Smokey Joe's Cafe
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Smokey Joe's Cafe

Newark, New Jersey, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015

Newark, New Jersey, United States
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Rock Gospel


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The best kept secret in music


"All About The Songs"

All about the songs
‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ at the Clark Center will take its audience on a ride through the iconic music of Leiber and Stoller
By Sarah Linn
D on’t be surprised if you find yourself humming along to “Smokey Joe’s Café.” With a repertoire that includes some of the biggest hits of the 1950s and ’60s, it’d be a strain not to break into song. “I always tell my cast, ‘You know you’re doing your job when the audience is singing along,’ ” said the show’s director, A. Curtis Farrow. “You definitely want them to be involved.”
A Broadway-style musical revue with serious chops, “Smokey Joe’s Café” showcases the work of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the influential songwriting team behind such songs as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Spanish Harlem” and “Stand by Me.” Singers will belt out rock ’n’ roll, pop, soul and rhythm-and- blues favorites during two performances Saturday at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande. There’s even a country tune or two. “Most of these songs are over 45 years old, but you would never know it because they’re all still popular,” Farrow said. “These are such sing-along songs.”
Immortal legacy Lyricist Joe Leiber and composer Mike Stoller met as teenagers in Los Angeles in 1950, drawn together by their shared love of R&B and the blues. The duo scored their first commercial hit two years later with “Hard Times,” recorded by Charles Brown. Over the years, they teamed up with The Drifters, The Coasters and Ben E. King, penning such popular songs as “Charlie Brown,” “Yakety Yak,” “Stand By Me” and “On Broadway.” Fruitful collaborations with the likes of Jay and the Americans, The Clovers and Peggy Lee followed.
Leiber and Stoller scored one of their greatest successes in 1956 when a soft-spoken Southerner named Elvis Presley performed “Hound Dog” on “The Milton Berle Show.” The song, originally written for Big Mama Thornton, sold 4 million copies and spent 11 weeks at the top of the charts. Presley went on to record other songs by the duo, including “Jailhouse Rock” and “Loving You.” “When I think they were so successful over so many years, it’s absolutely crazy,” Farrow said of Leiber and Stoller, who were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. “They were ahead of their time.” Their legacy is immortalized in “Smokey Joe’s Café,” which features 39 of the duo’s most popular ditties — including the title track. A nostalgic romp that opens with the song “Neighborhood,” the musical revue premiered in Los Angeles in 1994 and opened on Broadway a year later, closing in 2000 after 2,036 performances. The original Broadway cast recording, “Smokey Joe’s Café: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller,” won a Grammy Award in 1995. Farrow has been directing “Smokey Joe’s Café” for six years. “It has been an absolute joy,” he said of the show. “It is one of the most fun shows that I’ve been involved with in my life.”
The music is the star Although most “jukebox musicals” follow a general narrative or storyline, “Smokey Joe’s Café” is the exception. According to Farrow, the big hits speak for themselves. Nine cast members bring each tune to life with singing, dancing and plenty of audience interaction. At the end of the first act, for instance, the cast launches into a soulful gospel choir version of “Saved.” “They go into the audience and get them clapping. It’s such a good time,” Farrow said. He singled out singers Safiya Fredericks, Famecia Ward and LaTasha Spencer Jordan for special praise. “She’s Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and Sarah Vaughn wrapped into one,” Farrow said of Jordan, who’s been known to bring audiences to their feet with her powerful rendition of “Fools Fall in Love.” He counts that song, first made popular by The Drifters, among his favorites. Audiences, meanwhile, go wild for “Yakety Yak” and “On Broadway.” “When the majority of your audience can sing along with you, that song was a hit,” Farrow said.
Nostalgic appeal According to Farrow, the music of Leiber and Stoller has received a big boost in recent years, thanks to the popularity of “American Idol” and other TV talent shows. During the fourth season of “American Idol,” finalists performed a slate of Leiber and Stoller songs, including “Poison Ivy,” “Trouble” and “Treat Me Nice.” Sixth-season winner Jordan Sparks sang “I (Who Have Nothing)” on the popular Fox show. Contestants on “So You Think You Can Dance” cut a rug to “I’m a Woman” last summer. “For the young people, it became something new,” said Farrow, describing “Smokey Joe’s Café” as appropriate for all ages. “The kids come (to the show) just as much as the adults. The seniors go absolutely crazy over it.” Part of the appeal of “Smokey Joe’s Café” is nostalgia for an era when hook-heavy pop hits and fresh-scrubbed singing groups ruled the airwaves, he said. “This show is full of energy. It’s full of life. It’s full of music,” Farrow said. “You can come and be proud of American - San Luis Obispo Tribune

