The Coasters

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The Coasters
The Coasters 1957.JPG
The Coasters, 1957
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California,
United States
Genres Rhythm and blues, rock and roll
Years active 1955–present
Labels Atco (1955-1966)
Date, King (1966-1972)
Associated acts The Robins
Website Official website
Members J.W. Lance
Primotivo Candelara
Eddie Whitfield
Dennis Anderson
Past members Carl Gardner (deceased)
Billy Guy (deceased)
Bobby Nunn (deceased)
Leon Hughes
Adolph Jacobs (deceased)
Young Jessie
Will "Dub" Jones (deceased)
Cornell Gunter (deceased)
Albert "Sonny" Forriest (deceased)
Earl Carroll (deceased)
Thomas "Curley" Palmer
Vernon Harrell (deceased)
Ronnie Bright (deceased)
Jimmy Norman (deceased)
Alvin Morse
Carl Gardner Jr.

The Coasters are an American rhythm and blues/rock and roll vocal group who had a string of hits in the late 1950s. Beginning with "Searchin'" and "Young Blood", their most memorable songs were written by the songwriting and producing team of Leiber and Stoller.[1] Although the Coasters originated outside of mainstream doo-wop, their records were so frequently imitated that they became an important part of the doo-wop legacy through the 1960s.


The Coasters were formed in October 1955 as a spin-off of the Robins, a Los Angeles-based rhythm and blues group that included Carl Gardner and Bobby Nunn. The original Coasters were Carl Gardner, Billy Guy, Bobby Nunn, Leon Hughes (who was replaced by Young Jessie on a couple of their early Los Angeles recordings), and guitarist Adolph Jacobs. Jacobs left the group in 1959.[2]

The songwriting team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller had started Spark Records, and in 1955 produced "Smokey Joe's Cafe" for the Robins[1] (their 5th single with Leiber-Stoller). The record was popular enough for Atlantic Records to offer Leiber and Stoller an independent production contract to produce the Robins for the Atlantic label. Only two of the Robins—Gardner and Nunn—were willing to make the move to Atlantic, recording their first songs in the same studio as the Robins had done (Master Recorders). In late 1957, the group moved to New York and replaced Nunn and Hughes with Cornell Gunter and Will "Dub" Jones. The new quartet was from then on stationed in New York (although all had Los Angeles roots).

The Coasters' association with Leiber and Stoller was an immediate success. Together they created a string of good-humored "storytelling" hits that are some of the most entertaining from the original era of rock and roll.[1] According to Leiber and Stoller, getting the humor to come through on the records often required more recording "takes" than for a typical musical number.[1]

Their first single, "Down in Mexico", was an R&B hit in 1956 and appears (in a re-recording from 1970—still with Gardner singing the lead) on the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. The following year, the Coasters crossed over to the pop chart in a big way with the double-sided "Young Blood"/"Searchin'". "Searchin'" was the group's first U.S. Top 10 hit, and topped the R&B chart for 13 weeks, becoming the biggest R&B single of 1957 (all were recorded in Los Angeles).

"Yakety Yak" (recorded in New York), featuring King Curtis on tenor saxophone, included the famous lineup of Gardner, Guy, Jones, and Gunter, became the act's only national #1 single, and also topped the R&B chart. The next single, "Charlie Brown", reached #2 on both charts. It was followed by "Along Came Jones", "Poison Ivy" (#1 for a month on the R&B chart), and "Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)".

Changing popular tastes and a couple of line-up changes contributed to a lack of hits in the 1960s. During this time, Billy Guy was also working on solo projects, so New York singer Vernon Harrell was brought in to replace him for stage performances. Later members included Earl "Speedo" Carroll (lead of the Cadillacs), Ronnie Bright (the bass voice on Johnny Cymbal's "Mr. Bass Man"), Jimmy Norman, and guitarist Thomas "Curley" Palmer. The Coasters signed with Columbia Records' Date label in 1966, reuniting with Leiber and Stoller (who had parted ways with Atlantic Records in 1963), but were never able to regain their former fame. In 1971, the Coasters had a minor chart entry with "Love Potion No. 9" a song that Leiber and Stoller had written for the Coasters but instead gave to the Clovers in 1959. In Britain, a 1994 Volkswagen TV advertisement used the group's "Sorry But I'm Gonna Have To Pass" track, which led to a minor chart placement in that country.

