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The Coasters Web Site
The Story - Quoted 
Charlie Brown midi

the original Coasters | the classic Coasters
the qualitative Coasters | the revival Coasters
the resurrection Coasters | the current Coasters



Edited by Claus Röhnisch (updated August 1, 2009)

The Coasters in 1959 with Gardner, Jones, Guy and Gunter.
The classic Coasters in 1959


The Coasters deserve their place in music history. They have existed for more than 50 years. The men who constituted the original foursome, and those who joined those hoodlum friends during the illustrious and adventurous career of the group, were all hand-chosen professional performers, who debuted during the early years of rhythm & blues. All of them contributed to the emerging of original rock´n´roll. Each and every member is (or was) an exciting individual, despite the fact that many of their hit records were sung in unison. The Coasters are probably the most qualitative vocal group in modern music. Alongside the Platters and the Drifters they certainly were the most famous "harmonizers" during the original era of rock´n´roll. At times, they even outsold their colleagues. The Coasters - with the guidance of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller - waxed some of the best rock ´n´ roll records ever produced; the lyrics, the music, the rhythm, the sound, the technique, the fun....

Arnold Shaw summarized the Coasters´ enormous prominence in his book "The Rockin´ 50s" (Plenum Publ., 1974):
"If rock´n´roll had produced nothing but the Coasters and Leiber and Stoller, it would still have commanded attention as the sound embodiment of a time and generation. They reflected the world of the young with understanding, good humor, and social insight. This was rock´n´roll at its best - ebullient, energizing, entertaining, expressive, and danceable..."

Below I´ve tried to recapture some of the more interesting remarks about the Coasters throughout the years, with chronology, as to which period in the Coasters´ long time career the statements correspond. This then, is the Coasters´ story, told truly and from a different kind of perspective. See also the year by year re-cap (50+ Years of Rhythm & Blues - with The Coasters) including essential and "trivial" facts, covering 1949 - now (edited by Claus Röhnisch).

The original Coasters in 1956. Gardner, Nunn, Guy (and kneeling) Hughes."You are about to read how two Jewish teenagers from the North-East and a number of black singers from the South met up in Los Angeles and began to change the world of music beyond recognition.... "Searchin´" .. was on the popular best-selling record charts for over six months, a term which, among rock ´n´ roll hits, was surpassed by less than half a dozen records. Incredibly, "Young Blood", the reverse of "Searchin´" was among them. ... The world wide popularity of "Yakety Yak" and "Charlie Brown" guaranteed The Coasters a permanent shrine in rock ´n´ roll´s Hall of Fame. Had they never entered a recording studio again they would have remained an institution on the strength of these two enormous hits. Any other vocal group would have followed a couple of timeless classics with a slew of records whose artistic qualities gradually diminished. The Coasters made a number of subsequent records at least as good as "Yakety Yak" including three, "Poison Ivy", "Shoppin´ For Clothes", and "Little Egypt", which brought vocal group productions to increasingly dazzling new heights."
Bill Millar, 1975 ("The Coasters", Star Books).

"This R&B vocal group hailed from Los Angeles, California, USA. The illustrious career of the Coasters, the pre-eminent vocal group of the early rock ´n´ roll era, was built on a remarkable body of cleverly comic R&B songs of their producers, Leiber and Stoller...."
Colin Larkin, editor, 1992 ("The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music").

"Leiber and Stoller began by composing - Jerry wrote the words and Mike the music, with occasional overlap - some of the most successful rhythm-and-blues songs of the early 1950´s .. Leiber, .. born on April 25, 1933, in Baltimore .. Stoller, .. born March 13, 1933 .. in Belle Harbor, Long Island ... They ... moved to Los Angeles .. met in 1949 ...  teamed up .. often misspelled Lieber and Stroller ..met Lester Sill ... and Johnny Otis, .. formed Spark Records ... became … independent producers..."
Robert Palmer, 1978 ("Baby, That Was Rock & Roll")

"Leiber: Lester Sill... took us back to Modern and this time made sure we met the Bihari brothers, who also invited their ace singing group, the Robins, to hear our stuff. We let loose with something we had just written, a different take on the Bible than what I'd studied at Hebrew shool... The Robins dug our new creation myth and cut ' That's What The Good Book Says' a month later. It came out in early 1951. A real record. Our very first, with our names on it, although misspelled... Stoller: We had our first record and, believe it or not, within a month we had our second (Jimmy Witherspoon's live-recorded 'Real Ugly Woman'; ed.note)."
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (with David Ritz), 2009 ("Hound Dog - The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography").

"Two.. in musical terms, more valuable 'white Negroes' of the period were the songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. In their glory years, roughly 1952 to 1962, the duo did for white Negroes what Elvis was incapable of: mold an aesthic in which Tin Pan Alley tunesmithing was as important a part of rhythm and blues as black skin, making it easier for whites (and middle-class blacks) to play an increasing role in the musical direction of R&B."
Nelson George, 1988 ("The Death of Rhythm & Blues").

"As soon as I joined the group (the Robins) the big bands went under, so they (Leiber-Stoller) said to me, ´Carl, you gotta´ do some rhythm and blues´ and I said, ´I´m for it´, because I had to eat!.. "
Carl Gardner, 1994 (interviewed in Now Dig This magazine).

"The Robins´ ... "Smokey Joe´s Cafe" ... attracted executives from Atlantic Records who wished to sign the Robins to their subsidiary label, Atco. Management for the group did not think it a good idea, however, and while they stalled negotiations, Atlantic lured Gardner and Nunn away from the group on their own."
Elisabeth Wenning (Michael L. LaBlanc, ed.), 1991 ("Contemporary Musicians, volume 5").