"Cafe's cooks whip up tasty batch of old school"

Friday, June 15, 2007 - Page updated at 12:56 PM

"Smokey Joe's Cafe" | Jukebox musical revue
By Misha Berson

Seattle Times theater critic

The Jazz Alley presentation of "Smokey Joe's Cafe" keeps it simple: just a big batch of old-school rock songs by one of popdom's successful tunesmith teams, sung by seven performers knocking themselves out to please you.

An early, very popular example of the jukebox musical revue (which played here at Empty Space Theatre in 1990, before hitting it big on Broadway in 1995), "Smokey Joe's Cafe" dispenses with a narrative or any biographical tidbits about the songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

For the record, the two met as teens in Los Angeles in 1950, and proceeded to co-write dozens of radio-ready tunes for an array of top recording artists — ranging from Peggy Lee and the Coasters to Johnny Mathis and Elvis.

"Smokey Joe's Cafe" (also one of their song titles) lets loose seven appealing performers on 40 tunes (some of which are so well absorbed into our culture, no coaxing is needed to get the audience singing along).

A. Curtis Farrow's compact staging of the show at Jazz Alley has the cast getting right down to the basics.

Upbeat and energetic, they belt their songs and dance in place on a bandstand just big enough to hold all seven and a small back-up combo.

The three women singers in the crew are the strongest soloists, particularly Famecia Ward in her fetchingly impish treatment of the sassy LaVern Baker number, "Don Juan"; and LaTasha Spencer Jordan, who does her bluesy-mama thing on the Elvis smash "Hound Dog" and smoothly dispatches the Drifters hit "Fools Fall in Love."

Now playing

"Smokey Joe's Cafe," with songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, today through Sunday, Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., Seattle; $26.50 (206-441-9729 or
Among the guys, the standout is Ron Lucas, whose rich baritone coasts right through "Young Blood," written for the Coasters.

Leiber and Stoller had hits in numerous genres, well displayed here: bouncy novelties ("Poison Ivy," "I'm a Woman"), crooning ballads ("Spanish Harlem," "Loving You") and roadhouse R&B ("Teach Me to Shimmy").

Arranged with tight, bright vocal harmonies and adorned with simple choreography, the show is a light, pleasing 90-minute diversion. And though there was a lot of gray hair in Tuesday's opening night audience, why not bring the kids? They'll recognize quite a few of these durable tunes from TV's "American Idol," which relies heavily on them.
- Seattle Times

"A Non-Stop 50's Hit Jukebox"

408 Kentucky Avenue • Paducah, Kentucky, 42003 • 270.575.8600

‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ musical a non-stop ’50s hits jukebox
Written by Adam Shull
Thursday, February 18 2010

Contributed photo The cast of ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ performs one of the songs written by Jerome ‘Jerry’ Leiber and Mike Stoller. The Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have inducted the duo for their string of hit songs from the 1950s.

