Our contract wouldn't expire until March (of 1966). By this time, Lester Sill had left us (as well). Atlantic did not know what to do with us. Over the next couple of years, Atlantic would release just one record a year for us. That was all they had to do per our contract."
The company decided to record a live album featuring several of their acts, Otis Redding, the Falcons, Doris Troy, Rufus Thomas, Ben E. King, and the Coasters at the Apollo Theater on November 16, 1963, backed by King Curtis and his band. With Nesuhi Ertegun and Jerry Wexler producing, the album Apollo Saturday Night was a moderate success.
Two of the four Coasters' recordings, "T'Ain't Nothin' To Me", a show-stopping comedy bit with cap pistols, and the Carroll-led "Speedo's Back In Town", a variation on his 1958 Cadillacs' recording, "Speedo Is Back", were edited, mixed, and paired as a single in February of 1964. "T'Ain't Nothin' To Me" spent six weeks on the Cash Box R&B chart that spring, peaking at #20 and hitting #64 on Billboard's pop chart, their best chart showing in three years.
Down on his luck, James "Pookie" Hudson (1934-2007), lead singer of the Spaniels and writer of their classic "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite", ran into the Coasters while they were appearing at the Apollo in 1964. As old friendships were renewed, the group brought Hudson to Charlie Singleton at Chase Records on West 144th Street. Hudson, Gardner, Guy, Carroll, and Jones, recorded one single for the label under the name of the Individuals. "Wedding Bells", a unison-led uptempo, was backed with "Pillow Wet With Tears", featuring Hudson. This wasn't the Coasters' only uncredited background appearance. The group is believed to have backed up former Drifters lead Bobby Hendricks on his 1958 hit, "Itchy Twitchy Feeling".
One of multi-award winning composer Keni St. Lewis' earliest efforts, "Bad Detective", a novelty tune that fit the Coasters' style perfectly, was the focus of a four-song session held at Atlantic's West 60th Street studio on December 17, 1963. Veteran arranger-producer and musician Charles Calello, a veteran of Frankie Valli's Four Lovers who produced hits for Shirley Ellis, Lou Christie, and the Four Seasons, including "Walk Like A Man", and "Dawn (Go Away)", with Bob Gaudio, arranged and produced the date. "Bad Detective", and a remake of the Clovers' 1954 hit, "Lovey Dovey", were released during the height of Beatlemania in the spring of 1964 and failed to attract national attention. An August session, this time under the direction of veteran bandleader Teacho Wilshire and Gregory Carroll, delivered both sides of their October release, the Guy-led "Wild One", and a re-recording of the Robins' "I Must Be Dreamin'".
On February 10, 1965, the Coasters- with Guy and Palmer- appeared on the Shindig! Television show, performing "What Is The Secret Of Your Success?", "Along Came Jones", and "Searchin'", before a live audience. Neither side of their current release, two leftover 1960-61 tracks, was even mentioned.
With veteran R&B pianist and arranger Bert Keyes leading the band, Guy sang lead and produced two sessions which yielded the next two singles, including the original version of Ashford and Simpson and Armstead's "Let's Go Get Stoned", a #1 hit for Ray Charles in 1966. The Coasters' funky original never caught on. "Crazy Baby", issued in September, also failed to click.
King Curtis produced the Coasters' final Atco session on January 26, 1966. A unison-led version of Dallas Frazier's "She A Yum Yum", a "Mohair Sam"-influenced song previously recorded by Charlie Rich, became the A-side of the Coasters' final single for the firm, their 29th 45.
Once their Atco pact had run its course, the Coasters reunited with Leiber and Stoller, who had recently sold their interest in Red Bird. Together, they waxed "Soul Pad" and "Down Home Girl" at A&R Studios in New York City on November 18, 1966. "'Soul Pad' was about what was going on with the hippies in the Village in the '60s, incense, macrobiotic biotic diets, etc." Leiber explains. The duo had written "Down Home Girl" with Artie Butler and recorded it with Alvin Robinson on their Blue Cat subsidiary label. "Jerry rewrote some of the words, and we did it with the Coasters," Stoller adds. "It's a pretty funny song."