"On August 20 (1955), Atlantic debuted the Atco label... Important... was the purchase of Spark Record Company. Spark owners were Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two whites who had grown up in racially-mixed neighborhoods and knew R&B as few whites did. They joined Atco as a songwriting team, bringing with them Bobby Nunn and Carl Gardner, two members of the Robins... The Atco group acquired Leon Hughes and Billy Guy and became the Coasters. The combination of Leiber and Stoller and the Coasters proved unbeatable.."
Lynn McCutcheon, 1971 ("Rhythm & Blues").

"A many faceted deal was completed this week between Atlantic Records and Spark Associates, West-Coast writing - publishing - talent - recording combine, consisting of Mike Stoller, Jerry Leiber, and Lester Sill. The former operators of the Spark label and Quintet Music deactivated Spark and are turning over all masters to Atlantic. Stoller and Leiber... will write and acquire song material to be recorded for Atlantic..., which will be published in a new firm, Tiger Music... New plans call for Atlantic to reissue several Spark disks of last year which never received nationwide distribution on that label. Diskery has taken over artists´ contracts..... The Robins group has broken up, but Atco plans to build a new unit around the lead and bass singers (in fact Chapman, Leonard, and the Richards brothers recorded throughout the ´50s; ed. mark)."
The Billboard, November 12, 1955, (edited in Galen Gart: "First Pressings").

"Lester (Sill) told me he was planning to get together the best vocalists he could find. If he thought I was that good, how could I say different. I agreed to join up with him. Then I asked him if he had chosen a baritone yet for the group. He said he hadn´t, so I suggested the best I know, Billy Guy."
Carl Gardner, 1959 (interviewed in Juke Box Stars magazine).

Coasters ad, 1956"After 'Ruby Baby', we became aware of Leiber and Stoller again through a band called The Robins, who´d had a hit with one of their songs, 'Riot in Cell Block No. 9', which was a very clever lyric. We tried to acquire that record from the Spark label, which was run by Leiber and Stoller. Although that didn´t work out, the following year we were able to lease the master of another Robins´ song, 'Smokey Joe's Cafe', and at the same time, we made a deal with Leiber and Stoller to work as independent producers for Atlantic."
Ahmet Ertegun, 2001 ("What´d I Say" - The Atlantic Story).

"Atco Records, subsidiary label of Atlantic Records, added to its talent roster this week with the signing of a new vocal group, the Coasters. Deal was made by Lester Sill as a result of the recently negotiated lease arrangement between the now defunct Spark label and Atlantic. Group is composed of two members formerly with the Robins, Carl Gardner and Bobby Nunn, in addition to Billy Guy and Leon Hughes. First record ... is being rushed into release...."
The Billboard, February 11, 1956.

"...Atco 6064 - Here´s a new and definitely swinging crew and they deliver a couple of highly recommended sides. "Down in Mexico" is a fetching ditty which is very close to "Smokey Joe´s Cafe". This group carries the lead and bass singer from the Robins unit which recorded the "Smoke" side. On the flip the boys score again with a catchy rhythm side. Both have plenty of staying power and should move well (the record became a minor R&B hit and a so called ´sleeper´, - the follow-up, "One Kiss Led To Another", became the Coasters´ first Pop charter. The group hit the road during most of 1956 and didn´t return to a recording studio for thirteen months; ed.mark)."
The Billboard, February 25, 1956.

The original ad for "Young Blood" b/w "Searchin´"."...Atco 6087 - The group has a swingy, attractive side in "Young Blood" which is bound to pull considerable jockey attention. The rhythm-ballad has powerful lyric appeal for teen-agers, and standout trick-voicing effects. Flip is "Searchin´"..."
The Billboard, March 27, 1957.

"Searchin´" Atco single.".. "Searchin´" had a pounding rhythm from an ´alley´ piano style - essentially two bass notes, played alternately on every second beat - and with a raw vocal from the group´s baritone, Billy Guy, and suitably rough support from the rest of the group, was one of the greatest of all rock ´n ´roll hits... "Young Blood", a view of street corner society,... introduced in its arrangement a technique that Leiber and Stoller subsequently used in most of the Coasters´ songs, one of breaking up the rhythm by having the music stop and the bass singer speak a line in a deep, ´fool´ voice."
Charlie Gillett, 1970 ("The Sound of the City").

" "Searchin´" was the No. 1 Rhythm & Blues record of 1957, according to the Cash Box end-of-year recap, with its wonderful flip. In fact "Young Blood" was the original A-side and a hit in the first months of issue and also a juke box favorite. This double-sider was Atlantic Records´ first million-seller ever and established the firm as the most important independent record company in America (Theresa made it possible for me to publish my first Coasters´ discography in 1963 in New Musical Express or was it New Record Mirror?,ed)."
Theresa Garthson, Atlantic Recording Corp., 1963 (letter to the editor).

1957 Billboard ad."Atlantic executives celebrated their tenth anniversary (1957) in grand style, as the Coasters brought the label its biggest hit to date... (The Coasters were awarded a double-golden record for "Searchin" / "Young Blood" on the Steve Allen TV show in August; ed. mark)."
Big Al Pavlow, 1983 ("The R&B Book - A Disc History of Rhythm & Blues").

