YAKETY YAK, I'LL TALK BACK
"COASTING WITH THE COASTERS"
BY: CARL GARDNER OF THE COASTERS
With Tony Turner
Listed below are some of the stars that Carl Gardner will be talking about and telling on in his upcoming memoir, "YAKETY YAK, I'LL TALK BACK".
The Beatles Bill Cosby Chuck Berry Dick Clark Nat "King" Cole Elvis Presley Duke Ellington Billy Eckstine Aretha Franklin Fidel Castro Little Richard Malcolm X Mick Jagger Ruth Brown Peggy Lee The Shirelles Marilyn Monroe Ike & Tina Turner Jack Warner Ted Kennedy Diana Ross Bo Diddley Jackie Wilson Sammy Davis, Jr. Michael Douglas Michael Jackson Betty Davis
SHOWBUSINESS has never seen a group quite like THE COASTERS. They occupy a special niche in the music field. Because of their style and approach they are in a class all of their own.
They are set apart by being a comedy team. No wonder THE COASTERS are labelled "THE CLOWN PRINCES OF ROCK AND ROLL".
Nothing in the world is more difficult to achieve than a long-term career in the second field of being funny. But, THE COASTERS have had a long unbroken string of hits all containing humorous materials. In this respect THE COASTERS are certainly unique.
THE COASTERS first hit, "DOWN IN MEXICO" released in 1956, sold approximately 500,000 copies. In 1957 they hit the charts with a double-sided smash "YOUNG BLOOD" the "A" side and "SEARCHING" the "B" side. Both sold a million copies. This put THE COASTERS on the road.
In 1958 THE COASTERS again had two block-buster hits, "YAKETY YAK" and
"CHARLIE BROWN". From then on it was hit after hit with such songs as
"POISON IVY", "ALONG CAME JONES", "LITTLE EGYPT", "RUN RED RUN",
POTION #9" and many, many more. All of THE COASTERS materials were written and produced by Leiber and Stoller, the famous songwriters who wrote for Elvis Presley and also Peggy Lee.
The original line-up of THE COASTERS were Carl Gardner, first tenor, Billy Guy, baritone, Bobby Nunn, Bass and Leon Hughes, second tenor. This line-up stayed together from 1955 to 1957 when Leon Hughes and Bobby Nunn left and were replaced by Will Jones And Cornell Gunter.
Between 1961 and 1968 there were some personal changes in the group. The
of THE COASTERS consist of Carl Gardner, lead tenor, Jimmy Norman, second tenor, Ronnie Bright, Bass and Thomas (Curly) Palmer, musical Director and arranger have been together for over 28 years.
Although THE COASTERS have often been imitated they can never be duplicated. The group continues to maintain the same style and quality of the 50's under the leadership of Carl Gardner, the original lead singer and founder of THE COASTERS.
THE COASTERS have toured internationally with such greats as THE
PLATTERS, CHUCK BERRY, FATS DOMINO, THE SHIRELLES, LITTLE
ANTHONY AND THE
IMPERIALS, JERRY LEE LEWIS, THE FIVE SATINS, THE DRIFTERS, MARTHA REEVES
AND THE VANDELLAS, LAVERNE BAKER, RUTH BROWN AND THE CRYSTALS.
ON JANUARY 21, 1987 THE COASTERS (Carl Gardner, Billy Guy, Will Jones and Cornell Gunter) were inducted into THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME.
YAKETY YAK, I'LL TALK BACK
"COASTING WITH THE COASTERS"
By CARL GARDNER OF THE COASTERS
With Tony Turner
YAKETY YAK, I'LL TALK BACK - Chapter Outline
The Reader is introduced to a seven year old Carl Gardner living in Tyler, Texas.
At that time, this small town has just become the oil center of the world. A young and talented
Carl is out to find himself a solo singing career, while wondering how and why the blacks of
Tyler let the whites cheat them out of their land rights for peanuts and a Cadillac. Carl's family
is extremely poor, and his father would actually bootlegged liquor to help out with the family
expenses. Carl signs up for the army at the age of sixteen, leaving a pregnant girlfriend behind.