Leiber and Stoller took the songs to their longtime friend and former partner, Lester Sill, who was working as a consultant for Screen Gems-Columbia Music. The songs were released on Columbia's Date subsidiary in March of 1967. Follow-up sessions held at Columbia's New York studio on October 30-31 resulted in two additional singles for Date, "She Can", and "D. W. Washburn", issued in May and July of 1968. "'D. W. Washburn' is really going all the way back to the lowly character asking all the questions in 'What Is The Secret Of Your Success?'" Leiber recalls. "It's the bum on the street. I wanted to do it once and for all for Billy Guy because he was such a great clown." "Billy had a great sense of timing and knew how to sell a song," Gardner agrees. "He was a pretty good comedian."
"D. W. Washburn" made it into the pop Top 20 in mid-1968, but it was not the Coasters version that record buyers snapped up. "We loved that record," Stoller impresses. "However, I remember discussing it with the people at Columbia and they were saying that they didn't know what to do with it. They said, 'Well, it's not rhythm & blues, it's not country, and it's not really pop. We don't know how to market this.' We sent it out to Lester Sill, who was doing the Monkees at the time. They recorded it and had a hit with it, but it wasn't as good as the Coasters' version."
Will "Dub" Jones left the group in January of 1968. Both Jones and Guy had been unnerved when the group overslept and missed a flight from Chicago to New York that crashed upon landing, killing several passengers. "Billy and Will decided not to fly anymore," Gardner wrote. "This created a lot of problems, because you can't get to some of your gigs without air transportation. Bookings became scarcer and scarcer. Money became a big problem for all of us. Will Jones decided to go back to California since there was not much work and the little we got was not to support all four of us. Will was the best bass singer who ever lived, and I wasn't sure if I could get someone good enough to take his place."
Billy Guy continued to pursue his dream of a solo career, recording one single, "Foxy Baby", for Chalco, and solitary discs for GuyJim, his partnership with former Cadillac J. R. Bailey, Sew City, and Verve in 1967.
It is likely that only Gardner, Guy, Carroll, and Palmer were present when the group recorded three songs, including a cover of the Clovers' "Love Potion
Number Nine" for Leiber and Stoller at Bell Sound in New York on February 13, 1968.
A permanent replacement for Dub was found that April in Ronnie Bright, a talented and versatile bass singer who began his career with the Valentines, hitting with "Lily Maebelle" and "The Woo Woo Train" on Rama Records. Born October 18, 1938, the lifelong New Yorker had recorded with Earl Carroll in the Cadillacs in 1960, worked as a session singer for artists including Jackie Wilson and Johnny Cymbal ("Mr. Bass Man"), led his own group, Ronnie and the Schoolmates, and toured with pioneers Harry Douglass and his Deep River Boys before joining the Coasters. "Ronnie Bright, Billy Guy, Earl Carroll, and I continued to perform in small night clubs and theaters all over the U.S.A.," Gardner explains. "Sometimes we would go overseas to Germany, Canada, England, and Australia. When we toured overseas, everyone knew each of us by name, unlike Americans, who don't give a hoot and just look at you as a group of men singing."
In 1969, Vernon Harrell, who had been recording as a solo artist in addition to substituting for Guy, was replaced with Jimmy Norman, a 32 year-old Nashville native who eventually migrated to Los Angeles and worked with Jesse Belvin and the Chargers in 1958. With former Robins Terrell Leonard and H. B. Barnum, he recorded as part of the Dyna-Sores in 1960 before starting a solo career. A prolific songwriter and recording artist, Norman cut close to two dozen singles in the '60s and '70s for a variety of labels, with several regional hits to his credit. Norman's first endeavor with the Coasters came with the production of "The World Is Changing", recorded at Jimmy's Queens, New York studio and issued in 1969 on Lloyd Price's Turntable Records.