"The Coasters always call to mind a tag line from a record of theirs: "There´s A Riot Going On". They certainly are a riot: on stage or on records they are one of the most amusing acts in show-business. The originality of their handling of folk humor has no present-day parallel.... Lester Sill, the group´s manager, formed The Coasters in October, 1955. The members of the quartet then ....: Carl Gardner, Billy Guy, Bobby Nunn and Leon Hughes. Their guitarist, Adolph Jacobs, was added a little later. Sill baptized the foursome The Coasters to give them some identification with the West Coast, where all of them had their homes.... An important factor in the success of The Coasters is their close association with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the songwriting team responsible for so many of the biggest hits in the "big beat" idiom... From the beginning, almost all of The Coasters´ material has been written especially for them by Leiber and Stoller, who also mapped out arrangements for The Coasters´ record dates and provided general artistic supervision...."
Gary Kramer, 1957 (from the cover of Atco LP 33-101).


"Carl Gardner recalls that Bobby Nunn and Leon Hughes "never moved to the East with us. After we got on the road, we went to West Virginia and that´s the time they were called back to California and my manager, Lester Sill, fired them because of something they had done.... So I got a call from Lester Sill, who said ´Carl, we gotta go to Hawaii.´ I said, ´Lester, we just lost two guys. ´He said, ´I got two guys for you´, and that was Will Jones and Cornel Gunter. I said, ´We haven´t had a rehearsal´, and he says, ´Don´t worry about it. These guys are so good, you won´t need a rehearsal"... So was formed the Coasters (new and classic New York, ed. mark) line-up."

Carl Gardner, interviewed by Seamus McGarvey, 1997 (from one booklet in the Sequel 4CD-series - RSA CD 871) .

The classic Coasters of 1958; Guy, Jones, Gardner, Gunter, Jacobs.

"Stationed in New York, The Coasters´ most famous line-up still consisted of west-coasters: Gardner, Guy, Cornell Gunter, second tenor, and Will "Dub" Jones, bass (Leiber-Stoller decided to bring the group to the "Big Apple", where "it´s at"; later members were recruited from New York; ed. mark)."
Claus Röhnisch, 1980  (from the cover of Mr R&B LP 102).

"Stoller: Billy Guy was the comic. He had great timing and loved to play the country yokel. In real life, he was city-sharp and super-hip. Leiber: Carl Gardner,.. had an exquisite tenor voice.. Stoller: a great lead singer ... Dub had one of the great bass voices...  Some bass singers have mer volume; but Dub had both resonance and subtlety. He was an artist... In 1958, we developed a new approach to the Coasters' records. A duet lead featuring Carl and Billy."
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (with David Ritz), 2009 ("Hound Dog - The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography").

Music trade papers ad in 1958."All the trade journals have referred to the quartet as one of the most amusing acts in the business. Each of The Coasters is a good entertainer and a good musician, and together they have earned one of the brightest spots in the pop music picture in the last three years... "I knew that in order to create a first-rate foursome", (Lester) Sill reports, "I´d have to enlist four first-rate singers... As far as I´m concerned, the group turned out better than I ever hoped or thought possible!".."
Juke Box Stars magazine, August, 1959.

"Leiber-Stoller.. used every individual singers´ voice at the maximum effect, when recording the Coasters.."
Jorgen Bennetzen (Jan Sneum, ed.), 1987, 1993 ("Bonniers Rock Lexikon").

"When The Coasters moved to New York in 1958 their music changed from heavy ghetto blues to teenage rock and roll, still maintaining the highest quality, with outstanding lyrical humor.... The well-trained stage shows influenced all further groups. ... they became favorites all over the world with several hits on all continents."
Claus Röhnisch, 1973 (manuscript for Jefferson magazine).

Atco LP "The Coasters´ Greatest Hits"."... The Coasters, the perfect vehicle for Leiber and Stoller´s studio genius... Conceived as 3-minute comic operas, and scripted like radio plays, Coasters´ records are hailed as pop masterpieces... The Coasters... one of the most amusing, innovative and influental vocal groups of the rock ´n´ roll era."
Dafydd Rees - Luke Crampton, editors, 1989, 1991 ("Guiness Book of Rock Stars").

"What About Us" promo ad 1959."... the spirit of high comedy with which Leiber and Stoller imbued Coasters recordings remained. R & B was seldom more artful (referring to the move to N.Y.; ed. mark)."
Arnold Shaw, 1978 ("Honkers and Shouters").

"The Coasters, who had a tremendous year in ´58, as evidenced by their Cash Box award winning "Yakety Yak", start off ´59 with what looks like another two-market chart topper. Tagged "Charlie Brown", it´s a tantalizing, two-tempo (alternating between a slow thump and a quick beat) that the crew works over in hilarious fashion....."
The Cash Box, January 24, 1959.

"No other rhythm and blues act of the 1950s better captured the rebellious spirit of teenaged America, with the possible exception of Chuck Berry."
Lee Hildebrand, 1994 ("Stars of Soul and Rhythm & Blues").

"The arrangements of these records (the Coasters´ Atco recordings; ed. mark) used the differing character of each singer´s voice to full effect around a catchy guitar figure.. or a fruity sax break (mostly by King Curtis, born in Forth Worth, Texas in 1934; ed. mark). The production... was far superior to any contemporary group efforts; and the lyrics, humorous cameos, each neatly deriding an aspect of teenage and/or black ghetto life, were more adventurous than most other popular songs. In short, they were a unique series of statements influencing many other groups... and yet never bettered. Hilarious stage routines worked out for each song ensured that they were as entertaining in person as on record..."
Phil Hardy & Dave Laing, editors, 1977  ("Encyclopedia of Rock").

Coast Along with the Coasters (Atco LP 33-135)Two titles included in the Coast Along album and the last 1959 Atco single.

