The names of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller are known largely to historians of early rock ’n’ roll, but they deserve to be better known, as several of their songs have become instantly recognizable classics. The two men were born to Jewish families within six weeks of each other in 1933 on the East Coast but met in L.A. as high school students. They were still teenagers when their songs such as “Kansas City” and “Hound Dog” started getting recorded by African-American artists. It was Elvis Presley’s cover version of the latter (originally recorded by Big Mama Thornton) that became a much bigger hit, allowing Leiber and Stoller to write “Jailhouse Rock” and “King Creole” for The King, as well as found their own record label.
This week, Jubilee Theatre opens Smokey Joe’s Cafe, a revue of Leiber and Stoller songs that takes their music back to its African-American roots, so you can hear such memorable songs as “Yakety Yak,” “Love Potion #9,” “Stand by Me,” and “On Broadway” with potentially fresh ears. This show might be more nostalgia trip than critical reappraisal of these songwriters’ legacy, but with the singers Jubilee has at its disposal, you wouldn’t bet against this being a feast for your ears.
Smokey Joe’s Cafe runs Fri thru Aug 28 at Jubilee Theatre, 506 Main St, FW. Tickets are $20-32. Call 817-338-4411.