Both born to Jewish families, Leiber came from Baltimore and Stoller from Long Island, but they met in Los Angeles in 1950, where Stoller was a freshman at Los Angeles City College while Leiber was a senior at Fairfax High. (Stoller had graduated from Belmont High School.) After school, Stoller played piano, and Leiber worked in Norty's, a record store on Fairfax Avenue, and when they met, they found they shared a love of blues and rhythm and blues. In 1950, Jimmy Witherspoon recorded and performed their first commercial song, "Real Ugly Woman". Stoller's name at birth was Michael Stoller, but he later changed it legally to "Mike".
|Oral History, Jerry Leiber shares moments of his life story and career. interview date December 4, 2007, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library|
Their first hit composition was "Hard Times", recorded by Charles Brown, which was a rhythm and blues hit in 1952. "Kansas City", first recorded in 1952 (as "K. C. Loving") by rhythm & blues singer Little Willie Littlefield, became a No. 1 pop hit in 1959 for Wilbert Harrison. In 1952, the partners wrote "Hound Dog" for blues singer Big Mama Thornton,  which became a hit for her in 1953. The 1956 Elvis Presley rock version, which was a takeoff of the adaptation that Presley picked up from Freddie Bell's lounge act in Las Vegas, was a much bigger hit. Presley's showstopping mock-burlesque version of "Hound Dog", playfully bumping and grinding on the Milton Berle Show, created such public excitement that on The Steve Allen Show they slowed down his act, with an amused Presley in a tuxedo and blue suede shoes singing his hit to a basset hound. Allen pronounced Presley "a good sport", and the Leiber-Stoller song would be forever linked to Presley.
Leiber and Stoller's later songs often had lyrics more appropriate for pop music, and their combination of rhythm and blues with pop lyrics revolutionized pop, rock and roll, and punk rock.
They formed Spark Records in 1953 with their mentor, Lester Sill. Their songs from this period include "Smokey Joe's Cafe" and "Riot in Cell Block #9", both recorded by The Robins.
The label was later bought by Atlantic Records, which hired Leiber and Stoller in an innovative deal that allowed them to produce for other labels. This, in effect, made them the first independent record producers. At Atlantic, they revitalized the careers of The Drifters and wrote a number of hits for The Coasters, a spin-off of the Robins. Their songs from this period include "Charlie Brown", "Searchin'", "Yakety Yak", "Stand By Me" (written with Ben E. King), and "On Broadway" (written with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil). For the Coasters alone, they wrote twenty-four songs that appeared in the US charts.
In 1955, Leiber and Stoller produced a recording of their song "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots" with a white vocal group, the Cheers. Soon after, the song was recorded by Édith Piaf in a French translation titled, "L'Homme à la Moto". The European royalties from another Cheers record, "Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin')", funded a 1956 trip to Europe for Stoller and his first wife, Meryl, on which they met Piaf. Their return to New York was aboard the ill-fated SS Andrea Doria, which was rammed and sunk by the Swedish liner MS Stockholm. The Stollers had to finish the journey to New York aboard another ship, the Cape Ann. After their rescue, Leiber greeted Stoller at the dock with the news that "Hound Dog" had become a hit for Elvis Presley. Stoller's reply was, "Elvis who?" They would go on to write more hits for Presley, including the title songs for three of his movies—Loving You, Jailhouse Rock, and King Creole—as well as the rock and roll Christmas song, "Santa Claus Is Back in Town", for Presley's first Christmas album.
In the beginning of the 1960s, they started Daisy Records and recorded Bob Moore and The Temps (w/Roy Buchanan) on their label.
In the early 1960s, Phil Spector served an apprenticeship of sorts with Leiber and Stoller in New York City, developing his record producer's craft while observing and playing guitar on their sessions, including the guitar solo on The Drifters' "On Broadway".
After leaving the employ of Atlantic Records—where they produced, and often wrote, many classic recordings by The Drifters with Ben E. King—Leiber and Stoller produced a series of records for United Artists Records, including hits by Jay and the Americans ("She Cried"), The Exciters ("Tell Him"), and The Clovers ("Love Potion #9", also written by Leiber and Stoller).
|Oral History, Mike Stoller shares moments of his life story and career. interview date December 4, 2007, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library|
In the 1960s, Leiber and Stoller founded and briefly owned Red Bird Records, which issued The Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" and The Dixie Cups' "Chapel of Love".
After selling Red Bird, they continued working as independent producers and songwriters. Their best known song from this period is "Is That All There Is?" recorded by Peggy Lee in 1969; it earned her a Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammy. Earlier in the decade, they had had a hit with Lee with "I'm a Woman" (1962).
Their last major hit production was "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel, taken from the band's 1972 eponymous debut album, which the duo produced. In 1975, they recorded Mirrors, an album of art songs with Peggy Lee. A remixed and expanded version of the album was released in 2005 as Peggy Lee Sings Leiber and Stoller.
In the late 1970s, A&M Records recruited Leiber and Stoller to write and produce an album for Elkie Brooks; Two Days Away (1977) proved a success in the UK and most of Europe. Their composition "Pearl's A Singer" (written with Ralph Dino & John Sembello) became a hit for Brooks, and remains her signature tune. In 1978, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris and her pianist-composer husband William Bolcom recorded an album, Other Songs by Leiber and Stoller, featuring a number of the songwriters' more unusual (and satiric) works, including "Let's Bring Back World War I", written specifically for (and dedicated to) Bolcom and Morris; and "Humphrey Bogart", a tongue-in-cheek song about obsession with the actor. In 1979, Leiber and Stoller produced another album for Brooks: Live and Learn.
In 1982, Steely Dan member Donald Fagen recorded their song, "Ruby Baby", on his album, The Nightfly. That same year, former Doobie Brothers member Michael McDonaldreleased "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)", adapted from Leiber and Stoller's "I Keep Forgettin'".
In 2009, Simon & Schuster published Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography, written by Leiber and Stoller with David Ritz. Today, their songs are managed by Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
With collaborator Artie Butler, Stoller wrote the music to the musical The People in the Picture, with book and lyrics by Iris Rainer Dart. Stoller and Butler's music received a 2011Drama Desk Award nomination.
On August 22, 2011, Leiber died in Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, aged 78, from cardio-pulmonary failure. He was survived by his sons Jed, Oliver, and Jake.