In 1987, the Coasters became the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, crediting the members of the 1958-era configuration. The Coasters also joined the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.

Several groups used the name in the 1970s, touring throughout the country, though Carl Gardner, one of the original Coasters, held the legal rights to it. Gardner continued to tour with the Coasters and made many attempts to stop bogus groups with no connection to the original group using the name. In late 2005, Carl's son Carl Gardner, Jr. took over as lead with the group when his father retired. The Coasters' lineup then consisted of Carl Gardner, Jr., J.W. Lance, Primo Candelara, and Eddie Whitfield. Carl, Jr. has since split with this group and has started his own group with Curley Palmer.[3]

Leon Hughes is the only surviving member of the original Coasters. Some of the former members suffered tragic ends. Saxophonist and "fifth Coaster" King Curtis was stabbed to death by two junkies outside his apartment building in 1971. Cornelius Gunter was shot to death while sitting in a Las Vegas parking garage in 1990. Nate Wilson, a member of one of Gunter's offshoot Coasters groups, was shot and his body dismembered in 1980.[4] Former manager Patrick Cavanaugh was convicted of the murder after Wilson threatened to notify authorities of Cavanaugh's intent to buy furniture with stolen checks. While Cavanaugh was convicted of the murder and given the death sentence in 1984, his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He died at 60 in 2006, in Nevada's Ely State Prison.[5]

The Coasters continue to appear regularly on "oldies" shows and PBS specials as old favorites and are available for bookings.[4]

The Hits list below is from Joel Whitburn's Top R&B Singles and from the Pop positions published in Bill Millar's book "The Coasters" (1975).

In late June, 2007 Carl Gardner's autobiography "Carl Gardner: Yakety Yak I Fought Back - My Life with The Coasters" was published at AuthorHouse. On August 28, 2007 the Coasters' Leiber-Stoller-produced recordings for Date/King 1966-1972 was released on a Varèse Vintage (Varèse Sarabande) CD, titled "Down Home" (302 066 844 2) - and on December 12, 2007 the complete Atco recordings 1954-1966 were released on a Rhino Handmade four-CD set, titled "There's A Riot Goin' On: The Coasters on Atco" (Rhino RHM2 7740).


The Coasters' repertoire had a significant impact on '60s and '70s rock artists. Leon Russell performed "Young Blood" at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, imitating the group's arrangement of the song with four different solo voices. Bad Company's version of the song reached #20 on in May 1976 on the Hot 100. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen recorded The Robins' "Riot in Cell Block Number 9", while The Beach Boys recorded a 1971 version with revised lyrics by Mike Love, titled "Student Demonstration Time". The novelty singer Ray Stevens reached #27 on the U.S. pop singles chart with a 1969 remake of "Along Came Jones". Elvis Presley included "Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)" in the soundtrack for his 1964 film Roustabout. The first two British hits of The Hollies were "(Ain't That) Just Like Me" and "Searchin'". The Monkees reached #10 on Cashbox with "D. W. Washburn". (The Coasters recorded it first, but when Date declined to release it, Leiber and Stoller sent it as a demo to the Monkees. After the Monkees charted, the Coasters original was issued.) Several Coasters songs were part of The Beatles' repertoire before the British rock group began its recording career; George Harrison is among the singers on the above-mentioned Leon Russell live recording. The Grateful Dead similarly performed several Coasters songs in their early days; they were influenced by a weekend in 1965 in which the Dead (while still called The Warlocks) served as pickup band for the Coasters at a lounge in Belmont, CA. When the Beach Boys and the Grateful Dead united on stage to perform a brief set at New York City's Filmore East, they performed "Searchin'" and "Riot in Cell Block No. 9". Numerous groups have recorded "Poison Ivy".

