Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Good Pott - Doc Pomus

Jerome Solon Felder, better known as Doc Pomus (June 27, 1925 - March 14, 1991), was an American blues singer and songwriter. He is best known as the lyricist of many rock and roll hits. Pomus was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the category of non-performer in 1992. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992. and the Blues Hall of Fame Born Jerome Solon Felder in 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, his parents were Jewish immigrants. Felder became a fan of the blues after hearing a Big Joe Turner record. Having had polio as a boy, he used crutches to walk. Later, due to post-polio syndrome, exacerbated by an accident, Felder eventually relied on a wheelchair. His brother is New York attorney Raoul Felder. Using the stage name "Doc Pomus," Felder began performing as a teenager, becoming a blues singer; his stage name wasn't inspired by anyone in particular, he just thought it sounded better for a blues singer than the name Jerry Felder did. Pomus stated that more often as not, he was the only Caucasian in the clubs, but that as both a Jew and a polio victim, he felt a special "underdog" kinship with African-Americans, while in turn the audiences both respected his courage and were impressed with his talent. Gigging at various clubs in and around New York City, Pomus often performed with the likes of Milt Jackson and King Curtis. Pomus recorded approximately 40 sides as a singer during the '40s and '50s for record companies such as Chess, Apollo and others. In the 1950s, Pomus started writing magazine articles as well as songwriting to make more money to support a family, as he had married (Willi Burke, a Broadway actress). His first big songwriting break came when he chanced upon the Coasters' version of his "Young Blood" on a jukebox while on his honeymoon. Pomus had written the song, then given it to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who radically rewrote it. Still, Doc was given co-credit as an author, and he soon received a royalty check for $1500.00, which convinced him that songwriting was a career direction well worth pursuing. By 1957, Pomus had given up performing in order to devote himself full-time to songwriting. He collaborated with pianist Mort Shuman, whom he had met when Shuman was dating Doc's younger cousin, to write for Hill & Range Music Co./Rumbalero Music at its offices in New York City's Brill Building. Pomus asked Shuman to write with him because Doc didn't know much about rock and roll at the time, whereas Mort was well versed in many of the popular artists of the day. Their songwriting efforts had Pomus write the lyrics and Shuman the melody, although quite often they worked on both. They wrote the hit songs: "A Teenager in Love"; "Save The Last Dance For Me"; "Hushabye"; "This Magic Moment"; "Turn Me Loose"; "Sweets For My Sweet" (a hit for the Drifters and then the Searchers); "Go Jimmy Go", "Little Sister"; "Surrender"; "(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame". During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Pomus also wrote several songs with Phil Spector: "Young Boy Blues"; "Ecstasy"; "Here Comes The Night"; "What Am I To Do?"; Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber: "Young Blood" and "She's Not You", and other Brill Building-era writers. Pomus also wrote "Lonely Avenue", which became a 1956 hit for Ray Charles. In the 1970s and 1980s in his eleventh-floor, two-room apartment at the Westover Hotel at 253 West 72nd Street, Pomus wrote songs with Dr. John, Ken Hirsch and Willy DeVille for what he said were "...those people stumbling around in the night out there, uncertain or not always so certain of exactly where they fit in and where they were headed." These later songs ("There Must Be A Better World," "There Is Always One More Time," "That World Outside," "You Just Keep Holding On," and "Something Beautiful Dying" in particular), which were recorded by Willy DeVille, B. B. King, Irma Thomas, Marianne Faithful, Charlie Rich, Ruth Brown, Dr. John, James Booker, and Johnny Adams. These are considered by some, including writer Peter Guralnick, musician and songwriter Dr. John, and producer Joel Dorn to be signatures of his best craft. The documentary film "A.K.A. Doc Pomus" (2012), directed by filmmaker Peter Miller and Will Hechter, edited by Amy Linton and produced by Hechter, Miller and Pomus' daughter Sharyn Felder, details Pomus' life. The film won the grand prize at the Stony Brook Film Festival, the first time a documentary was awarded that honor, and screened at dozens of other film festivals in 2012 and 2013. Pomus died in 1991 from lung cancer, at the age of 65.

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