Our Top 10 Coasters songs list looks back at a group that was formed in 1955. Two of the members, Carl Gardner and Bobby Nunn had previously been members of another vocal group, The Robbins. The other members of the Coasters were Billy Guy, Leon Hughes who was soon replaced by Young Jessie and Adolph Jacobs who left in 1959. Songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller produced “Smokey Joe’s Café” for The Robins. This single was popular and led to Lieber and Stoller being offered to produce The Robins for Atlantic Records. Gardner and Nunn were the only two willing to sign with Atlantic. After they split and joined the Coasters, the Robins recruited two other singers as replacements and continued on.
The Coasters association with Lieber and Stoller was a big factor in their success. They were particularly renowned for their good-humored nature which many people found entertaining. This humorous aspect to the lyrical content reportedly took just as much work as all the other aspects of writing and recording the music.
The first Coasters single was “Down In Mexico” in 1956 which was an instant hit on the R&B charts. The next year they broke through into the mainstream with “Young Blood/Searchin” which was their first top ten hit and spent thirteen weeks on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart. It was the biggest single of the genre in 1957. Next up was “Yakety Yack” which was their only number one single. The next single “Charlie Brown” got to number two on both the pop and R&B charts. Several more singles followed it.
The groups popularity started to decline as the 1960’s came along due to the decline of the genre and the group’s frequent line-up changes. Guy took a backseat due to working on a solo career and Vernon Harnell was brought in as a live replacement. Despite this, they still continued on into the decade with further line-up changes. In 1966, they reunited with Lieber and Stoller having departed with them for some time and signed with Columbia Records although they were unable to replicate previous success. In 1971 they had a minor hit with “Love Potion No 9.” Despite never gaining any real massive success, they still continued to exist as a touring outfit, with more constant line-up changes. Throughout the 1970’s several other groups used the name despite that fact that Carl Gardner owned the legal rights. He often sought legal action to stop these groups fraudulently claiming to be The Coasters.
In 1987, they made minor history by becoming the first group (as opposed to a solo artist) to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2005, Garners son Carl Jnr took his place in the group after he retired. Over the years several former members have suffered tragic ends, with some of them being murdered. Whilst not considered to be a particularly relevant force in the current musical landscape, The Coasters still continue to exist, often appearing at “oldies” events for which there is much demand for them.
# 10 – Girls Girls Girls
Kicking of our top ten Coasters songs list is this song that was written by Lieber and Stoller that was made more famous by Elvis Presley. It is one of two Coasters songs that Presley covered, the other one being “Little Egypt” which was recorded during the same session. Neither songs were as successful for the group as they were for Presley, both only reaching ninety-six on both the pop and R&B charts.
# 9 – Shoppin For Clothes
Up next is a novelty song released in 1960. It is another of the group’s tracks that managed to chart, but at a low position reaching only number eighty-three. There was some legal action involved with the song, due to the fact that it is partly based on the song “Clothes Line” by Kent Harris that had been released four years earlier. Harris received a share of the writing credit.
# 8 – Poison Ivy
Here we have one of the group’s more popular hits recorded in 1959. It topped the R&B chart and reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as number fifteen in the Uk. It is a song that has been covered by many artists over the years from the Dave Clarke Five in 1963 all the way to the band Bleached in 2014.
# 7 – Along Came Jones
Up next is another humorous song that was released in 1959 which reached number nine on the Billboard. Despite its unserious nature, it is a much revered song and another that has been covered by many others artists over the years. The song’s lyrics are based on television westerns that were one of the popular tv genres of the era. It is about how they were almost “inescapable” from television sets during the time.
# 6 – Searchin’
This was released as a single in 1957 where it topped the R&B charts for twelve weeks. In addition to this, it reached number three on the Billboard singles chart. Although the previous couple of singles had been successful, it was this that really sparked of their popularity. It has been covered by Johnny Rivers and Paul McCartney.
# 5 – One Kiss Led to Another
Just off the top spot is a song that reached number eleven on the R&B chart and number seventy-three on the Billboard Hot 100 upon its release in 1956. It appeared on their self titled album released in 1957. The Beach Boys recorded it in 1956 for their album The Beach Boys Party. Lieber and Stoller wrote it as well as produced it.
# 4 – Down in Mexico
At number four on this top 10 Coasters songs list is the group’s debut single released in 1956. It also appears on their self titled debut and reached number eight on the R&B chart. It has several cover versions from artists such as Manfred Mann and Bobby Short. It appears in the Quentin Tarantino movie “Death Proof” and “The Hangover Part 3.”
# 3 – Young Blood
Lieber and Stoller wrote this song with Doc Pomus and released as single together with “Searchin” in 1957. It topped the R&B chart and got to number eight on the Billboard 100. The Beatles also recorded their own version of it in 1963. In addition to this, there have been many other versions of it. One of the most famous versions of the song was the great Bad Company version released in the 1970s.
# 2 – Charlie Brown
Next on our top ten Drifters songs list is another big hit from 1959. It got to number two on the Billboard Hot 100. It is yet another track in the Coasters catalog that is a much-celebrated song in musical history. There have been over eighty covers of it in the years since its release in multiple different genres.
# 1 – Yakety Yak
We close out our top 10 Coasters songs list with a song that spent seven weeks at number one on the R&B charts and topped the Top 100 chart for one week. It is a prime example of how the Coasters music was often light-hearted and humorous in nature. It is another song that has had numerous covers as well as parodies and appearances in popular culture. This is easily the most popular song by The Coasters and has remained a classic in the story of classic rock.
Updated November 7, 2023
Top 10 Coasters Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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