In the fall of 1971, Leiber and Stoller purchased and remastered all of their Columbia/Date recordings by the Coasters. In addition to editing and overdubbing the tracks, they produced five new masters at Electric Lady Studios in New York City. Having purchased the King label with Freddy Bienstock and Hal Neely after the death of founder Syd Nathan, the team released "Love Potion Number Nine" and "D. W. Washburn" on King in November. On December 11, "Love Potion" hit the Hot 100, and peaked at #76 during a six-week chart run. King followed with "Cool Jerk", released in April, 1972, a 1973 reissue of "Soul Pad", and a full-length album, The Coasters On Broadway, issued in December of 1972. The group also appeared in the concert documentary film Let The Good Times Roll that year.
In 1973, Guy left for good and was replaced by Jimmy Norman. He continued to dabble in music and nightclub work into the late 1990s, occasionally teaming with Dub Jones in the California-based "World Famous Coasters". Leon Hughes started his own Coasters tribute act in 1970 and was later joined on the circuit by Billy Richard, Jr., who continued on with his own group after Nunn's death in 1986. Grady Chapman, who filled in for Gardner during his illness in the 1990s, continued to lead a Robins group until his death on January 4, 2011.
Gardner persevered, continuing to tour with Bright, Norman and Palmer after Carroll left to reform the Cadillacs in late 1979. In January of 1987, Gardner, Guy, Gunter, and Jones appeared together in public for the first time in 26 years at the second annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. In May, 1988, the quartet performed "That Is Rock & Roll" at Atlantic Records' 40th Anniversary concert at New York's Madison Square Garden. Additional honors bestowed by the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation followed.
Many of the voices heard on the Coasters classic sides have now died. Gunter was the victim of an unsolved Las Vegas murder in 1990. Dub Jones succumbed to cancer and diabetic complications at the age of 71 on January 16, 2000 in Long Beach, California. On November 5, 2002, the 15th anniversary of Nunn's death from heart failure, Billy Guy died in his sleep in his Las Vegas apartment of an apparent heart attack. He was 66. Friends, including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, helped pay for Guy's funeral.
Leiber and Stoller won a Grammy® Award for the cast album of Smokey Joe's Cafe, a 1995 Broadway musical based on their work. Nominated for seven
Tony awards, Smokey Joe's Cafe became the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history. Leiber, the younger of the Rock and Roll hall of Fame duo by just six weeks, died in August of 2011 at age 78.
Successfully treated for throat cancer in 1993, Carl Gardner continued to tour with Bright, Palmer, and new members Al Morse, J. W. Lance, and his son, Carl Jr. He vigorously pursued promoters and singers who attempted to capitalize on the Coasters name with their own knockoff groups, utilizing the press, the public, and the court system to help bring about change within the industry. He also campaigned for artists rights, including health insurance and back royalty agreements for aging pioneers and helped raise money to fight cancer with a line of table coasters.
Slowed by a stroke in 2004, Gardner retired from the road at the age of 77 and turned over the lead vocal chores to his son in November of 2005. He and his wife, Veta, would continue to oversee, manage, and coach the Coasters from their Florida home for several years to come. His autobiography, Yakety Yak I Fought Back, was published in 2007. "I thank God I was able to perform for so many years," Gardner sums. "My mobility is not so good these days, and I have lost some of my hearing. I now just want to sit back and enjoy the rest of my days. I hope the group will continue on in my name."
Carl suffered from vascular dementia and congestive heart failure and began receiving hospice services in June of 2010. He died at a Port St. Lucie, Florida hospice care facility on Sunday evening, June 12, 2011 at age 83.
The complete recorded outputs of the Robins and the Coasters are available on an assortment of officially licensed products. The hits, as well as collections of outtakes, concerts, and re-recordings by non-original Coasters units can be readily obtained. Varèse Sarabande issued the Date/King sides on the 2007 CD, Down Home. That December, Rhino Handmade issued the definitive Coasters on Atco collection, There's A Riot Goin' On, a four-CD 113-track set comprising the group's complete Atco output. "Of all the record sessions we ever produced, the ones with the Coasters were the most fun," Leiber and Stoller wrote in a joint statement for a 1992 reissue project. "They were fun to work with, they were fun to be with, they were a great bunch of clowns, and they made our songs sing."
Interviews and conversations with Carl and Veta Gardner, Terrell Leonard, Earl Carroll, Randy Jones, Thomas "Pete" Fox, and Curly Palmer.