Finding the Army was not for him, so Carl mounts an elaborate and successful
scheme to get an honorable discharge from the Army. Still seeking the dream of a pop singing
solo career Carl marries a young school teacher, only to leave her with two children two years
later. Carl heads for L.A., seeking fame and fortune. Broke, handsome, and sexually endowed, we find Carl, sleeping on someone s sofa, or detailing cars for the stars, while sitting in and singing with big bands for free at night. With over 100 tunes and keys in his head, Carl is good enough to sit with the likes of some great performers of the time, like famed jazz musician Carl Perkins and his Orchestra. It's in these clubs that Carl meets a popular group called The Robins and is asked to replace their lead singer, who was sent to jail.
Billy Richards, of the Robins, quickly helps Carl gain money by teaching him the art of pimping. Billy as Carl explains, owns a big, fabulous house in L.A. that is actually used as a sort of sexual theatre, in which prostitutes work, and Carl sometimes performs sexual acts for those desiring to view a young singing stallion in the throes of passion.
The Robins begin to take off professionally with Carl as their lead singer. Two young Jewish writers/producers from the north, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, back the young southern buck, and the climb to fame and fortune begins. We find Leiber and Stoller take to Carl and his talent, but not to the control that the mob has over the Robins. So they come up with a legal ploy to free Carl from the Robins and grab him all to themselves. Threatened by The Mob for leaving the group, Carl also gets one of The Robins to escape with him.
Leiber and Stoller encouraged Carl to form his own group,
really desires to be a solo. Despite that, Carl senses that with Leiber and Stoller, his success is but a song away, and very reluctantly agrees to form Carl Gardner and The Coasters. Leiber and Stoller agree to the name off contract, but not on. The very first record released and all the hits to follow are under the heading THE COASTERS. The production and writing of Leiber and Stoller hits the charts in a big way with Carl, their golden boy securely in the lead. With much ado, The Coasters, although surround by obstacles, became a musical force to deal with. Carl Gardner and his group, The Coasters, start out on the way change the world of R & B, along with western musical culture forever.
In Virginia, in the middle of the booked solid two year tour, the world famous Coasters begin to fall apart. Drinking day and night, bitter, nasty, and highly abusive, Carl Gardner begins to lose his grip on any situations for the first time in his life. He briefly returns to his family in Tyler, Texas, and after replacing new members of The Coasters he begins to tour again. Lester still the groups manager at the time hires two very talented young men. One of them turned out to be none other than the
flamboyant Cornell Gunter who was very ambitious and gay. Cornell, after causing much trouble will later leave to form his own group of Coasters.
Although The Coasters were climbing the charts with hit after hit, white segregationists were calling them "nigger and savage music". Some Politicians even accuse Carl's singing of undermining the moral fiber of America's young white kids. Leiber and Stoller push Elvis over the top with Jailhouse Rock and several more hits. Although the Coasters were now in their glory years, things begin to change with the British invasion. There's not much money for The Coasters who tour almost year round. But lots of girls and plenty of booze. The vivid and shocking details that Carl writes about during this period will include revelations on some of the biggest show biz names of the time. Once again disaster struck for the Classic Coasters, breaking up the group one more time.
Although alone and stone broke, Carl struggles to keep going. Carl has financial problems and is barely getting by. Through a series of events and struggles, we see Carl remarries and begins to take his life back on his own terms.
Carl and The Coasters get the recognition that they truly deserve, when they get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After a bout with throat cancer Carl closes his memoir in this chapter, finding himself solidly on his feet, ready to fight the MANY FAKE Coasters groups that are capitalizing on his fame.
The flight home after last night's performance had been successful, but had left me for some reason more stressed out than usual. You see I actually hate flying, but it sort of comes with the job. I still love to perform, but not as much as I have had to. However, I also like to eat good. I'm at the stage though where I find myself getting kind of bored, I'm also at the age. You know the age. It's when you realize your eyes have seen it all and you are beginning to see it all over again. And yet you don't really want to. But like I said, I gotta eat.