Performers will own up to the occasional dialogue slip or lyric garble on stage.
They admit they get away with it, too.
“In opera, most of the audience doesn’t speak Italian so how are they going to know (about a mistake),” Ron Lucas said. “It’s a little different than in our show.”
Lucas is a cast member in “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” a non-stop jukebox musical coming to Paducah that leaves no room for slip ups.
“We’re performing songs people know and sing along to,” Lucas said. “You can’t mess up and you really have to sing. You can’t fool them.”
For those who prefer the “music” in “musical” over everything else, the show is perfect.
The nine cast members sing and dance without any set dialogue or story line. There are almost no breaks between songs.
“It’s a good time,” Lucas said. “We feel like if people are going to go out and pay for a show they should leave in a good mood. It’s a light-hearted evening with no heavy messages.”
The cast performs the 39 hits of Jerome “Jerry” Leiber and Mike Stoller, a 1950s era writing duo that churned out “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Kansas City.”
By the time the two were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they’d created a list of hits that read like a jukebox.
They wrote The Drifters’ “There Goes My Baby,” Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and “Spanish Harlem” and all of the hits for The Coasters including “Yakety Yak.”
Around the time the halls of fame came calling, “Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber & Stoller” opened on Broadway in 1995.
It was an homage to legends and representative of a shift in Broadway toward more musicals.
A shift the 20-year-veteran Lucas noticed.
“When I first started performing you had to be a tap dancer,” Lucas said. “That was big on Broadway at that time. I wasn’t a tap dancer so I had to make my own sort of performances out there.”
As true musicals have exploded on Broadway in the past 10 years, it’s helped give Lucas opportunities, although he never stopped looking for his own.
In addition to stints in Broadway productions, he’s appeared on TV shows “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Oz” and “Spin City.”
And it has given him a confidence to rival even the best-selling movie in history.
“People should come out to the show with a live band, a live singer,” Lucas said.
“You’re not going to get that in ‘Avatar.’”
The cast is already in 3-D, too, he said.
- The Paducah Sun

"Smokey Joe Rocks 'Em"

Smokey Joe’s Café’ rocks ’em
Tunes range from doo-wop to Elvis

By Peter Landsdowne Telegram & Gazette reviewer

WORCESTER — “Smokey Joe’s Café,” a musical revue based on the songs of early rock songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, spent five years on Broadway and racked up more than 2,000 performances before it closed in the year 2000, making it the longest running show of its kind in the history of the Great White Way. On Saturday at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, a traveling version of “Smokey Joe’s Café” hit the stage and drew a crowd of more than 800 Leiber and Stoller fans.

If you’re scratching your head and asking yourself “Who are Leiber and Stoller?” then apparently you weren’t on the planet between 1953 and 1963, when the songwriting team churned out hit after hit for the likes of Elvis Presley, The Coasters, and many other early rockers before the British rock invasion changed everything.

The Hanover version of “Smokey Joe’s Café” featured some three dozen Leiber and Stoller hits in two acts, a talented cast of nine singers (five men and four women) to perform the songs in various configurations, and a live five-piece band (piano, bass, guitar, drums and tenor saxophone) that remained on stage for the entire performance.

The revue opened with the entire cast singing “Neighborhood,” a song that emphasized the importance of the early doo-wop groups and their influence on a new kind of music that emerged in the early 1950s. The kids called it rock ’n’ roll. The critics said it would never last. Leiber and Stoller made sure that it did.

The duo first began collaborating in 1950 and scored an early hit on the blues charts in 1952 with “K.C. Loving.” Seven years later, Wilbert Harrison took the tune, now titled “Kansas City,” to the No. 1 position on the national charts. A rousing version of this classic blues tune had the Hanover crowd clapping along, as did a bluesy version of Leiber and Stoller’s “Ruby Baby.”

The blues gave Leiber and Stoller their first real blockbuster hit, a little ditty called “Hound Dog.” Saturday night, a big-voiced female singer emerged from the cast and belted this one out in the style of Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, a blues shouter who had a hit with the tune in 1953. Three years later, Leiber and Stoller revamped the tune and gave it to a young singer with an unusual name: Elvis Presley. The ramped-up Presley version of “Hound Dog” was missing from the “Smokey Joe’s Café” revue, but Elvis was well-represented by several other tunes that Leiber and Stoller penned for him, including a romping “Jailhouse Rock” and a couple of slower items (“Love Me” and “Loving You”), all of which were handled with aplomb by various male cast members.

Despite the success with Elvis, Leiber and Stoller’s real forté was penning tunes for vocal groups. The five men in the “Smokey Joe’s Café” revue successfully recreated many of these hits Saturday night by reincarnating themselves as The Coasters and singing “Youngblood” (with its familiar “you’re the one, you’re the one” refrain) and “Searchin’,” (“gonna find her, gonna find her”). Those two Leiber and Stoller songs were a crossover double-sided hit for the Coasters in 1957.
The male singers stayed in their Coasters configuration for a couple more Leiber and Stoller hits, “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown.” The Hanover crowd gleefully chanted the “Yakety yak! Don’t talk back!” hook to the former and chimed in on the “Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?” line from “Charlie Brown,” a song about a slacker who smokes in the gym and calls his English teacher “daddy-o.”
The entire cast reconfigured for “On Broadway,” which Leiber and Stoller penned along with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, another important songwriting team. The Hanover crowd was singing along on this one from the opening line (“They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway”) while simultaneously clapping to the beat on this timeless classic.
The women cast members dominated “I’m A Woman,” a hit for The Clovers that had audience members singing along, and sang backup as the men re-emerged for a fervent version of “There Goes My Baby,” a hit for The Drifters in 1959. Cast and crowd alike sang along to the concert-ender, an emotional rendition of Ben E. King’s hit “Stand By Me,” a Leiber and Stoller that has become an American anthem of sorts. A reprise of the opening “Neighborhood” theme acknowledged a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd as the entire cast clasped hands and bowed as one entity.
- Telegram Gazette

