The Coasters

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The Coasters
The Coasters 1957.JPG
The Coasters, 1957
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California,
United States
Genres Rhythm and blues, rock and roll
Years active1955–
LabelsAtco (1955-1966)
Date, King (1966-1972)
Associated acts The Robins
Website Official website
MembersJ.W. Lance
Primotivo Candelaria
Robert Fowler
Dennis Anderson
Past members Carl Gardner (deceased)
Billy Guy (deceased)
Bobby Nunn (deceased)
Leon Hughes
Adolph Jacobs (deceased)
Young Jessie
Will "Dub" Jones (deceased)
Cornell Gunter (deceased)
Albert "Sonny" Forriest (deceased)
Earl Carroll (deceased)
Thomas "Curley" Palmer
Vernon Harrell (deceased)
Ronnie Bright (deceased)
Jimmy Norman (deceased)
Alvin Morse
Carl Gardner Jr.
Eddie Whitfield

The Coasters are an American rhythm and blues/rock and roll vocal group who had a string of hits in the late 1950s. Beginning with "Searchin'" and "Young Blood", their most memorable songs were written by the songwriting and producing team of Leiber and Stoller. [1] Although the Coasters originated outside of mainstream doo-wop, their records were so frequently imitated that they became an important part of the doo-wop legacy through the 1960s.

Rhythm and blues, commonly abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, one or more saxophones, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy, as well as triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, economics, and aspirations.

Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s from musical styles such as gospel, jump blues, jazz, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues, along with country music. While elements of what was to become rock and roll can be heard in blues records from the 1920s and in country records of the 1930s, the genre did not acquire its name until 1954.

Searchin single by The Coasters

"Searchin'" is a song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller specifically for The Coasters. It was released as a single on Atco Records in March 1957, and topped the R&B Chart for twelve weeks. It reached #3 on the national pop singles chart.



The Coasters were formed on October 12, 1955 when only two of The Robins were willing to go to Atlantic Records, those two were dubbed The Coasters because they went from West to East coast. The Robins were a Los Angeles–based rhythm-and-blues group that included Carl Gardner and Bobby Nunn. The original Coasters were Gardner, Nunn, Billy Guy, Leon Hughes (who was replaced by Young Jessie on a couple of their early Los Angeles recordings), and the guitarist Adolph Jacobs. Jacobs left the group in 1959. [2]

The Robins were a successful and influential African-American R&B group of the late 1940s and 1950s, one of the earliest such vocal groups who established the basic pattern for the doo-wop sound. They were founded by Ty Terrell, and brothers Billy Richards and Roy Richards. Bobby Nunn soon joined the line-up. They began their career as the Bluebirds but switched to recording as the Robins in May, 1949. In 1955, the group disagreed over whether to remain on the West Coast or sign with Atlantic Records and move to the East Coast. This led to a split within the group. Music producers and songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller took former Robins members Nunn and Carl Gardner, recruited singers Leon Hughes and Billy Guy, and formed the Coasters. The founding Richards brothers and Tyrell continued to record as the Robins until 1961.

Carl Edward Gardner was an American singer, best known as the foremost member and founder of The Coasters. Known for the 1958 song "Yakety Yak", which spent a week as number one on the Hot 100 pop list, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Billy Guy American singer

Billy Guy was an American singer, best known as a lead singer for the Coasters. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

The songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller started Spark Records and in 1955 produced "Smokey Joe's Cafe" for the Robins [1] (their sixth single with Leiber and Stoller). The record was popular enough for Atlantic Records to offer Leiber and Stoller an independent production contract to produce the Robins for Atlantic. Only two of the Robins—Gardner and Nunn—were willing to make the move to Atlantic, recording their first songs in the same studio as the Robins had done (Master Recorders). In late 1957, the group moved to New York and replaced Nunn and Hughes with Cornell Gunter and Will "Dub" Jones. The new quartet was from then on stationed in New York, although all had Los Angeles roots.

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller American songwriting and record producing duo

Lyricist Jerome Leiber and composer Michael Stoller were American songwriting and record producing partners. They found success as the writers of such crossover hit songs as "Hound Dog" (1952) and "Kansas City" (1952). Later in the 1950s, particularly through their work with The Coasters, they created a string of ground-breaking hits—including "Young Blood" (1957), "Searchin'" (1957), and "Yakety Yak" (1958)—that used the humorous vernacular of teenagers sung in a style that was openly theatrical rather than personal. They were the first to surround black music with elaborate production values, enhancing its emotional power with the Drifters in "There Goes My Baby" (1958), which influenced Phil Spector, who studied their productions while playing guitar on their sessions.

