Mike Stoller also played Elvis' piano player in Jailhouse Rock
. In the book Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography
, he explained how Elvis approached him as they were leaving the set on a Friday and told him, "I want you to write me a real pretty ballad."
It all came together over the weekend. He and Leiber wrote "Don't" on Saturday morning, had Young Jessie of the Flairs sing an Elvis-styled demo on Sunday, and delivered it to the King on Monday. Elvis loved the song, recorded it, and three weeks after "Jailhouse Rock" hit #1, the ballad topped the chart. "You'd think we'd be heroes," said Stoller. "But in the court of the King, it didn't work that way."
An irate Freddy Bienstock, who was in charge of selecting songs for Elvis, demanded to know why Stoller gave a song directly to Elvis without running it by him or Jean Aberbach, the head of Hill & Range publishing. Leiber, who had the bad luck of taking the phone call, asked, "What's the problem, man. Did Elvis hate the song?" Bienstock replied, "No, the problem is that he likes it."
By cutting out the middle man, the songwriters also cut out contract negotiations, ensuring Elvis and the Hill & Range execs would retain publishing rights. Plus, Elvis' controlling manager, "Colonel" Tom Parker, didn't like anyone going behind his
back. Despite the procedural snafu, Leiber & Stoller continued to churn out songs for the King, including "Treat Me Nice" and the Christmas classic "Santa Claus Is Back in Town