Riot In Cell Block #9

Album: The Robins (1954)


  • Produced in 1954, this was a breakout hit for The Robins, as well as the first song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to be produced under their new record label, Sparks Records. When Leiber and Stoller started Spark, The Robins was the first act they signed.
  • The song tells the story of a guy who goes to jail for armed robbery and finds himself in the middle of a prison riot.

    As the inspiration for the song, songwriter Jerry Leiber cites radio police dramas he had heard as a kid, particularly Gang Busters. In the book Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography, Leiber says, "Gang Busters had a dynamite opening - a siren followed by a burst of gunfire, and the announcer hyping this week's episode. I was in love with Gang Busters as a ten-year-old back in Baltimore, but now I was twenty. I couldn't remember any of the stories, but the sounds were still in my mind."

    Meanwhile, fellow songwriter Mike Stoller says when asked about this song, "We can't and won't claim credit as the inventors of rap, but if you listen to our early output, you'll hear lots of black men talking poem-stories over a heavy backbeat."
  • Other performers to cover this song include The Beach Boys, Wanda Jackson, Johnny Winter, Dr. Feelgood, The Blues Brothers, Vicki Young, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (you know them from their hit "Hot Rod Lincoln"), and Johnny Cash.
  • Richard Berry was the unaccredited lead singer for the Robins (who later became the Coasters). He is best known for writing the much recorded classic "Louie Louie." The video clip on the right hand side is of Berry performing this Leiber & Stoller number in 1989.

Comments: 1

  • Robert from Topeka, KsIf you haven't read about the Robins before, they eventually became the Coasters.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Mike Campbell

Mike CampbellSongwriter Interviews

Mike is lead guitarist with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and co-writer of classic songs like "Boys Of Summer," "Refugee" and "The Heart Of The Matter."

We Will Rock You (To Sleep): Pop Stars Who Recorded Kids' Albums

We Will Rock You (To Sleep): Pop Stars Who Recorded Kids' AlbumsSong Writing

With the rise of Kindie rock, more musicians are embracing their inner child with tunes for tots - here, we look at pop stars who recorded kids' albums.

Ed Roland of Collective Soul

Ed Roland of Collective SoulSongwriter Interviews

The stories behind "Shine," "December," "The World I Know" and other Collective Soul hits.

Grunge Bands Quiz

Grunge Bands QuizMusic Quiz

If the name Citizen Dick means anything to you, there's a chance you'll get some of these right.

Jimmy Jam

Jimmy JamSongwriter Interviews

The powerhouse producer behind Janet Jackson's hits talks about his Boyz II Men ballads and regrouping The Time.

Edwin McCain

Edwin McCainSongwriter Interviews

"I'll Be" was what Edwin called his "Hail Mary" song. He says it proves "intention of the songwriter is 180 degrees from potential interpretation by an audience."