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The Coasters History

The Coasters

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Based in: United States

From 1956 to 1961, the Coasters released a string of classic singles that reflected the life of the American teenager with keen wit and hot, rocking harmonies. Invariably those songs were written, produced and arranged by the duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The union of a black vocal group with two Jewish songwriters was one of the most propitious in rock history. Leiber and Stoller's witty, street-smart "playlets" were sung with sly, clowning humor by the Coasters and accompanied by the hot, honking "yakety sax" of King Curtis. The Coasters' parlayed their R&B roots into rock and roll hits by delivering Leiber and Stoller's serio-comic tunes in an uptempo doo-wop style. Beneath the humor the songs often made incisive points about American culture for those willing to dig a little deeper.

Leiber has described the Coasters' style as "a white kid's view of a black person's conception of white society." In fact, their success showed how thin was the line between rhythm & blues and rock and roll in the Fifties. "Our songs...were R&B hits that white kids were attracted to," Leiber said in a 1992 interview. "And if people bought it, it became rock and roll."

The Coasters placed fourteen songs on the R&B charts, eight of which crossed over to the pop Top Forty. From 1957 to 1959 the Coasters unleashed a half dozen singles that dominated the charts in one of the most formidable runs of the rock and roll era: "Searchin' (#1 R&B, #3 pop), "Young Blood" (#2 R&B, #8 pop), "Yakety Yak" (#1 R&B, #1 pop), "Charlie Brown" (#2 R&B, #2 pop), "Along Came Jones" (#14 R&B, #9 pop) and "Poison Ivy" (#1 R&B, #1 pop). Leiber and Stoller remarked that the Coasters "were fun to work with, they were fun to be with. They were a great bunch of clowns and they made our songs sing." It was such a potent combination of writing and performing talent that beyond the Coasters' well-known hits lies a wealth of lesser known but equally fascinating treasures, such as "That Is Rock and Roll," "Shopping for Clothes," "Run Red Run," "What About Us" and "Idol with the Golden Head."