Mort and Doc Together

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Doc Pomus

June 27, 1925-March 14, 1991

As one of music's most gifted and prolific songwriters, Doc Pomus helped invent rock 'n' roll," pronounced Rolling Stone Magazine in the 1991 year-end issue. Born Jerome Solon Felder in 1925 in Brooklyn, NY, he became Doc Pomus in part to shield his middle-class family from his nocturnal activities as a rhythm and blues shouter. For it was as a singer, standing with the assistance of crutches and braces (Doc contracted polio at age six), that he entered the world of music that was to become his life.

From 1944 to 1955 Doc performed in clubs throughout the New York City area. Leading a band, which included legendary guitarist Mickey Baker and saxophonist King Curtis, Doc recorded for the Savoy, Atlantic, Coral and Chess labels. He wrote alone for many early R&B singers, including Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner and Laverne Baker. He enjoyed his first rhythm and blues top ten hit with "Lonely Avenue" by Ray Charles.

Doc, by coincidence, met a talented teenaged fledgling songwriter, Mort Shuman, who was dating Doc’s cousin and who he would refer to many years later as “my favorite and best collaborator.” He took Mort under his wing and eventually the two became full partners despite the 15-year age difference between them. Ultimately, the pair enjoyed a wonderful nine-year association, resulting in a major body of work that, collectively, became a dominant force on the record charts and led to sales of well over one hundred million.

The songs included, "This Magic Moment," "Save The Last Dance For Me," "Teenager in Love," "Can't Get Used To Losing You," "Turn Me Loose," "Hushabye," "I Count The Tears," "Sweets for My Sweet" and "Seven Day Weekend," among many others. For Elvis Presley, they produced a series of major hit songs, including "Little Sister," "Viva Las Vegas," "His Latest Flame," "Surrender," "Suspicion," "A Mess of Blues" and “His Latest Flame,” and "Long, Lonely Highway," to mention a very few.

During the mid-60s, Doc teamed on different projects with Otis Blackwell, Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector and Leiber and Stoller. His union with Spector produced the memorable "Ecstasy" and "Youngboy Blues" for Ben E. King, and with Leiber and Stoller "She's Not You" for Elvis. In 1967 Doc and Mort ended their songwriting partnership, with Mort leaving for Paris and Doc entering semi-retirement for almost ten years.

In the years between the Doc/Mort break-up and his re-emergence in the mid-70s, Doc, as Bette Midler's musical advisor, brought her national attention by booking her first Tonight Show appearance, and was instrumental in her signing to Atlantic Records. He also figured significantly in the creation of Belushi and Akroyd's Blues Brothers. Doc created some of his most beautiful and adult work during the final decade of his life.

His collaboration with Dr. John, Ken Hirsch and Willy DeVille produced tracks for Ray Charles, Joe Cocker, Marianne Faithful, Johnny Adams, Irma Thomas, Jose Feliciano and B.B. King (whose Pomus/Dr. John penned "There Must Be A Better World Somewhere" album won a Grammy Award). Doc also wrote original material for such motion pictures as "Dick Tracy" and John Waters' "Cry Baby." As a crusader for the many forgotten and overlooked, Doc was dedicated in particular to helping R&B artists who had fallen on hard times. Mike Stoller called Doc the "arch angel of rhythm and blues,” and producer Jerry Wexler pronounced that “If the music business had a heart, it was Doc Pomus.”

Doc ImageDoc was a founder and trustee of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and was the recipient of their prestigious Pioneer Award in 1991. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and with Mort into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992. Doc’s memory lives on via the Washington, D.C.-based Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Doc Pomus Financial Assistance program.

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