1956's "Down in Mexico," together with "Smokey Joe's Cafe," represents a huge turning-point for the songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller. Before, with "Smokey Joe's Cafe," they had Spark Records, The Robins, and an old hit called "Hound Dog
" by Big Mama Thornton. After, with "Down in Mexico," they'd quit Spark and signed with Atlantic, Carl Gardner had quit The Robins and formed The Coasters, Elvis had covered "Hound Dog" and made them world-famous, and both of the songwriters experienced life-altering events. It was like a bookmark between chapters.
Those two life-altering events? Jerry Leiber first had a run-in with James Dean only weeks before his death, then got into his own car accident with a couple of women involved. Mike Stoller lost his mother, then decided to go on a cruise with his new wife, Meryl. The cruise ship they picked just happened to be the Andrea Doria
, which sank and left them with a harrowing survival experience. Returned to port by the rescue ship, Mike Stoller just stepped off the boat when Jerry Leiber runs up to tell him they have a smash hit. By "some white kid named Elvis." Cue act 2!