Thank God I'm back home now, safe and sound. Although it's three o'clock in the morning, and I'm emotionally drained and weak I simply cannot sleep. I've wandered my way through the house,, like some sort of Charlie Brown who was missing something. Something earned, something promised, but not yet delivered. So I sat myself down in my home office and for some reason began to think about a few of the unknown oddities in my career. Things like acid rocker Jimi Hendrix once backing my Coasters group, and Paul McCartney, cornering me years ago in some small club and bending my ear, saying that he and the other Beatles had enjoyed my work, and warning me that in the very near future I might just recognize some of their upcoming stuff as my own. I sat there in the dark, surrounded by the entrapments of businesses around the world. Fax machines, files, multiple phone lines, computers, publicity photos, bios, and all the rest. I couldn't help but wonder if Paul McCartney, or any of the others in the multitude of superstars I had the joy of meeting, ever experienced this same exact moment. A moment when you wonder what actually happened? You sort of peer back into the period of your life when you arrived at your peak. Then as your mind wanders through your heyday, you find yourself heading towards your present situation when you are just coasting.
I was a pioneer, until they changed the sound. And then they became the pioneers, until somebody like Michael Jackson came along and changed not only the sound, but also the rules on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and everybody else. I'm trying hard not to be bitter here in the dark. After all, I am still the lead singer of the very first group to ever be inducted d to the legendary ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME. But can I now pioneer the sound back on myself, like fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Tina Turner has done? Like Little Richard and Ike and Tina Turner, at my million selling zenith my group was considered a "novelty act", but unlike the others I ran a clean act. And that I feel has been one of the key ingredient of our continued success. Novelty acts have been notoriously hard to place without a current hit record. But despite that fact, I comfort myself here in the dark, that almost forty years into a career that people still want my type of act. And that's something to be proud about.
I'm proud of the accomplishments in my career. The list of television performances that span the decades and include everything from the show biz staples of yesteryear, like the Ed Sullivan Show, several Dick Clark Shows, all the way up to the staples of today, Entertainment Tonight and even tabloid TV's Inside Edition.
My concern appears as my group's lead singer covers the scope from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, all the way around the world to the London Palladium. Also, the New York "Fearsome Foursome", the Apollo, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and the Queen Mother of them all Carnegie Hall.
My lead vocals have been coveted by Hollywood in many movies including Stand By Me, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger - Danny DeVito blockbuster, TWINS. I have also several TV commercials to my credit.
I've tangled with the mob, broken the color barrier in Las Vegas, cursed out racist audiences who had come to hear "race music", and at times carried a gun on stage. At times I got run off of stage, and right out of town. But yet and still I managed to sell over thirty million records on the National Record Charts, in my time. My group has often been ripped off by many claiming to be me, using my name with their voice and cashing my check. I steeled myself and stood up to it all. The glamour, the danger, the glory and the bullshit. In my weakest moment I still marched on.
Through all the ups and downs of a joyous and yet painful career, I have come out unlike many others. Still performing, still standing, still sane, and intact. The goal was to be rich and famous. And I became both, for a while. But in the end I have ended up coasting on the fame, and trying to see just who had gotten rich.
Now I know why I'm sitting here in my office in the wee hours of the morning staring down the dawn. I know what I'm missing. I know what I earned, I know what was promised, and I realize now with some bitterness what little I got. Granted it's comfortable and not the nightmare and losing battle that many other artists of my time have endured, but it is not what was promised.
I'm a long way from my hometown of Tyler, Texas. Although I didn't put Tyler, Texas on the map, the way the Branch Davidians put Waco, Texas on the map, that was never my original intention. All I ever wanted to do was sing, what I actually did was much more.
I never dreamed that so many problems and dangers came with being a star. And so little money, even though I've sold millions and millions of records. My story is wonderful given the circumstances, yet shocking given the outcome. Thank God, I've moved past the bitterness and anger that for years plagued me. With only faith and sheer determination I was able to overcome all of the horror, and begin to write about it.
This is my story, straight forward and explicit. My name is Carl
Gardner, and I am lead singer
and founder of THE COASTERS.