".. the best of the records produced by Leiber and Stoller in their "playlet" style... by the Coasters... were as tightly plotted and paced, and as relentlessly rehearsed, as any evening in the theater... were making rock and roll records with the most sophisticated and self-consious artistry."
Robert Palmer, 1995 ("Rock & Roll - an unruly history").

"..the Coasters, that legendary vocal quartet who added a large dose of fun to the classic era of rock ´n ´ roll... Hits poured forth combining the magical ingredients: group vocals led by Gardner´s earthy good-humored tenor, contrasted by Jones´ rumbling bass, on inventive Leiber/Stoller lyrics punctuated by King Curtis´s raunchy tenorsax solos and embellished by Mickey Baker´s catchy guitar phrases."
Mike Clifford, consultant, 1982 ("The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Black Music").

"The Coasters received their first gold record for a national million seller, "Searchin´", at the Steve Allen TV-show in August of 1957. Dick Clark, on his TV-show, presented them their second million seller award for "Yakety Yak" in 1958. "Charlie Brown" and "Poison Ivy" were national million sellers in 1959. Since the revival of original rock ´n´ roll, the Coasters have received two further gold records for "Along Came Jones" and "Young Blood". (The award for "Searchin´" was a double golden record with "Young Blood" and "Seartchin´" on a double-platter; ed. mark). In 1987 the Coasters were the first vocal group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
Veta Gardner, 1992 (unpublished interview with the editor).

The Coasters in 1958. Guy, Jones, Gardner, Gunter, and Jacobs."Showbusiness hasn´t ever seen a vocal group quite like The Coasters. True other groups have had million-record sellers, have commanded big fees for TV and nightclub appearances, and have built up a devoted following of fans. The Coasters occupy a special niche, however. Their style and approach are really not in competition with anyone else. They are in a class all their own."
Ira Howard, 1959 (from the cover of Atco LP 33-111).

"The received wisdom has it that rock´n´roll was dying on its feet during the period between Buddy Holly´s death and The Beatles´ invasion of the USA. However, the music that came out during this time – the first rumblings of Berry Gordy and Motown, the infectious New Orleans rhythms of The Showmen and Huey ´Piano´ Smith, and especially the comedy of The Coasters – was perhaps more joyous and more intensely rhythmic than anything by Elvis, Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly. The neglect of this music is perhaps down to subconscious racism, but probably has more to do with the fact that this music was producer´s music par excellence, lacking an even remotely iconic presence. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the remarkable Coasters…. "Yakety Yak" (1958) justly went straight to the top of the American charts on its release and has since become one of the classic rock´n´roll songs. The lyric itself was hilarious but it was Nunn´s basso (in fact Jones´, ed..mark) profundo ´Don´t talk back´ and King Curtis´ sax solo that made the song. This sax embodied the rock´n´ roll horn sound and would reappear on "Charlie Brown" (1959), the utterly bizarre "Along Came Jones" (1959), whose rhythm was based on a banjo riff, and "That Is Rock & Roll" (1959), which was also based on a banjo (Leiber-Stoller used banjo rhythms on several more of the Coasters´ successful titles, ed. mark)."
Peter Shapiro, 1996 ("The Rough Guide to Rock").

"Despite their fierce drilling, the Coasters sang as if they could scarcely contain their glee and might at any moment burst, like George Barnes, into gales of laughter... ´Next time this group is in town, you got to let me know. I don't want to ever miss one of their dates'. Barnes phoned (Tom) Dowd monthly, asking when he could play with the Coasters again."
Ken Emerson, 2005  ("Always Magic in The Air").

"The listener will have the unusual experience of discovering that each of The Coasters is a highly individual stylist - each different from the other."
Paul Ackerman, 1960  (from the cover of Atco LP 33-123).

"Dance!" featuring Carl Gardner; and "Sorry But I´m Gonna Have To Pass" featuring Dub Jones."In Carl Gardner and Will ´Dub´ Jones the Coasters had two of the most dominant vocal personalities of the early R&B groups. Gardner in particular always rose to the occasion - he could be swinging, loose and bemused, or he could be brooding, and deliver his vocals in a tremulous voice that suggested anything but good times ahead (in the last remark probably unknowingly referring to Billy Guy, ed. mark)."
"The Rolling Stone Album Guide", 1992.

"Leiber and Stoller´s most valuable contributions to Atlantic were records by the Coasters from 1957 to 1961 ...spent many hours in the studios with the Coasters, overdubbing their performances because with their material it was critical that the timing, the jokes fall right....."
Charlie Gillett, 1975 ("Making Tracks").

"The Coasters are the supreme comedians of rock ´n´ roll. What´s more, their impact has deepened with time. I can´t think of any other records that bring back the late 1950´s more vividly when I hear them today."
Barry Hansen, 1971  (from the cover of Atco LP SD 33-371).

The "Wake Me, Shake Me" single."The group suffered one major problem in that they created probably too many good records in too short a period of time. Inevitably, many fine recordings missed the boat. Even their "B" sides offered much more than most acts could muster as their major releases..... ever since... early in 1956, there has always been an act called The Coasters in one form or another.... They were always a hip group and when at their best, there was no one to touch them. Present day black music has no real equivalent to The Coasters. This is a great pity, as any generation can use a little fun it its music - something The Coasters always provided."
Stuart Colman, 1982 ("They Kept On Rockin´").

