Two Songwriters Revealed What It Was Like To Work With Elvis, And How The Colonel Cut Them Off

You might not know the names Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber — but you’ll definitely know the music they made with Elvis. We’re talking massive hits such as “Jailhouse Rock,” “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care,” “Hound Dog,” and another 20 classics on top of that. So if anybody knows what the King of Rock and Roll was really like behind the scenes, it’s Leiber and Stoller. And luckily for us, Stoller has revealed everything there is to know about Elvis — including what happened to them when they got on the wrong side of Colonel Tom Parker.

Let the good times roll

The songwriting duo of Leiber and Stoller were on something of a roll in the 1950s and ’60s. Outside of their work with Elvis, the pair produced masterpieces such as “Stand by Me” and “Is That All There Is?” So it’s perhaps not surprising that The King would want to work with men who were putting out banger after banger. But what is truly surprising is what Stoller had to say about their behind-the-scenes relationship.

Insider secrets

Stoller was well on the way to being 90 years old when he spoke to Variety magazine in July 2022 — but his memory of his time with Elvis was still strong. The only real shame is that his long-time writing partner, Leiber, had passed away in 2011 and so couldn’t add his own recollections of the King. Stoller, though, had plenty to get off his chest.

Name in lights

The reason Variety had got in touch with Stoller is that Elvis, a new movie about The King, was just hitting theaters. And that became the natural starting point for a wide-ranging conversation about Leiber and Stoller’s time with Elvis and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. In fact, the first tidbit Stoller confirmed was about the colonel. 

Unmanageable stars

It turned out that Colonel Parker had once tried to hoodwink Leiber and Stoller into letting him manage them. He did this by offering the guys a contract — with nothing on it. “[Parker] said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll fill it in later!’” Stoller revealed. He then laughed before disclosing the pair’s response, which went, “I think Jerry said, ‘You can’t: we’re unmanageable,’ which was somewhat true.”