Baptista, Todd, Group Harmony: Echoes of the Rhythm and Blues Era, Collectables, Narberth, PA, 2007.
Gardner, Carl and Veta, Yakety Yak I Fought Back – My Life with the Coasters, Author House, 2007.
Goldberg, Marv and Todd Baptista, "The Robins", in Discoveries magazine, issue #157, June 2001.
"Matt The Cat", interview with Earl Carroll, XM Satellite Radio, November 1, 2007.
Poe, Randy, liner notes in Leiber & Stoller Present the Spark Records Story, Ace Records, UK, 2001.
Poe, Randy, interviews with Leiber and Stoller, and liner notes, in The Coasters – 50 Coastin' Classics, Rhino, 1992.
Rohnisch, Claus, The Coasters Web Site, www.angelfire.com/mn/coasters, also: thecoasters.com, 2008.
Whitburn, Joel, Top Pop Singles 1955-1993, Record Research, Inc., Menomonee Falls, WI, 1994.
Whitburn, Joel, Top R&B Singles 1942-1988, Record Research, Inc., Menomonee Falls, WI, 1988.
Wootton, Adrian, interview with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, 2001.
Special thanks to Eric LeBlanc for his research and assistance and Claus Rohnisch, for his editorial skill, inspiration, and efforts to document the complete history of the Coasters.
THE COASTERS – Singles Discography
Courtesy of Claus Rohnisch, The Coasters Web Site, 2008. Here,
The lineups are presented for general overview and do not always fit with issue dates. Label and catalogue number followed by month/year of issue and track titles (with lead singers and recording dates).
The Robins (featuring Carl Gardner)
(Carl Gardner, Bobby Nunn, Terrell Leonard, Billy Richard, Roy Richard, Grady Chapman) leads: CG-Gardner; BN-Nunn; GC-Chapman; RB-Richard Berry (guest lead) (Los Angeles)
103 6/54 Riot In Cell Block # 9 (RB ca 3/54)/ Wrap It Up (BN,CG ca 3/54)
107 10/54 Loop De Loop Mambo (CG 8/54)/ Framed (BN 8/54)
110 2/55 If Teardrops Were Kisses (CG, 2/54)/ Whadaya Want? (GC 2/54)
113 4/55 One Kiss (CG 8/54)/ I Love Paris (GC 2/54)
116 6/55 I Must Be Dreamin (CG 8/54)/ The Hatchet Man (BN 2/54)
122 9/55 Smokey Joe´s Cafe (CG ca 8/55)/ Just Like A Fool (CG ca 8/55)
6059 10/55 Smokey Joe´s Cafe (CG)/ Just Like A Fool (CG) - reissue
(All of the above later issued on EP, LP and CD compilations as The Coasters).
(Carl Gardner, Bobby Nunn, Billy Guy, Leon Hughes) leads: CG-Gardner; BN-Nunn; BG-Guy (Los Angeles, Chicago*, New York**)
6064 2/56 Down In Mexico (CG 1/11/56)/Turtle Dovin´ (CG 1/11/56)
6073 7/56 One Kiss Led To Another (CG 1/11/56)/ Brazil (CG,BN,BG 1/11/56)
6087 3/57 Young Blood (CG 2/15/57)/ Searchin´ (BG 2/15/57)
6098 8/57 Idol With The Golden Head (CG 7/24/57*)/ (When She Wants Good Lovin´) My Baby Comes To Me (BG 7/24/57*)
6104 11/57 Sweet Georgia Brown (CG,BG,BN 2/12/57)/ What Is The Secret Of Your Success? (BG 7/24/57*)
6111 1/58 Gee, Golly (BG 12/4/57**)/ Dance! (CG 12/4/57**)
(Gardner, Guy, Will Jones, Cornell Gunter) leads: CG-Gardner; BG-Guy; WJ-Jones, CoG-Gunter (New York)
6116 4/58 Yakety Yak (unison 3/17/58)/ Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart (WJ,CoG 3/17/58)