"The Coasters were perceived now as being ever so slightly risqué. But there was another factor. Leiber and Stoller´s success with the Coasters had made them the most féted record producers in New York, and with the Brill Building on Broadway turning out any number of up-and-coming writers... it was inevitable that Leiber and Stoller should be encouraged to work with other groups such as the Drifters. As a consequence Leiber and Stoller had less time to devote to the Coasters."
Hugh Gregory, 1998 ("The Real Rhythm and Blues").

Atco single "Little Egypt"."Leiber and Stoller worked well with the individual singers' voices, letting them speak/sing in musical playlets that often had hilarious pantomime routines for those all-important stage shows at the Apollo.... The Coasters´ ´Shoppin´ For Clothes´, with the lead spoken in canny ghetto jive, outfits a black dandy in pure, pure camel hair, gold buttons and ´herrin´bone´, then strips him when his credit is refused. Man can´t understand it. Has a fine, fine job, sweepin´ up..."
Gerri Hirshey, 1984 ("Nowhere To Run").

"The Coasters defer from the normal vocal harmony groups especially for the themes and the lyrics of their songs. They certainly are amongst the most outstanding groups of the late 1950s."
Bernd Hermoneit, Bernd Kratochwil, Karl Platten, and Manfred Günther, 2002 ("Rockin´ Fifites" magazine, Germany).

"For the (British; ed.note) Decca audition (on January 1, 1962; ed.note), the Beatles sang 'Searchin' ', the first and funkiest of the big Coaster hits..., and 'Three Cool Cats', a more whimsical (and estoric) song from 1959. On both songs, the Beatles demonstrated their own love of comic irony, and also a profound understanding of Leiber and Stoller's musical theatrics. The Coasters were, in effect, the first rock group to dramatize sussessfully the separate vocal personalities of each of its separate members: a talent that Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and (later) Ringo Starr would perfect as well."
James Miller , 2000 ("Flowers in the Dustbin").

"Charlie Brown", "Yakety Yak", "Along Came Jones" and "Idol With The Golden Head" are as entertaining today as ever."
Barry Hansen (Jim Miller,ed.), 1976 ("The Rolling Stone History of Rock & Roll").


The Coasters in 1965 with Gardner, Jones, Carroll, Guy.
Two Coasters´ 60s´ singles: "The P.T.A." and "Lovey Dovey"The original "Soul Pad" single.

"Moving to New York,... Leiber and Stoller .... (had) made an institution out of the Coasters... They got back together with Leiber and Stoller in the late ´Sixties... Nothing was wrong with the quality of those records - "Down Home Girl", "D. W. Washburn" and "Soul Pad" matched the earlier hits in all elements... ("with the right promotion any of these sides could have been a smash hit", wrote Bill Millar in his book. Date Records was an ´unknown´ R&B subsidiary of CBS; ed. mark)."
Roger St. Pierre, 1978 (from the cover of UK Atlantic LP K 30057).

Atco single "I Must Be Dreaming" of 1964 (co-producer Gregory Carroll not related to Earl Carroll)." "We used humor to take off the edge," explains Leiber. "We´d have the Coasters in hysterics. After reading the lyrics, Billy Guy would predict, ´Man, they´re gonna hang us in Mississippi from the highest tree.´ The material was potent, the matphors sometimes hidden, but the hook always dramatic. As actors the Coasters should have won Oscars." Leiber had a flair for theatrics. In fact, in another era, he could have made some fantastic white-boy rhythm and blues on his own. The demos, on which he sang lead, were terrific (just listen to "Shake ´Em Up And Let ´Em Roll"; ed. mark). He had a great growl of a voice, and it´s clear that Billy Guy, his black surrogate, was his musical alter ego."
Jerry Wexler and David Ritz, 1993 ("Rhythm and the Blues").

"No less than Curtis Mayfield had dubbed them ´my biggest inspiration´; many versions of (the) group worked revival shows, ... Nunn appeared in Phoenix a few days before his death."
Donald Clarke, editor, 1988  ("The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music").

The Coasters in 1973-74: Carroll, Norman, Bright and Gardner with Palmer seated center front.

"Too old, even then, to be considered a rock ´n´ roll group and yet with too many white, teenage fans to be considered an R&B outfit, The Coasters fall into the rather small category of vaudevillians who also made rock ´n´ roll records. They were the cast of Leiber & Stoller´s self-described ´playlets´, hand-chosen because of their individual abilities as comedians. To play guitar for them as I did dozens of times 30 years ago, was like a post-graduate course in show biz. Their impeccable comic timing, their use of costumes, and their ability to create and commit to characters set them apart in an era when so-called ´acts´ were becoming little more than people who happened to make a hit record."
Billy Vera, 1994 (from the booklet of Rhino 6-CD-set R2 71808 "The R&B Box").

"From 1962 on - for almost twenty years - the Coasters with Gardner, Jones (soon replaced by Ronnie Bright), newcomer Earl Carroll, occasionally Billy Guy, (often substituted by Vernon Harrell, and later replaced by Jimmy Norman), and guitarist Thomas Palmer, toured the world; Europe (with Germany and Britain), Australia, and the Caribbean Islands; and recorded without a major hit (except for a brief success on King Records) - often with heavy competition from fake and phony name-sakes (Gunter´s and Nunn´s groups both toured Europe). Their quality, though, never ceased.... From 1981 veterans Gardner, Bright, Norman, and Palmer have kept the group alive and have organized a relaxed, professional and highly entertaining stage show, proving that ´we can still beat ´em all´."
Claus Röhnisch, 1980 .. and 1992 (private statements after the first mail contacts with the Coasters and watching them act in Florida).

