The Boy From New York City

Album: Best of Red Bird Records (1965)
Charted: 8


  • The Ad Libs were a vocal group from Bayonne, New Jersey. The song was written by John T. Taylor, who was a sax player that helped them demo this song, earning The Ad Libs a record deal with Red Bird records, which was owned by the songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. This was the group's only Top-40 hit.
  • In 1981, The Manhattan Transfer revived this song for their album Mecca for Moderns, hitting #7 in the US with their version. While The Ad Libs were a throwback to Doo-Wop groups of the '50s, The Manhattan Transfer had a retro Jazz sound and was always looking to old records for inspiration. Jay Graydon, who produced The Transfer, told us the story: "When we were picking songs for the album, we used to go to Tim's (Hauser) apartment. Tim played some old 45s, and we'd all come up with ideas and kick things around and listen to the tunes and go, 'Hey, put that in the 'hold' pile.' And we'd play another one, and we'd go, 'Okay, that's in, that's a great song.' So I'm leaving. I'm walking out the door, I'm going to my car, and Tim plays 'The Boy From New York City.' I run back to the door and I go, 'Why haven't you played that before? Why didn't you play that during the meeting? We've got to do this song. This is perfect.' We did it, and it was a big hit."
  • Graydon is a meticulous and very successful producer who believes that finding the right people to play on the records is crucial. One of the best, in his opinion, is David Foster, who went on to become a top songwriter and producer. Says Graydon: "I did the horn charts on that record. Foster played piano on it, and it's genius, as always. Came up with a little counter melody, ba da bum, in the left hand. There's an example of a counter melody that's an attention getter. Simple little part, but it worked perfectly. And then I tried to come up with some little horn parts. The guitar part was a very memorable sound. It was a delay set to triplets. I got the inspiration for that little muted guitar part on there from the re-release of "Knock On Wood" (by Amii Stewart) that was fantastic. Some guy played a triplet guitar part in it. I decided to borrow the idea because professionals borrow where amateurs steal. (laughs) So I was borrowing the concept… with different notes that I played, of course, And that was the secondary hook of the song. That was a good record." (read more in our interview with Jay Graydon)
  • The Manhattan Transfer version won the 1981 Grammy award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group.
  • British doo-wop revival band Darts covered this song in 1978. This was one of three singles of theirs that peaked at #2 in the UK charts. They never managed that elusive chart-topper.
  • Red Bird Records did not end well for Leiber and Stoller. In their account in Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography, they tell the story of how George Goldner got them into deeper hot water than they could handle. After picking "Chapel Of Love" out of a stack of demos, which went on to become Red Bird's first hit, Goldner came to dominate the operations of Red Bird. Reportedly he had a gambling problem and got into trouble with loan sharks, who eventually turned over his account to the mob. This led to Leiber one day being accosted on the street by a couple of strong guys who steered him to a meeting with his new "business partner," a threatening character named "Sal."
    The second blow for Red Bird was when Atlantic executives asked for a meeting to discuss a possible merger. Goldner sabotaged the effort, and Leiber and Stoller later figured out that it was because Goldner's embezzlement might have been exposed if the deal had gone through.
    The ending of Leiber and Stoller's Red Bird Records ordeal happened when they sold their share of the business to Goldner - for the humble sum of one dollar. The next day, they built a brick wall separating their offices from Goldner's. Goldner kept the company afloat for a few months, then sold out to Mercury Records producer Shelby Singleton. Singleton would go on to make his own name in the music business, including producing such hits as "Harper Valley P.T.A." in 1968.
  • Leon Huff, who later joined Kenny Gamble and helped craft the Philadelphia Soul sound, played piano on the Ad Libs original version of this song. Said Huff: "I had the fortunate opportunity to play piano on many Leiber & Stoller recording sessions as a musician in the early days. When I had dreams of being a producer, I met Leiber & Stoller in the Brill Building when they called me to play on 'Boy From New York City.' I was so nervous, but when I started grooving, that's when I really settled down, because Jerry and Mike cut some really groovy records. That was a great time for me as a studio musician. I'll never forget Leiber & Stoller because they helped me get the knack of the studios."

Comments: 8

  • Gary from KentuckySo Jennifer asked who the drummer was. I too, would like to know. He was SMOOTH and so accurate.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaMichael, I once was told who the drummer was but can'/t remember, if you read this can you help?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 22nd 1981, the Manhattan Transfer performed "The Boy from New York City" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was in its third week at #7 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart {see next post below}...
    The Manhattan Transfer had five other Top 100 records; "Operator" {#22 in 1975}, "Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone" {#30 in 1980}, "Route 66" {#78 in 1982}, "Spice of Life" {#40 in 1983}, and "Baby Come Back to Me" {#80 in 1984}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 10th 1965, "The Boy From New York City" by the Ad-Libs entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on February 1st it peaked on #8 (for 1 week) and spent 10 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #6 on the Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    And on July 12th, 1981 the Manhattan Transfer's covered version entered the Top 10 at position #10, the next week it was #9, following week #8, and then at week later it peaked at #7, and stayed there for 3 weeks before dropping out of the Top 10.
  • Michael from New York, Ny...And who was the guitarist ON the recording? Well, here I am! The guitarist from THE BOY FROM NEW YORK CITY! Michael "Murch" Powers from Bayonne. Now in the NEW YORK BLUES Hall of Fame and also a 2x W.C. Handy Music Award and 3x Blues Music Award NOMINEE. My wife, Topsy and I went to see Manhattan Transfer in New York and they performed her dad's song "Moten Swing" and also "The Boy From NYC". What a treat for both of us! We took a photo with them and I'll upload it here if I can figure out how to do it.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyThe Ad Libs had one other record that made Billboard's Top 100; a song titled "He Ain't No Angel", it peaked at No. 100 and stayed one week in the Top 100!!!
  • Zabadak from London, EnglandThis was a big UK hit for rock 'n' roll era revival act Darts in the late 70s.
  • Musicmama from New York, NyThis might be one of the most danceable songs, ever. And in its presentation, it was ahead of its time: The male singers backed up the female leads, rather than the other way around (or females backing up females, as was the case for other "girl groups.") The horn and the arrangements are great, almost like jazz.

    But, ironically enough, it was this song's best and unique qualities that dated it very quickly. Within two years or so, the airwaves would be dominated by acid and psychedelic rock, or anything from British or British-influenced bands. I mean, it's really hard to imagine this band playing this song at the Monterey Festival of 1967 or Woodstock.
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