6126 8/58 The Shadow Knows (BG 8/8/58)/ Sorry But I´m Gonna Have To Pass (WJ 8/8/58)
6132 1/59 Charlie Brown (unison 12/11/58)/ Three Cool Cats (CG 3/17/58)
6141 5/59 Along Came Jones (joint leads 3/26/59)/ That Is Rock & Roll (CG 3/26/59)
6146 8/59 Poison Ivy (CG,BG 7/16/59)/ I´m A Hog For You (unison 8/8/58, edited 7/17/59)
6153 11/59 What About Us (unison 7/16/59)/ Run Red Run (BG 7/23/59)
6163 3/60 Besame Mucho (Part I) (WJ 2/26/60)/ Besame Mucho (Part II) (unison backing vcls 2/26/60)
6168 6/60 Wake Me, Shake Me (BG 2/26/60)/ Stewball (BG 3/17/58)
6178 9/60 Shoppin´ For Clothes (BG,WJ 7/29/60)/ The Snake And The Book Worm (CG,CoG 2/26/60)
6186 1/61 Wait A Minute (BG 12/4/57)/ Thumbin´ A Ride (CG 7/29/60)
6192 4/61 Little Egypt (Ying-Yang) (BG 2/9/61)/ Keep On Rolling (CG,CoG 2/26/60)
6204 8/61 Girls Girls Girls (Part I) (BG 2/9/61)/ Girls Girls Girls (Part II) (BG 2/9/61)
(Gardner, Guy, Jones, Earl Carroll) leads: CG-Gardner; BG-Guy; WJ-Jones; EC-Carroll (New York, Los Angeles*)
6210 11/61 (Ain´t That) Just Like Me (BG 9/25/61)/ Bad Blood CG (9/25/61)
6219 2/62 Ridin´ Hood (unison 12/7/60*)/ Teach Me How To Shimmy (BG 4/10/61*)
6234 9/62 The Climb (vocal) (WJ 7/31/62)/ The Climb (instrumental) (7/31/62)
6251 1/63 The P.T.A. (BG 1/11/63)/ Bull Tick Waltz (BG 7/31/62)
6287 2/64 T´Ain´t Nothin´ To Me (BG,WJ 11/16/63)/ Speedo´s Back In Town (EC 11/16/63)
6300 5/64 Bad Detective (BG 12/17/63)/ Lovey Dovey (CG 12/17/63)
6321 10/64 Wild One (BG 8/28/64)/ I Must Be Dreaming (BG,CG 8/28/64)
6341 2/65 Lady Like (unison 2/26/60)/ Hongry (BG 4/10/61*)
6356 5/65 Let´s Go Get Stoned (BG 4/21/65)/ Money Honey (unison 4/21/65)
6379 9/65 Crazy Baby (BG 4/21/65, edited 9/8/65)/ Bell Bottom Slacks And A Chinese Kimono (She´s My Little Spodee-O) (CG 4/21/65, edited 9/8/65)
6407 3/66 She´s A Yum Yum (unison 1/26/66)/ Saturday Night Fish Fry (BG 1/26/66)
1552 3/67 Soul Pad (BG,EC 11/18/66)/ Down Home Girl (BG 11/18/66)
1607 5/68 She Can (BG,CG,EC 10/30/67)/ Everybody´s Woman (EC 10/30/67)
1617 7/68 D.W. Washburn (BG,CG 10/31/67)/ Everybody´s Woman (EC 10/30/67)
504 1969 Act Right (BG 69)/ The World Is Changing (EC 69) (Gardner, Guy, Carroll, Ronnie Bright) (New York)
6385 11/71 Love Potion Number Nine (CG 2/13/68, ed. late 71)/ D.W. Washburn (BG,CG 10/31/67)
6389 4/72 Cool Jerk (CG late 71)/ Talkin´ ´Bout A Woman (BG,CG,EC; act. She Can 10/30/67)
6404 1973 Soul Pad (BG,EC 11/18/66)/ D.W. Washburn (BG,CG 10/31/67)
Carl Gardner & The Coasters
(Gardner, Carroll, Bright, Jimmy Norman) (New York)
8103 1976 Hush Don´t Talk About It (CG ca 76)/ The World Keeps On Turning (EC ca 76)
THE COASTERS – The original US LPs
Atco LP 33-101 The Coasters 11-1957 (14 tracks)
(featuring 7 Robins Spark tracks and 7 early Coasters; reissued in 1960 "simulated stereo")
Atco LP 33-111 (SD33-111) The Coasters' Greatest Hits 10-1959 (12 tracks)
Atco LP 33-123 (SD33-123) The Coasters One By One 7-1960 (12 tracks)
Atco LP 33-135 (SD33-135) Coast Along With The Coasters 8-1962 (12 tracks)