Ronnie Bright, Jimmy Norman, Carl Gardner, and Earl Carroll in Germany, 1974 (ctsy "The History of Rock", Orbis Publ. Ltd.)

"Yes, the Coasters´ records are among everyone´s favorite oldies... But there´s more, a lot more, hiding just under the surface of those bantering vocals and stuttering saxophone solos... they could retain the energy and enthusiasm that made the music so attractive in the first place but also asprie to something more - to being works of art, if you like."
Robert Palmer, 1982 (on the cover of Atlantic AD 2-4003).

"They were among the first black singing groups to truly cross over and be considered a rock & roll act, and their catalogue includes not only their famous humorous hit singles, but social protest, one of the first great rock anthems... and a wealth of future cover hits..."
Holly George-Warren & Patricia Romanowski (editors), 1983, 1995, 2001  ("The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll").

The back cover of U.S. King LP "On Broadway"."The Coasters are still cooking. You can´t keep a good group down."
David L. Rosenberg, 1973 (on the cover of King LPS 1146-498).

"Since the Coasters´ final recording, the club and concert audience has seen almost as many Coasters groups as they´ve heard Coasters hits."
Jay Warner, 1992 ("The Billboard Book of American Singing Groups").

"... the subtle interplay between the four voices supported by the superfine instrumental tracks can yield something new at every listening. The group may have been Leiber and Stoller´s brainchild but they brought a genuine flair for timeless comedy to their work which has helped it to survive these many years."
Colin Escott, 1985 (on the cover of Edsel LP ED 156).


Carl Gardner and his Coasters of 1987: Ronnie Bright, Jimmy Norman and Thomas Palmer.

"...Veta also found that it had been long enough for the public to still easily remember the Coasters´ group name and songs, but not the faces. This made it extremely easy for fake groups of Coasters to work rather steadily. So Veta wisely decided to place large full page ads with photos in all the major trade magazines, to just let people know that we were not at all dead. That we were very alive, available, and able to perform. Suddenly the phone started to ring off the hook. Veta further launched a huge written publicity campaign to revive our singing career..."
Carl Gardner, remembering 1986 - and Veta Gardner´s entrance in his life in Mount Vernon, north of the Bronx
(from the manuscript of chapter 9 of his biography "Yakety Yak - I Fought Back"; the book is published in July, 2007).

"Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in January 1987, ed. mark), the Coasters have begun to accrue plaudits for their contribution independently of Leiber and Stoller. Even so, taking the Robins and the Coasters as a progression, there are few groups who can trace their lineage back to the infancy of R&B in the 1940s."
Hugh Gregory, 1998 ("The Real Rhythm and blues").

The Coasters in Tyler, Texas on Gardner´s 60th Birthday in 1988; with Bright, Gardner, unkn. accomp. guitarist, Norman and (far right) Palmer.

"He had been shot twice in the chest through his car windscreen as he was driving, the car then crashed into a wall... Witnesses reported seeing a tall, thin man running from the scene shortly after the killing. Gunter was scheduled to open at the Lady Luck casino-hotel the first weekend in March billed as Cornell Gunter and The Coasters. ...Various combinations and shades of this group .. perform .. on .. and off .. and in 1966 he toured the UK with The Fabulous Coasters."
Tony Watson, April 1990 (Blues & Rhythm magazine) -in a report on Cornell Gunter´s death in Las Vegas.

"I, Lester Sill, declare that: ... "The Coasters".. was founded by Carl Gardner.. .. I personally filed a fictitious business name statement reserving to myself the name "The Coasters.".. In approximately 1963 (succeeded by "Lover" Patterson; ed. mark), I ceased acting as personal manager for The Coasters... In approximately the late 1960´s or possibly the early 1970´s, I executed a written assignment to Carl Gardner and the other original Coasters assigning any and all rights to the name "The Coasters" to them individually (Gardner, Guy, Gunter, Jones; ed. mark).. It is well known throughout the music industry that Carl Gardner is the leader of the group known as The Coasters. Any group other than Carl Gardner´s which calls itself "The Coasters" would be misleading the public (in 1986 Carl E. Gardner filed "The Coasters" as a U.S. Service Mark for twenty years; ed. mark)."
Lester Sill, Los Angeles, February 1, 1991
(written statement to United States District Court, Central District of California in the case "Billy Richards, plaintiff, vs. The Coasters, an unincorporated business association of Carl Gardner, Billy Guy and Will Jones, defendants").

The Coasters in 1993 with Bright, Gardner, Palmer, and center front: Norman.
The Coasters in Texas in 1993 - Photo: Veta Gardner.

"Of all the record sessions we ever produced, the ones with The Coasters were the most fun. 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 (Jerry and Mike always returned to the Coasters with Carl Gardner, when they wanted to produce good rock ´n ´ roll music; ed. mark)."
Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, 1992 (from the booklet of Rhino CD set R2 71090).

"The world wide success of "Charlie Brown" and "Yakety Yak" has ensured a long lasting fame for The Coasters far beyond the boundaries of rock n roll."
Chris Woodford, 1992 (Now Dig This magazine).

The Coasters at the Rock n´ Roll Palace in 1988.The Coasters in Georgia, 1994 with Bright, Gardner, and Norman.
Ronnie Bright, Carl Gardner, and Jimmy Norman in 1988 and in 1994 (Florida and Georgia).

"In January, 1994 the living legends of the original Coasters and Robins - Carl Gardner, Billy Guy, Leon Hughes, Will "Dub" Jones, Grady Chapman, Ty Terrell (Leonard), and William Richard (Billy Richard) were invited to the Roseland Ballroom in New York City to be presented Pioneer Awards at the Fifth Annual Rhythm and Blues Foundation  Award Gala Meeting on March 2, 1994."
- edited from a newsletter of Rhythm & Blues Foundation, 1994.

