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 (the same 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 Kirshner.
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 singing career.
Carole Klein (later known as Carole King and the subject of “Oh! Carol“, a Sedaka hit), met songwriting partner Gerry Goffin in 1958.
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 co-wrote “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 later).
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 Domino.
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 later too.
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“-EverlyBrothers, “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“-SteveLawrence “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: “Youngblood“-The Coasters
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 Drifters–
They co-wrote this with Mann and Weil.
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