cover image Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography

Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography

Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, , with David Ritz. . Simon & Schuster, $25 (322pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-5938-2

The golden days of rock ’n’ roll flit by in this sprightly memoir by the celebrated songwriting duo. A couple of Jewish kids with a passion for black music, Leiber and Stoller started out as teenagers writing blues ballads, penned such early, genre-defining rock classics as “Hound Dog” and “Stand by Me,” then conceived a midlife obsession with aging chanteuse Peggy Lee, for whom they wrote and produced an album of ruminative torch songs. Along the way, they went through iconic music-biz rites of passage: hanging with Elvis; working at the Brill Building; getting into financial disputes with Phil Spector, Atlantic Records and the Mafia. As arranged by collaborator Ritz, the authors harmonize well in their alternating reminiscences; Stoller is the more reflective one, while the best anecdotes belong to the brash Leiber, who was challenged to a drag race by James Dean, choked by Norman Mailer and forced to trade his car for a pair of shoes. There’s not a lot of deep insight into the creative process—the authors seem to have written most of their songs on 15 minutes’ notice—just vignettes from pop music’s giddy youth, short and sweet and catchy. Photos. (June)