Coasters hits also comprised a major portion of the song score for the 1994 musical revue Smokey Joe's Cafe, a retrospective of Leiber & Stoller songs that received one Grammy Award and seven Tony Award nominations following its 1995 Broadway debut. Their song "Baby, That Is Rock and Roll" has served as the main title for a biography/songbook of Leiber & Stoller songs and a Bravo television documentary on the songwriters.

In addition, Coasters songs and the Coasters themselves have been referred to by later popular musicians. Frank Zappa referenced the group in the lyrics of the song "Status Back Baby" on his second album, Absolutely Free. Sly Stone titled a 1971 #1 album by his group Sly & the Family Stone after the tag line from "Riot in Cell Block No. 9": There's a Riot Goin' On. The folksinger David Bromberg quoted from "Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)" in his 1972 song "Sharon". Paolo Nutini regularly covers "Down in Mexico" during live performances.

Band members[edit]

Current members
  • J. W. Lance – lead vocals, previously tenor vocals (2001–present)
  • Primotivo Candelara – baritone vocals (2008–present)
  • Eddie Whitfield – bass vocals (2009–present)
  • Dennis Anderson – tenor vocals (2011–present)
Former members

(Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductees' listed in bold.)

Session musicians[edit]


Studio albums[edit]

  • 1957 - The Coasters - Atco LP 33-101
  • 1959 - The Coasters' Greatest Hits - Atco LP 33-111 (SD33-111 rechanneled stereo 1960)
  • 1960 - The Coasters One By One - Atco LP 33-123 (SD33-123 stereo)
  • 1962 - Coast Along with The Coasters - Atco LP 33-135 (SD33-135 alternate stereo edition)
  • 1965 - That Is Rock & Roll - Clarion LP 605 (SD-605 stereo)
  • 1971 - Their Greatest Recordings: The Early Years - Atco LP SD33-371 (stereo compilation with alternates)
  • 1972 - The Coasters On Broadway - King LP KS1146 (stereo)
  • 1975 - 16 Greatest Hits - Trip TOP LP 16-7 (ten revival re-recordings + six Billy Guy-recordings)
  • 1982 - Young Blood - Atlantic DeLuxe LP AD 2-4003 (mono)

Hit singles[edit]

Entry Date Titles Peak chart positions
US Pop Charts UK Singles Chart Billboard R&B Charts
03/1956 "Down in Mexico"
- - 8
09/1956 "One Kiss Led to Another" 73 - 11
05/1957 "Young Blood" b/w 8 / 15 1
05/1957 "Searchin'" 3 / 7 30 1
11/1957 "Idol with the Golden Head"
64 - -
06/1958 "Yakety Yak" 1 / 1 12 1
02/1959 "Charlie Brown" 2 / 2 6 2
05/1959 "Along Came Jones" 9 / 11 - 14
08/1959 "Poison Ivy" b/w 7 / 9 15 1
09/1959 "I'm a Hog For You" 38 / 95 - -
12/1959 "Run Red Run" b/w 36 / 51 - 29
01/1960 "What About Us" 47 / 33 - 17
04/1960 "Bésame Mucho" 70 / 53 - -
06/1960 "Wake Me, Shake Me" 51 / 34 - 14
10/1960 "Shoppin' for Clothes" 83 / 57 - -
02/1961 "Wait a Minute" 37 / 42 - -
05/1961 "Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)" 23 / 30 - 16
08/1961 "Girls Girls Girls (Part II)" 96 / 98 - -
03/1964 "T'ain't Nothin' To Me" 64 / 73 - 20
12/1971 "Love Potion Number Nine" 76 / 96 - -
08/1994 "Sorry But I'm Gonna Have To Pass" - 41 -

Notes: A "b/w" next to a hit denotes the following track is the B-side. U.S. Billboard chart positions (unless otherwise noted). Billboard peak Pop chart position is /followed by Cash Box peak Pop chart position - ex.g. "Shoppin' For Clothes" reached Cash Box Pop #57; "Besame Mucho" reached Cash Box Pop #53. Three of the Cash Box pop entry dates slightly differ (by a week or two - either way; ex.g. "Yakety Yak" entered the Cash Box Pop Chart in May). "T'ain't Nothin' To Me" R&B position is from Cash Box since Billboard did not publish an R&B chart in 1964.