"The ´classic´ Coasters line-up of Gardner, Guy, Jones and Gunter reunited for Atlantic Records´ 40th Anniversary Party in New York in May 1988, extracts of which were shown on UK TV. (Gardner): "Will and Billy (Jones and Guy) aren´t really interested in performing anymore, apart from special occasions like that - and we sang together at a party they had for Lester Sill a while ago".. "
Trevor Cajiao, October, 1994 - interviewing Carl Gardner in Now Dig This magazine.

"... these were talented singers who put together extremely professional performances on record and stage..., they provide a... set of humorous and highly melodic musical vignettes which have both stood the test of time and given insight into a culture now long gone."
Seamus McGarvey, 1997 (from the sleeve booklets of Sequel 4 CD series RSA CD 868, 869, 870, 871).

"According to Leiber, there is still plenty of "material in the trunk" that the duo (Leiber.Stoller, ed, mark) wanted to to with the group."
Randy Poe, 1992 (from the booklet of Rhino CD set R2 71090).

"Leiber & Stoller reached their early zeniths with the Coasters. They charted twenty-four times with their pet project, which personified the playlets - two-and-a-half-minute musical radio plays. The Coasters were a group of vaudevillians, tummlers, comedians to boot, and comedians receive sustenance in delicatessens. 'They ate white food, pastrami sandwiches, never ribs and cornbread,' says Jerry (Leiber, ed.note). 'In fact, ordering pastrami was the secret of their success'. Fifty years later, the following songs are still on the tip of everyones tounge: 'Charlie Brown', 'Yakety Yak', 'Little Egypt', 'Poison Ivy', 'Along Came Jones', 'Searchin' ', and 'Young Blood'. Even though the brilliant 'Down Home Girl' and 'D.W. Washburn' were covered by the Stones and the Monkees, respectively, it's the lesser-known tracks that are the most fascinating today: 'Shopping for Clothes', 'The Slime', 'Idol with the Golden Head', 'Run Red Run', 'The Shadow Knows', 'Three Cool Cats', 'Bad Blood', ' Wake Me, Shake Me', 'Down in Mexico', 'Turtle Dovin' ', and 'Soul Pad' ".
Josh Alan Friedman interviewing Jerry Leiber in 2007 ("Tell The Truth Until They Bleed", 2008).


"Happy New Year. Received your E-Mail. Thanks. We are both doing fine and Carl is still performing. He finally got the Trademark exclusive but Larry Marshak the guy who has been putting out all the phony groups, such as the Platters, Drifters and Coasters has resurrected Billy Guy and he is giving us a real hard time. As you know Billy Guy has been out of the picture for some time now but he received some money to lie. I will keep you informed as we progress... (Marshak managed "Billy Richards' Coasters" in the '80s, later Billy Guy's
Coasters, and nowadays "The Cornell Gunter Coasters"; ed.mark)."
Veta Gardner, December 28, 1998  (in an e-mail to the editor).

"Golden-oldie singers want Congress to stop impostors. WASHINGTON: Yes, indeed, rock 'n' roll is here to stay. And in some cases, it's not only lasted, it's multiplied, with several renditions of the Platters, Drifters and other 50s favorites performing at the same time in different cities. Carl Gardner, an original member of The Coasters, has been irritated by impostors for more than 20 years. Now he's one of about a dozen golden-oldie performers asking Congress to stop competitors from using their names and singing their songs. ''These guys are making like they're the real Coasters. They're in their 20s and 30s, and I'm 70 years old,'' Gardner said Monday from his Florida home. ''This trademark law must be changed. If we don't nip this thing in the bud now, it's going to go across the whole United States with all entertainers.'' Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Charles Norwood, R-Ga., introduced legislation Tuesday that will help old chart-toppers defend their crowns. If they sue for damages under trademark law and win, the law would allow higher damages. ''You have to pay a $50,000 bond just to start a court case. That's a lot of money,'' said Gardner. ''I'm working, but sporadically. These other guys, they don't even charge the kind of money I charge. If I charge $10,000 a night they'll charge $2,000 a night.'' The groups that climbed the Top 40 charts in the 1950s and 1960s often had rosters that changed through the years. Sometimes, later-year replacements took the material on the road with their own groups, even though some members of the core group were still performing. Other times, disputes over the ownership of the group's name made it possible for entire new bands to be hired to re-create the music without any direct link to the original group."
Katherine Rizzo, Associated Press writer, March 17, 1999  (in news papers all over USA).

"They were great comedians, but they were also the most musically accomplished vocal group of the '50s. Their ensemble precision cuts the Moonglows, even the Clovers, obviating the need for a takeover guy like Frankie Lymon or James Brown. Credit tenor Carl Gardner, baritone Billy Guy, and bass men Dub Jones and Bobby Nunn, but grant authorship to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, control freaks among Atlantic's mere perfectionists--Stoller used to write King Curtis's sax breaks, for God's sake. Leiber takes off from Louis Jordan no less than Chuck Berry does; though his hyperrealism is more calculated, he brings the same bemused, admiring outsider's eye to the details and universals of black urban life that Berry brought to bobbysoxers. And Stoller's piano is invariably the best thing on records that get the most out of musicians as diverse as Barney Kessel, Mickey Baker, Willie Dixon, Panama Francis, and a young guitarist named Phil Spector, who would live to take what he learned here too far. A+"
Robert Christgau, review of "50 Coastin' Classics" (Rhino), 1992.