Spark Records was a record label started by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller around 1954 in Los Angeles, California. Artists released on Spark Records included Willy & Ruth, The Sly Fox, Ervin "Big Boy" Groves, and The Robins. Leiber and Stoller eventually decided that while they wanted to write songs and make records, but did not want to deal with the mechanics of publishing records, so they sold the label to Atlantic Records.

<i>Smokey Joes Cafe</i> musical

Smokey Joe's Cafe is a musical revue showcasing 39 pop standards, including rock and roll and rhythm and blues songs written by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The Original Broadway cast recording, Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs Of Leiber And Stoller, won a Grammy award in 1997.

The Coasters' association with Leiber and Stoller was an immediate success. Together they created a string of good-humored "storytelling" hits that are some of the most entertaining from the original era of rock and roll. [1] According to Leiber and Stoller, getting the humor to come through on the records often required more recording "takes" than for a typical musical number. [1]

Their first single, "Down in Mexico", was an R&B hit in 1956 and appears (in a re-recording from 1973 [3] —still with Gardner singing the lead) on the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof . The following year, the Coasters crossed over to the pop chart in a big way with the double-sided "Young Blood"/"Searchin'". "Searchin'" was the group's first U.S. Top 10 hit and topped the R&B chart for 13 weeks, becoming the biggest R&B single of 1957 (all were recorded in Los Angeles).

"Down in Mexico" is a song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and released by The Coasters on their album, The Coasters. The song reached #8 on R&B chart in 1956.

Quentin Tarantino American film director, screenwriter, producer, and actor

Quentin Jerome Tarantino is an American filmmaker and actor. His films are characterized by nonlinear storylines, satirical subject matter, an aestheticization of violence, extended scenes of dialogue, ensemble casts consisting of established and lesser-known performers, references to popular culture and a wide variety of other films, soundtracks primarily containing songs and score pieces from the 1960s to the 1980s, and features of neo-noir film.

<i>Death Proof</i> 2007 American action thriller slasher film directed by Quentin Tarantino

Death Proof is a 2007 American exploitation horror film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It stars Kurt Russell as a stuntman who murders young women in staged car accidents using his "death-proof" stunt car. It co-stars Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, with stuntwoman Zoë Bell as herself. The film pays homage to the slasher, exploitation and muscle car films of the 1970s.

"Yakety Yak" (recorded in New York), featuring King Curtis on tenor saxophone, included the famous lineup of Gardner, Guy, Jones, and Gunter, and became the act's only national number 1 single, topping the R&B chart. The next single, "Charlie Brown", reached number 2 on both charts. It was followed by "Along Came Jones", "Poison Ivy" (number 1 for almost two months on the R&B chart), and "Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)".

Yakety Yak 1958 single by The Coasters

"Yakety Yak" is a song written, produced, and arranged by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for the Coasters and released on Atco Records in 1958, spending seven weeks as #1 on the R&B charts and a week as number one on the Top 100 pop list. This song was one of a string of singles released by the Coasters between 1957 and 1959 that dominated the charts, one of the biggest performing acts of the rock and roll era.

King Curtis American saxophonist

Curtis Ousley, who performed under the stage name King Curtis, was an American saxophonist known for rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, blues, funk and soul jazz. Variously a bandleader, band member, and session musician, he was also a musical director and record producer. Adept at tenor, alto, and soprano saxophone, he played riffs and solos on such hit singles as "Respect" by Aretha Franklin, and "Yakety Yak" by The Coasters and his own "Memphis Soul Stew".

Saxophone type of musical instrument of the woodwind family

The saxophone is a family of woodwind instruments. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. Although most saxophones are made from brass, they are categorized as woodwind instruments, because sound is produced by an oscillating reed, traditionally made out of woody cane, rather than lips vibrating in a mouthpiece cup as with the brass instrument family. As with the other woodwinds, the pitch of the note being played is controlled by covering holes in the body tube to control the resonant frequency of the air column by changing the effective length of the tube.