US singles discography[edit]

The line-ups are presented for general overview and do not always fit with issue dates.

Label and catalog number followed by month/year of issue, and by track titles (with lead and recording dates).

The Robins (only singles featuring Carl Gardner are listed)

(Carl Gardner, Bobby Nunn, "Ty" Terrell Leonard, Billy Richard, Roy Richard, Grady Chapman)

leads: CG-Gardner; BN-Nunn; GC-Chapman; RB-Richard Berry (guest lead) (Los Angeles)

  • Spark 107 10/54 - Loop De Loop Mambo (CG 8/54) / Framed (BN 8/54)
  • Spark 110 2/55 - If Teardrops Were Kisses (CG, 2/54) / Whadaya Want? (GC 2/54)
  • Spark 113 4/55 - One Kiss (CG 8/54) / I Love Paris (GC 2/54)
  • Spark 116 6/55 - I Must Be Dreamin (CG 8/54) / The Hatchet Man (BN 2/54)
  • Spark 122 9/55 - Smokey Joe's Cafe (CG prob 7/7/55) / Just Like A Fool (CG prob 7/7/55)
  • Atco 6059 10/55 - Smokey Joe's Cafe (CG) / Just Like A Fool (CG) - reissue

(all of the above later issued on EP, LP, and CD compilations as The Coasters).

The Coasters (all "true"/legal Coasters singles are listed)

(Carl Gardner, Bobby Nunn, Billy Guy, Leon Hughes)

leads: CG-Gardner; BN-Nunn; BG-Guy (Los Angeles, Chicago*, New York**)

  • Atco 6064 2/56 - Down in Mexico (CG 1/11/56) / Turtle Dovin´ (CG 1/11/56)
  • Atco 6098 8/57 - Idol With The Golden Head (CG 7/24/57*) / (When She Wants Good Lovin´) My Baby Comes To Me (BG 7/24/57*)
  • Atco 6104 11/57 - Sweet Georgia Brown (CG, BG, BN 2/12/57) / What Is The Secret Of Your Success? (BG 7/24/57*)
  • Atco 6111 1/58 - Gee, Golly (BG 12/4/57**) / Dance! (CG 12/4/57**)

(Gardner, Guy, Will Jones, Cornell Gunter)

leads: CG-Gardner; BG-Guy; WJ-Jones, CoG-Gunter (New York)

  • Atco 6126 8/58 - The Shadow Knows (BG 8/8/58) / Sorry But I'm Gonna Have To Pass (WJ 8/8/58)
  • Atco 6132 1/59 - Charlie Brown (unison 12/11/58) / Three Cool Cats (CG 3/17/58)
    • stereo version of Charlie Brown on SD 6132 has CG, CoG separated in stereo
  • Atco 6141 5/59 - Along Came Jones (joint leads 3/26/59) / That Is Rock & Roll (CG, BG, WJ 3/26/59)
  • Atco 6146 8/59 - Poison Ivy (CG,BG 7/16/59) / I'm A Hog For You (unison 8/8/58, edited 7/17/59)
  • Atco 6153 11/59 - What About Us (unison 7/16/59) / Run Red Run (BG 7/23/59)
  • Atco 6178 9/60 - Shoppin´ For Clothes (BG, WJ 7/29/60) / The Snake And The Book Worm (CG, CoG 2/26/60)
    • A-side also issued as Clothes Line (Wrap It Up)
  • Atco 6186 1/61 - Wait A Minute (BG 12/4/57) / Thumbin´ A Ride (CG 7/29/60)
  • Atco 6204 8/61 - Girls Girls Girls (Part I) (BG 2/9/61) / Girls Girls Girls (Part II) (BG 2/9/61)

(Gardner, Guy, Jones, Earl Carroll)

leads: CG-Gardner; BG-Guy; WJ-Jones; EC-Carroll (New York, Los Angeles*)

