Today, we think of the consummate instrument that most closely represents “rock and roll” is the guitar. But, when I was growing up in the Fifties, I thought the saxophone more closely represented what rock and roll was. I even put the piano ahead of the guitar (Jerry Lee Lewis might have had something to do with that opinion.) King Curtis plays the saxophone on “Yakety Yak.”
“Yakety Yak” was The Coasters first and only number one hit and third hit over all. They would never have another number one, but they have gone down in history as a true rock and roll original. The Coasters were mainly a R&B group. They spun off of the group, The Robins, who were a big R&B group on the early Fifties. The Coasters formed in October of 1955 and started recording records on a little known label called Spark Records.
Spark Records was started by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. They were soon bought out by Atlantic Records who could do a much better job of promotion. Leiber and Stoller wrote almost everything the Coasters recorded, including “Searchin’,” “Young Blood” and later “Charlie Brown.” Some people believe that “Charlie Brown” is named after the Peanuts character, but not true. Peanuts had debuted in newspapers in 1950, but by 1958 had not reached national popularity and it’s doubtful Leiber and Stoller had even heard of the character. So, the name is just a coincidence.
The Coasters were originally made up of five guys, Carl Gardner, Bobby Nunn, Billy Guy, Leon Hughes and Adolph Jacobs. The personnel changed over the years, but the Coasters remained active (and are still touring the oldies circuit today.) I saw them in person around 1970 and, I think, there was only two of the original guys singing. They put on a great show, however.
“Yakety Yak” entered the pop charts on June 9, 1958 and spent one week at number one. It also spent seven weeks at the top of the R&B chart.
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