Changing popular tastes and changes in the group's lineup contributed to a lack of hits in the 1960s. During this time, Billy Guy was also working on solo projects; the New York singer Vernon Harrell was brought in to replace him for stage performances. Later members included Earl "Speedo" Carroll (lead of the Cadillacs), Ronnie Bright (the bass voice on Johnny Cymbal's "Mr. Bass Man"), Jimmy Norman, and guitarist Thomas "Curley" Palmer. The Coasters signed with Columbia Records' Date label in 1966, reuniting with Leiber and Stoller (who had parted ways with Atlantic Records in 1963), but never regained their former fame. In 1971, the Coasters had a minor chart entry with "Love Potion Number Nine", a song that Leiber and Stoller had written for the Coasters but instead gave to the Clovers in 1959. In Britain, a 1994 Volkswagen TV advertisement used the group's "Sorry But I'm Gonna Have To Pass", which led to a minor chart placement in that country.

In 1987, the Coasters became the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, crediting the members of the 1958 configuration. The Coasters also joined the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.

Several groups used the name in the 1970s, touring throughout the country, though original member Carl Gardner held the legal rights to it. Gardner continued to tour with the Coasters and made many attempts to stop bogus groups with no connection to the original group using the name. In late 2005, Carl's son Carl Gardner Jr. took over as lead with the group when his father retired. The Coasters' lineup then consisted of Carl Gardner Jr., J. W. Lance, Primo Candelara, and Eddie Whitfield. Carl Jr. later left this group and has started his own group with Curley Palmer. [4] Carl's widow Veta owns the rights to the Coasters name.

Leon Hughes is the last surviving member of the original Coasters and performs with his own group. Some of the former members suffered tragic ends. The saxophonist King Curtis (the "fifth Coaster") was stabbed to death by two junkies outside his apartment building in 1971. Cornelius Gunter was shot to death while sitting in a Las Vegas parking garage in 1990. Nate Wilson, a member of one of Gunter's offshoot Coasters groups, was shot and his body dismembered in 1980. [5] Former manager Patrick Cavanaugh was convicted of the murder, which took place after Wilson threatened to notify authorities of Cavanaugh's intent to buy furniture with stolen checks. Cavanaugh was convicted of the murder and given the death sentence in 1984, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He died at 60 in 2006, in Ely State Prison, in Nevada. [6]

The Coasters continue to appear regularly on "oldies" shows and PBS specials as old favorites and are available for bookings. [5]

The hits list below is from Joel Whitburn's Top R&B Singles and from the Pop positions published in Bill Millar's book The Coasters (1975).

Carl Gardner published his autobiography, Carl Gardner: Yakety Yak I Fought Back: My Life With The Coasters, in 2007.

The Coasters' recordings produced by Leiber and Stoller for Date/King (1966–1972) were released on the CD Down Home by Varèse Vintage (Varèse Sarabande) in 2007. The complete Atco recordings (1954–1966) were released in a four-CD set, There's a Riot Goin' On: The Coasters on Atco, by Rhino, also in 2007.


The Coasters' repertoire had a significant impact on rock artists in the 1960s and 1970s. Leon Russell performed "Young Blood" at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, imitating the group's arrangement of the song with four different solo voices. Bad Company's version of the song reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 1976. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen recorded the Robins' "Riot in Cell Block Number 9"; the Beach Boys recorded a version with revised lyrics by Mike Love, entitled "Student Demonstration Time", in 1971. The novelty singer Ray Stevens reached number 27 on the U.S. pop singles chart with a 1969 remake of "Along Came Jones". Elvis Presley included "Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)" in the soundtrack of his 1964 film Roustabout . The first two British hits of the Hollies were "(Ain't That) Just Like Me" and "Searchin'". The Monkees reached number 10 on Cashbox with "D. W. Washburn". (The Coasters recorded it first, but when Date declined to release it, Lester Sill, former Coasters manager and now head at Columbia/Date sent it as a demo to the Monkees. After the Monkees charted, the Coasters's original recording was issued.) Several Coasters songs were part of the Beatles' repertoire before the British rock group began its recording career; George Harrison is among the singers on the above-mentioned Leon Russell live recording. The Grateful Dead similarly performed several Coasters songs in their early days; they were influenced by a weekend in 1965 in which the group (still called the Warlocks) served as pickup band for the Coasters at a lounge in Belmont, California. When the Beach Boys and the Grateful Dead united on stage to perform a brief set at New York City's Filmore East, they performed "Searchin'" and "Riot In Cell Block No. Nine". Numerous groups have recorded "Poison Ivy".