  • Atco 6210 11/61 - (Ain't That) Just Like Me (BG 9/25/61) / Bad Blood CG (9/25/61)
  • Atco 6219 2/62 - Ridin´ Hood (unison 12/7/60*) / Teach Me How To Shimmy (BG 4/10/61*)
  • Atco 6234 9/62 - The Climb (vocal) (WJ 7/31/62) / The Climb (instrumental) (7/31/62)
  • Atco 6251 1/63 - The P.T.A. (BG 1/11/63) / Bull Tick Waltz (BG 7/31/62)
  • Atco 6287 2/64 - T´Ain´t Nothin´ To Me (BG, WJ 11/16/63) / Speedo's Back In Town (EC 11/16/63)
  • Atco 6300 5/64 - Bad Detective (BG 12/17/63) / Lovey Dovey (CG 12/17/63)
  • Atco 6321 10/64 - Wild One (BG 8/28/64) / I Must Be Dreaming (BG,CG 8/28/64)
  • Atco 6341 2/65 - Lady Like (unison 2/26/60) / Hongry (BG 4/10/61*)
  • Atco 6379 9/65 - Crazy Baby (BG 4/21/65, edited 9/8/65) / Bell Bottom Slacks And A Chinese Kimono (She's My Little Spodee-O) (CG 4/21/65, edited 9/8/65)
  • Date 1552 3/67 - Soul Pad (BG, EC 11/18/66) / Down Home Girl (BG 11/18/66)
  • Date 1607 5/68 - She Can (BG, CG, EC 10/30/67) / Everybody's Woman (EC 10/30/67)
  • Date 1617 7/68 - D.W. Washburn (BG, CG 10/31/67 / Everybody's Woman (EC 10/30/67)

(Gardner, Guy, Carroll, Ronnie Bright)

  • Turntable 504 1969 - Act Right (BG 69) / The World Is Changing (EC 69)
  • King 6389 4/72 - Cool Jerk (CG late 71) / Talkin´ ´Bout A Woman (BG, CG, EC; act. She Can 10/30/67)
  • King 6404 1973 - Soul Pad (BG, EC 11/18/66) / D.W. Washburn (BG, CG 10/31/67)

Carl Gardner & The Coasters

(Gardner, Carroll, Bright, Jimmy Norman)

  • Wicked 8103 1976 - Hush Don't Talk About It (CG ca 76) / The World Keeps On Turning (EC ca 76)

Free Soul / Beautifully Day released 11/15/2010 by Carl Gardner Jr. Through tunecore

CD Compilations[edit]

  • 1986 - The Ultimate Coasters - Warner Special Products 27604 (stereo)
  • 1987 - The Coasters - 20 Greatest Hits - Highland Music DCD-7786 (rerecorded in stereo)
  • 1989 - The Coasters' Greatest Hits - Atco 33111-2 (reissue of LP, with a couple of tracks in stereo) - reissued on Hallmark
  • 1991 - Poison Ivy - The Best of the Coasters - Atlantic CD 82313-2 (20 tracks - withdrawn)
  • 1992 - 50 Coastin' Classics (2CD-set) - Rhino R2 71090 (mono)
  • 1994 - The Very Best of The Coasters - Rhino R2 71597 (mono) - reissued 2008
  • 1996 - Golden Hits - Masters 1127 (the Trip revivals, stereo - uncountable reissues on several labels)
  • 2004 - The Coasters / One By One - Collectables COL-CD-7656 (2LPs on 1CD - "One By One" in stereo) - (a 2011 European issue on Hoodoo 263387 contains the same tracks plus three bonus tracks and a 16-page booklet)
  • 2005 - Coast Along with The Coasters - Collectables COL-CD-6523 (reissue of stereo LP)
  • 2005 - 16 Greatest Hits - Audio Passport CD-1018 (reissue of Trip LP)
  • 2007 - Down Home - Varèse Sarabande/Vintage CD 302066844-2 (the "On Broadway" tracks, stereo)
  • 2007 - There's A Riot Goin' On: The Coasters On Atco (4CD-set) - Rhino Handmade RHM2 7740 (the complete Atco recordings, 113 tracks; several stereo masters)
  • 2008 - The Definitive Soul Collection (2CD-set) - Rhino 132092 (withdrawn; 30 mono pop hits)