(note that the stereo version of this album has complete different masters than the mono LP, which also is the case of the Clarion LP and for some tracks on 33-371)
Clarion LP 605 (SD-605) That Is Rock & Roll 1-1965 (10 tracks)
Atco LP SD33-371 Their Greatest Recordings - The Early Years 11-71 (14 tracks)
King LP KS1146-498 The Coasters On Broadway 12-72 (12 tracks)
Trip LP TOP 16-7 16 Greatest Hits 1975 (16 tracks)
(featuring 10 Gardner-led (and Norman) revivals of ca 1973 plus 6 of Billy Guy's "solo"-recordings of 1962)
Atlantic DeLuxe AD 2-4003 Young Blood 7-1982 (24 tracks 2-LP comp)
THE COASTERS – Songs not on any single
(no live recordings included – leads and recording dates noted)Note:There are several alternates and edited masters of the singles and a second take of "Crocodile", not listed below (but issued on There's A Riot Goin' On: The
Coasters On Atco
Rhino 4CD-box RHM2-7740).
Recorded in New York unless otherwise indicated.
"Lola" (CG 2/12/57 L.A.) on The Coasters
"Three Cool Cats" (alternate arrangement CG 3/17/58) on Rhino RHM2-7740
"Crocodile" (unison 8/8/58) on MR. R&B CD-102)
"I´m A Hog For You" (several different versions-unison 8/8/58) on MR. R&B CD-102
"Hey Sexy" (unison 12/11/58) on 50 Coastin´ Classics Rhino CD R2 71090 (1992)
"Sexy (Hey Sexy)" (CG 12/11/58) on MR. R&B CD-102
"That Is Rock & Roll" (edited version, WJ 3/26/59) on Their Greatest Recordings - The Early Years
"The Snake And The Bookworm" (alternate unison version 2/26/60) on Coast Along With The Coasters (stereo LP)
All 12 tracks (6/13&15/60) on The Coasters One By One
"My Babe" (BG 9/25/61) on Coast Along With The Coasters
"The Slime" (WJ 7/31/62) on That Is Rock & Roll (alternate of The Climb – act. titled so on the LP) Note: All above are featured on Rhino RHM2-7740.
"Mohair Sam" (unison 10/30/67) on The Coasters On Broadway (King LP 1146-498)
"Shake ´Em Up And Let ´Em Roll" – demo (lead: Jerry Leiber 2/13/68) on Rhino CD R2 71090
"Down At Papa Joe's" (unison 2/13/68) on the King LP
"Mustang Sally" (BG late 71) on the King LP
"On Broadway" (CG late 71) on the King LP
"The In Crowd" (CG solo, late 71) on the King LP
10 revival tracks on 16 Greatest Hits
"Check Mr. Popeye" (lead: Ronnie Bright 1977) on Epic LP PE-34668 (various artists with Southside Johnny) The Coasters - unissued recordings
1957 I´m Fallin´ - unissued Atco (12/4)
1960 Dog Face - unissued Atco (7/29)
1961 Weddin' Days - unissued Atco (2/9)
1961 Giving Up / I'm A Hum Dinger – unissued Atco (4/10 L.A.)
1963 Cottonfields / Skylark - unissued Atco (12/17)
1964 Speedball - unissued Atco (8/28) Note: The recordings above could not be found when research on RHM2-7740 started. Several masters were lost in a fire at the Atlantic vaults years ago
1968 Personality - unissued Columbia (prob. a demo) (2/13)
1971 Good Lovin' - unissued King (only instr track) (late 71) Note: When compiling the Varèse Vintage "Down Home" CD, no other songs were located in the King vaults but the 12 issued on the On Broadway LP.