Coasters hits also comprised a major portion of the song score for the 1994 musical revue Smokey Joe's Cafe , a retrospective of Leiber and Stoller songs that received one Grammy Award and seven Tony Award nominations following its 1995 Broadway debut. Their title of their song "That Is Rock and Roll" has served as the main title for a biography/songbook of Leiber and Stoller songs and a Bravo television documentary on the songwriters.

In addition, Coasters songs and the Coasters themselves have been referred to by later popular musicians. Frank Zappa referenced the group in the lyrics of the song "Status Back Baby" on his second album, Absolutely Free . Sly Stone titled a 1971 number 1 album by his group Sly & The Family Stone after the tag line from "Riot In Cell Block Number Nine": There's A Riot Goin' On . The folksinger David Bromberg quoted from "Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)" in his 1972 song "Sharon". Paolo Nutini regularly covers "Down In Mexico" in live performances.

Group members

Current members
Former members

(Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductees listed in bold.)

Session musicians


Studio albums


Month of chart entryTitles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Peak chart positionsAlbum
Billboard Pop Chart [7] Cash Box Pop Chart Billboard R&B chart [8] UK Singles Chart [9] AUS
3/1956"Down in Mexico"
b/w "Turtle Dovin'"
--8--The Coasters
9/1956"One Kiss Led To Another"
b/w "Brazil"
5/1957"Young Blood"8151--
11/1957"Idol With The Golden Head"
b/w "(When She Wants Good Lovin') My Baby
Comes To Me" (on 50 Coastin' Classics CD)
64----That Is Rock & Roll
11/1957"Sweet Georgia Brown"
b/w "What Is The Secret Of Your Success" (on 50 Coastin' Classics)
-----The Coasters' Greatest Hits
b/w "Gee Golly" (on The Coasters On Atco CD)
-----That Is Rock & Roll
6/1958"Yakety Yak"
b/w "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart"
1111213The Coasters' Greatest Hits
8/1958"The Shadow Knows"
b/w "Sorry But I'm Gonna Have To Pass" (on 50 Coastin' Classics)
2/1959"Charlie Brown"
b/w "Three Cool Cats" (on That Is Rock & Roll album)
5/1959"Along Came Jones"
b/w "That Is Rock & Roll"
8/1959"Poison Ivy"7911519
9/1959"I'm A Hog For You"3895---
12/1959"Run Red Run"365129-93Coast Along
1/1960"What About Us"473317-93
4/1960"Bésame Mucho" (Part 1) b/w Part 2 (Non-album track)7053---50 Coastin' Classics CD
6/1960"Wake Me, Shake Me"
b/w "Stewball"
513414--Coast Along
9/1960"Clothes Line (Wrap It Up)" (Non-album track, poss a bootleg of below) b/w "The Snake And The Book Worm"-----
10/1960"Shoppin' For Clothes"
b/w "The Snake And The Book Worm" (on Coast Along)
8357---Their Greatest Recordings: The Early Years
2/1961"Wait A Minute"
b/w "Thumbin' A Ride" (on 50 Coastin' Classics CD)
3742---Coast Along
5/1961"Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)"
b/w "Keep On Rolling"
8/1961"Girls Girls Girls" (Part II) (Hit side, non-album track)
b/w Part I
10/1961"Bad Blood"
b/w "(Ain't That) Just Like Me"
3/1962"Teach Me How To Shimmy" (on 50 Coastin' Classics CD)
b/w "Ridin' Hood"
-----Non-album tracks
9/1962"The Climb" (on That Is Rock & Roll album)
b/w "The Climb" (Instrumental)
3/1963"The P.T.A."
b/w "Bull Tick Waltz"
3/1964"T'Ain't Nothin' To Me"
b/w "Speedo's Back In Town"
5/1964"Bad Detective" (on 50 Coastin' Classics CD)
b/w "Lovey Dovey"
10/1964"Wild One"
b/w "I Must Be Dreaming"
2/1965"Lady Like"
b/w "Hongry" (on 50 Coastin' Classics CD)
5/1965"Money Honey"
b/w "Let's Go Get Stoned"
10/1965"Bell Bottom Slacks And A Chinese Kimono"
b/w "Crazy Baby"
3/1966"She's A Yum Yum"
b/w "Saturday Night Fish Fry"
4/1967"Soul Pad"
b/w "Down Home Girl" (on Young Blood)
6/1968"She Can"
b/w "Everybody's Woman"
7/1968"D.W. Washburn" (on Young Blood)
b/w "Everybody's Woman"
1969"Act Right"
b/w "The World Is Changing"
12/1971"Love Potion Number Nine" (on Young Blood)
b/w "D.W. Washburn"
7696---On Broadway
1972"Soul Pad"
b/w "D.W. Washburn"
4/1972"Cool Jerk"
b/w "Talkin' About A Woman" ("She Can" On Date)
8/1994"Sorry But I'm Gonna Have To Pass"
b/w "Poison Ivy"
---41-The Very Best Of The Coasters