"Dear Claus: Nice hearing from you. I wanted to send you an E-mail but I misplaced your E-mail number. I will certainly check out your website. Both Carl and I are doing well. We have been extremely busy since the beginning of March but we are getting a break until August so that is good. We are just too old for this kind of business (smile). Don´t know if I told you this but Billy Guy is suing Carl for $1,000,000 for use of the trademark. Of course this was all Larry Marshak's idea. He paid Billy some money to license the name The Coasters to him so that he can send out several groups of Coasters. This is the same man that had Billy Richards license the name to him and after Billy Richards discontinued the relationship with him, he went and dug up Billy Guy. Billy Guy abandoned the group in the late sixties and has no right to the name The Coasters whatsoever, plus he does not perform anymore, he is just trying to make some money off the name. So I am hoping that we will go to trial in the summer (actually in January 2000, ed. mark). Will keep you posted as time goes on. Give my love to Gun. Carl sends his personal regards, All the best. Veta P.S. Will let you know what I think of the webside on The Coasters." (Marchak signed yet another "Coasters" contract in the early years of the new millennium with Shirley Gunter, sister of the late Cornell, in order to find some "legal rights" to use the name of "The Coasters" with his phony groups; Carl and Veta also fought a "Coasters" group promoted by Dick Clark during the new millennium; ed.mark)
- an E-mail from Veta Gardner, July 11, 1999.

"Will "Dub" Jones, the floor-rumbling bass voice of The Coasters, whose deadpan reading of the immortal line "Why's everybody always pickin' on me" enlivened the group's 1959 Jerry Leiber/MikeStoller–penned and produced smash "Charlie Brown," died Jan. 16, 2000, in Long Beach, Calif., at age 71." (Jones, who left The Coasters in the late 1960s, had sporadically acted with off-shoot Coasters groups featuring Billy Guy in California during the late 1970s and early 1980s; ed.mark).
Bill Dahl, Goldmine magazine, 2000 (obituary).

".. Billy .. Guy died suddenly of heart disease on Nov. 5 at age 66. .. Vanessa .. Van Klyde, a graveyard shift cage cashier at the New Frontier, never married Guy so she could not claim his body, which remains unclaimed. Despite the popular success of the Coasters, Guy, who provided the deep baritone for the legendary rock 'n' roll group, could wind up in an unmarked pauper's grave. Local entertainers and friends on Monday said they won't let that happen.... Randy Poe, spokesman for Leiber and Stoller, said Monday the songwriters will help with efforts to bury him. Chuck Rubin of Artists Rights Enforcement Corp., a New York-based company that collects royalties on behalf of Guy and other musicians, said his organization will match Leiber and Stoller's donation. ´We have an obligation, a moral responsibility, to get involved,´ Rubin said. ´Billy entertained millions of people with a beautiful expression of Leiber and Stoller's music, giving it a voice that will live forever.´"
Ed Koch, Las Vegas Sun, November 19, 2002.

"... But there were just four hitmaking Coasters from 1957 (1958; ed.note)  to 1961: Carl Gardner, Billy Guy, Cornel Gunter, and Dub Jones. Only Gardner is still alive, and only Gardner has left a substantial record--an unpublished autobiography. But the others are clear enough in outline. Bass man Jones was shy and religious yet made for comedy. He first displayed his depth with the Cadets, who anticipated the Coasters' shtick with the 1956 novelty "Stranded in the Jungle," a James Johnson-Ernestine Smith composition recommended to students of racial stereotyping. Jones quit in 1967 after he contracted fear of flying and was replaced by the title character in Johnny Cymbal's "Mr. Bass Man," Ronnie Bright. Texan-born Guy teamed with a Chicano partner in a successful L.A. comic duo called Bip and Bop when he was just 18, and was enlisted by Gardner, who knew him from the block. Endowed with timing and imagination as well as that baritone, he often devised his own deliveries, adapting or overruling Leiber. By the time he got spooked by the same airplane incident as Jones, he'd made several solo stabs, and for a while he reportedly earned a living doing blue material in Vegas lounges. Cornel Gunter was an out gay who was built like a prize fighter and served as the Coasters' muscle when things got rough on the road. As the group's best-trained singer, he often corrected the others when they forgot their harmonies, and eventually wrote some voicings himself--on "Shoppin' for Clothes," for instance. He left to back Dinah Washington in 1961 and after she fired him formed the first fake Coasters. Gunter was a notorious liar. No one knows why he was shot to death in Las Vegas in 1990. As with most musicians, the bulk of the Coasters' niggardly income came in on the road, where their comic polish was hell to follow. Leiber and Stoller never witnessed a Coasters show until well into the '60s and contributed nothing to their routines, which Guy and Gunter usually invented. Not very puppetlike. This wasn't a George Martin-Beatles or Quincy Jones-Michael Jackson situation where the operator with the educated line of patter gets credit for the genius of his social inferiors. Leiber and Stoller were the creators here. The group was their concept, the members their material; Stoller's piano was the lynchpin of the Coasters' superb interracial bands. But even in the studio Guy and Gunter were collaborators, not stooges. And Guy and Gunter weren't the guys with the big ideas--Carl Gardner was."
Robert Christgau, Experience Music Project, Seattle Washington, April 16, 2005.

The Coasters in 2002.

Carl Gardner and the Coaster in 1998.
Morse, Palmer, Gardner, Gardner Jr, Bright.

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The book cover.
as told by Carl Gardner, leader and founder - written by Veta Gardner.
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