“Hearing how Big Mama fullfilled our dream, we were the happiest teenagers in the United States of America,” Jerry Leiber said in 2009, recalling his and Mike Stoller’s emotions on first hearing Big Mama Thornton nail their song, “Hound Dog.” Four years later, Elvis Presley changed some of the lyrics and made the tune an even bigger hit, but the writers much preferred the Thornton version. “Elvis played with the song, Big Mama nailed it,” Leiber said in 2009’s Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography.
Leiber the lyricist and Stoller the composer first formed a partnership as a pair of seventeen-year-olds in 1950. Still teenagers, they wrote “Kansas City,” which flopped as a Little Willie Littlfield tune renamed “K.C. Lovin’” but became a number-one smash for Wilbert Harrison seven years later. Other iconic Leiber-Stoller songs include “Searchin’,” “Yakety Yak,” “Poison Ivy,” “On Broadway,” “Love Potion Number Nine,” and “Spanish Harlem.” Overall, they wrote 15 number-one hits for ten different artists.