Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman may not be very well known to those who listened to top forty radio in the 50's and 60's, but their contributions as songwriters were numerous and widespread, and their songs were recorded by some of the great artists of the day.
"Doc" Pomus was born as Jerome Solon Felder in 1925 and his songwriting partner, Mort Shuman, was born in 1936. Both were born in Brooklyn, New York. Pomus suffered from polio since childhood but did not let it get in the way of his work. He started off as a blues singer, somewhat along the lines of Mose Allison, and sang in many clubs and made many contacts in the music business throughout the 40's and 50's. He figured that Doc Pomus was a better name for a blues singer than Jerry Felder, so he adopted it as his professional name. Singing the blues did not pay well and he liked to write songs, and in the early days some of his compositions included Lonely Avenue for Ray Charles and Boogie Woogie Country Girl for Big Joe Turner, as well as giving an assist to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller with the Coasters' hit Young Blood. He teamed up with young piano player/singer/up-and-coming songwriter Mort Shuman and their very first collaboration went top ten in 1959 when Dion and the Belmonts recorded A Teenager In Love in 1959.
Pomus and Shuman had an office in the Brill Building in New York City and began to acquire a reputation as songwriters who could deliver hits, both rhythm-and-blues and pop, and they were quite a strong influence on other songwriters who were turning out hits in the Brill Building. Generally Pomus would write the lyrics, and Shuman would compose the music. Some of the early songs written by Pomus and Shuman for particular artists included Hound Dog Man and Turn Me Loose by Fabian, Can't Get Used To Losing You by Andy Williams, No One by Ray Charles (originally by Connie Francis), Go Jimmy Go by Jimmy Clanton, Seven Day Weekend by Gary U.S. Bonds, and Plain Jane by Bobby Darin. They worked for many years with the Drifters, turning out songs for that group such as Save The Last Dance For Me, This Magic Moment (later a hit for Jay and the Americans), and Sweets For My Sweet. Together or separately, Pomus & Shuman sometimes wrote songs with Leiber and Stoller, sometimes for former Drifters' member Ben E. King. Elvis Presley was a giant in the recording industry at the time but not being a songwriter himself, he depended on others for good material, and Pomus and Shuman provided him with plenty of it. They wrote his hits A Mess Of Blues, Surrender (adapted form the Italian song Come Back To Sorrento), Little Sister, (Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame, Kiss Me Quick, Viva Las Vegas, and Suspicion (which was later a hit for Terry Stafford). Pomus and/or Shuman also co-wrote songs with others for a variety of artists, including Presley (She's Not You by Pomus, Leiber and Stoller), Chubby Checker, Andy Williams, Roger Williams, and Billy J. Kramer (Little Children by Shuman and J. Leslie McFarland). They collaborated with many of the big names in the music industry, including Jerry Ragavoy, Howard Tate, Mac Rebennack a.k.a. Dr. John, and Mink Deville.
Pomus and Shuman moved to London for a time at the start of the British Invasion period of music. They broke up their partnership in 1965 after turning out hundreds of songs. Pomus worked as a professional gambler, holding poker games in his apartment at the Westover Hotel on West 72nd Street for the next ten years, before returning to songwriting. Shuman moved to Paris following the breakup and continued to write songs. He had done some singing over the years and some acting, most notably appearing as Officer Miglioriti in the 1976 Jodie Foster film The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. He had hits as a writer and as a singer in France over the years. Doc Pomus was afflicted with lung cancer and died in 1991 in New York City; Shuman suffered from cancer and passed away later that same year, in London.
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman are members of the Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They are remembered for many, many hits performed by a variety of singers. Outside of Leiber and Stoller, they are the most successful songwriting team in rhythm and blues, and rock.
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