Important British public-domain compilations[edit]

  • 2013 - The Definitive Coasters - A Sides & B Sides (Hits and Bonus Tracks) - History of RnB R001

(Complete recordings 1954-1962) 61 tracks

  • 2013 - Those Hoodlum Friends - The Coasters In Stereo (Outtakes, Stereo Versions and Album Tracks) - History of RnB R002

(Alternate stereo takes and album tracks 1957-1962) 49 tracks including never before issued outtakes

True Coasters recordings (not on single)[edit]

No live recordings included (Note: there also are several alternates and edited masters of the singles, not listed below).

Recorded in New York unless otherwise indicated.
Lead singers: Carl Gardner (CG), Billy Guy (BG), Will "Dub" Jones (WJ), Ronnie Bright (RB), Jimmy Norman (JN).

  • 1957 Lola (CG 2/12/57 L.A.) - Atco LP 33-101 The Coasters
  • 1958 Three Cool Cats (alternate arrangement CG 3/17/58) - Rhino Handmade RHM2 7740 The Coasters On Atco
  • 1958 Crocodile (unison 8/8/58) - Rhino Handmade RHM2 7740
  • 1958 I'm A Hog For You (several different versions-unison 8/8/58) - Rhino Handmade RHM2 7740
  • 1958 Hey Sexy (unison 12/11/58) - Rhino CD R2 71090 50 Coastin´ Classics
  • 1958 Sexy (Hey Sexy) (CG 12/11/58) - Rhino Handmade RHM2 7740
  • 1959 That Is Rock & Roll (edited version, WJ 3/26/59) - Atco LP SD 33-371 Their Greatest Recordings - The Early Years
  • 1960 The Snake And The Bookworm (unison version 2/26/60) - Atco LP SD 33-135 Coast Along With The Coasters (only the stereo album)
  • 1960 The Coasters One By One - Atco LP 33-123 (stereo SD33-123) (6/13&15/60) - 12 jazz/pop standards
  • 1961 My Babe (BG 9/25/61) - Atco LP SD 33-135
  • 1962 The Slime (WJ 7/31/62) - Clarion LP SD-605 That Is Rock & Roll (alternate of The Climb, act. titled so on the album)
  • 1967 Mohair Sam (unison 10/30/67) - King LP 1146 The Coasters On Broadway
  • 1968 Down At Papa Joe's (unison 2/12/68) King LP 1146
  • 1968 Shake ´Em Up And Let ´Em Roll (lead: Jerry Leiber 2/13/68) - Rhino CD R2 71090
  • 1971 Mustang Sally (BG late 71) - King LP 1146
  • 1973 The Coasters - 16 Greatest Hits (featuring 10 re-recordings with CG and JN, leads ca 73) - Trip LP TOP 16-7
  • 1977 Check Mr. Popeye (RB 77) - Epic LP PE-34668 (various artists with Southside Johnny)


  1. ^ a b c d "Show 13 - Big Rock Candy Mountain: Rock 'n' roll in the late fifties. [Part 3] : UNT Digital Library". 1969. Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
  2. ^ "Those Hoodlum Friends THE COASTERS". Retrieved 2006-11-30. 
  3. ^ "The Coasters Web Site - Those Hoodlum Friends, by Claus Röhnisch". Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
  4. ^ a b "The Coasters Website". Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  5. ^ "News - Ex-Coasters manager dies at Ely State Prison". 2006-04-11. Retrieved 2011-01-09. 


  • "Carl Gardner - Yakety Yak I Fought Back - My Life With The Coasters" (by Veta Gardner, AuthorHouse 2007, ISBN 978-1-4259-8981-1).
  • "The Coasters" (by Bill Millar, Star Books 1974, ISBN 0-352-30020-5).

External links[edit]