Carl Gardner, Leon Hughes, Billy Guy and Bobby Nunn got together in 1955 as The Coasters and hit the US charts with their second release, Down In Mexico in 1956.
A string of classic and usually highly amusing hits followed for the group, and for songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote their songs, taught them their arrangements, produced their records, and maybe even tucked them into bed . . .
Nunn and Hughes were succeeded by Will “Dub” Jones and Cornell Gunter in late 1957, and in the spring of 1958 the group recorded Yakety Yak, driven by a frantic beat, a thick King Curtis sax solo and Jones’ bass hook “don’t talk back”.
The Coasters had a string of chart singles into the 1960s, highlighted by Along Came Jones, Poison Ivy and Little Egypt.
Gunter was replaced in 1961 by ex-Cadillac Earl “Speedo” Carroll, and Leiber and Stoller moved on to other projects in 1963 which meant reduced sales for The Coasters.
Despite their decline, their influence was felt during the British Invasion of the 60s, with covers of their songs by The Rolling Stones (Poison Ivy), The Downliners Sect (Little Egypt) and The Move (Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart).
In 1971 they returned with a hit revival of Love Potion Number Nine which had been a hit for The Clovers in 1959, in a style based closely on The Coasters.
Cornell Gunter was murdered in Las Vegas on 26 February 1990, at the age of 53. Carl Gardner was the last surviving member of the Coasters’ classic line-up. Gardner passed away in 2011.
Will ‘Dub’ Jones
Earl ‘Speedo’ Carroll