Notes: Non-charting singles include month and year of release. All Atco recordings above issued on There's a Riot Goin' On: The Coasters on Atco CD. Three of the Cash Box pop entry dates slightly differ (by a week or two – either way; e.g. "Yakety Yak" entered the Cash Box Pop Chart In May). UK chart entry dates also differ from US chart entry dates.
* "T'Ain't Nothin' To Me" R&B position is from Cash Box since Billboard did not publish an R&B chart in 1964. The Date sides were reissued on King singles and on On Broadway.

Lineups from the US singles

The line-ups are presented for general overview and do not always fit with issue dates.

Label and catalog number followed by month/year of issue, and by track titles (with lead and recording dates).

The Robins (only singles featuring Carl Gardner are listed)

(Carl Gardner, Bobby Nunn, "Ty" Terrell Leonard, Billy Richard, Roy Richard, Grady Chapman)

leads: CG-Gardner; BN-Nunn; GC-Chapman; RB-Richard Berry (guest lead) (Los Angeles)

(all of the above later issued on EP, LP, and CD compilations as The Coasters).

The Coasters(all "true"/legal Coasters singles are listed)

(Carl Gardner, Bobby Nunn, Billy Guy, Leon Hughes)

leads: CG-Gardner; BN-Nunn; BG-Guy (Los Angeles, Chicago*, New York**)

(Gardner, Guy, Will Jones, Cornell Gunter)

leads: CG-Gardner; BG-Guy; WJ-Jones, CoG-Gunter (New York)

(Gardner, Guy, Jones, Earl Carroll)

leads: CG-Gardner; BG-Guy; WJ-Jones; EC-Carroll (New York, Los Angeles*)

(Gardner, Guy, Carroll, Ronnie Bright)

Carl Gardner & The Coasters

(Gardner, Carroll, Bright, Jimmy Norman)

Free Soul / Beautifully Day released 11/15/2010 by Carl Gardner Jr. Through tunecore

CD Compilations

Important British public-domain compilations

(Complete recordings 1954-1962) 61 tracks with extended Coasters history

(Alternate stereo takes and album tracks 1957-1962) 49 tracks including never before issued outtakes, with detailed discographical info

True Coasters recordings (not on single)

No live recordings included (Note: there also are several alternates and edited masters of the singles, not listed below).

Recorded in New York unless otherwise indicated.
Lead singers: Carl Gardner (CG), Billy Guy (BG), Will "Dub" Jones (WJ), Ronnie Bright (RB), Jimmy Norman (JN).


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Show 13 – Big Rock Candy Mountain: Rock 'n' Roll in the Late Fifties. [Part 3] : UNT Digital Library". 1969. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
  2. "Those Hoodlum Friends the Coasters". Retrieved 2006-11-30.
  3. "The Coasters - Little Egypt (Ying-Yang) / Down In Mexico". 2016-12-29. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  4. Röhnisch, Claus. "The Coasters Web Site – Those Hoodlum Friends". Archived from the original on 2001-02-02. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
  5. 1 2 "The Coasters Website". Retrieved 2007-04-08.
  6. "News – Ex-Coasters Manager Dies at Ely State Prison". 2006-04-11. Archived from the original on 2011-02-21. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
  7. Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 139. ISBN   0-89820-155-1.
  8. Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 38.
  9. Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 92. ISBN   0-00-717931-6.

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