"Cheerful Nostalgia"

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Last updated June 14, 2007 1:29 p.m. PT
Cheerful nostalgia billows through 'Smokey Joe's Cafe'
Before there was rock there was rock 'n' roll. That was 40 or 50 years ago, when rhythm and blues was oozing into doo-wop and pop -- as exemplified by the songwriting team of Jerry Leiber (words) and Mike Stoller (music).
CREATORS: Songs by Jerry Leiber (words) and Mike Stoller (music)
WHERE: Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave.
WHEN: Through Sunday
TICKETS: $26.50; 206-441-9729 or

"Smokey Joe's Cafe," a tribute revue featuring the songs of Stoller and Leiber, is at Jazz Alley. The show is pretty mild compared with the productions that played the Paramount Theatre and the 5th Avenue Musical Theatre not too long ago. But the nostalgia throbs. And the seven performers, who share the small Jazz Alley stage with a peppy four-man band, are personable.
Stoller and Leiber, two Jewish boys from Los Angeles, started writing songs for black performers in 1950 when they were 17. Then Elvis Presley began recording their work and they became instant legends.
As the Jazz Alley show demonstrates, nearly every human experience can be jolly when submitted to the Stoller and Leiber treatment: Wandering ("Keep on Rollin'"), reproaches ("Charlie Brown," "D.W. Washburn," "Yakety Yak," "Hound Dog"), frustration ("On Broadway"), mercenary perfidy ("Don Juan"), salvation ("Saved"), boasting ("I'm a Woman") and, most especially, frustrated infatuation ("Young Blood," "Searchin'," "Fools Fall in Love," "Love Potion No. 9," "There Goes My Baby").
Then, too, there's pitiful melodrama ("I, Who Have Nothing") and plain old romance ("Spanish Harlem").
The best song in the show, however, is a sort of plaintive country and western tune -- before there was country there was country and western -- called "Pearl's a Singer." It's a poignant lament about a woman who maybe coulda, shoulda been a star if only .... Safiya Fredericks puts the song across at Jazz Alley as a touching little bittersweet drama celebrating resiliency in the face of disappointment.
The "Smokey Joe's" touring company comes from the Irving Street Repertory of New York. The Rep has already brought several productions of the Fats Waller revue "Ain't Misbehavin' " to Jazz Alley.
Four male performers -- Jonathan Celestin, Ron Lucas, Stanley Martin and Jace Rivera -- are spunky and fresh. Latasha Jordan Spencer is the company's female belter. She has gospel pipes. And Famecia Ward (a 2004 "American Idol" contender) is the perky femme fatale.
"Smokey Joe's Cafe" has a certain quaint charm. "Smokey?" What's that about? Oh, yeah. People used to smoke in nightspots. One of the show's big whole-ensemble numbers is "Baby, That Is Rock and Roll." Or, as one might say now, "Baby, That Was Rock and Roll."

- Seattle Post Intelegencer


Still working on that hot first release.



Smokey Joe's Cafe
The Songs of Leiber and Stoller
As much as anyone, Leiber and Stoler invented Rock and Roll. Their timeless songs provide the basis for this electrifying entertainment that had critics raving and audiences stampeding the box office during its record-breaking Broadway run.

Featuring nearly 40 of the greatest songs ever recorded including such hits as On Broadway, Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, Stand By Me, Spanish Harlem, Love Potion #9 and I'm A Woman. Each song is a trip down the corridors of American culture. Smokey Joe's Cafe transforms classic pop music into compelling musical theater.