27 June 1925
Brooklyn, New York, New York, United States
14 March 1991 (aged 65)
Born Jerome Solon Felder in Brooklyn, New York of Jewish heritage, he became a fan of the blues after hearing Big Joe Turner on record. He had polio as a boy and got around on crutches. Due to post-polio syndrome, exacerbated by an accident, he eventually used a wheelchair. He died in 1991 from lung cancer. His brother is the famous New York attorney Raoul Felder.
Using the stage name "Doc Pomus," he began performing as a teenager, becoming one of the most successful white blues singers of his time. In the 1950s, Pomus started songwriting in order to make enough money to support his wife. 24 performances by Pomus in the late '40s and early '50s can be heard on the 2006 CD released by Rev-Ola (Cherry Red Records) titled "Doc Pomus Blues in the Red." This title is available as of this writing through iTunes.
By 1957, Doc had given up performing in order to devote himself full-time to songwriting. He collaborated with pianist Mort Shuman to write for Hill & Range Music Co./Rumbalero Music at its offices in New York City's Brill Building. Their songwriting efforts had Pomus write the lyrics and Shuman the music, although occasionally they worked on both, and produced the hit songs: "Teenager in Love"; "Save The Last Dance For Me"; "Hushabye"; "This Magic Moment"; "Turn Me Loose"; "Sweets For My Sweet"; "Can't Get Used To Losing You"; "Little Sister"; "Suspicion"; "Surrender"; "Viva Las Vegas"; and "His Latest Flame (Marie's The Name)". Their songs were recorded by, among many others, Dion, Andy Williams, Bobby Rydell, James Darren, Twiggy, Lorraine Ellison, Brook Benton, The McCoys, Alexis Korner, Bobby Charles, Lil Green, Gatemouth Moore, Bobby Darin, Fabian, Dusty Springfield, Ray Charles, The Byrds, Connie Francis, Brenda Lee, The Lovelites, The Crowns, Laverne Baker, Major Lance, Manfred Mann, Amen Corner, The Birds, Big Joe Turner, The Beach Boys, The Mystics, Ben E. King, Cissy Houston, The Flamingos, Andy Williams, Ike and Tina Turner, The Coasters, The Drifters and Elvis Presley. A compilation of some lesser known, but excellent recordings of songs by Pomus and Shuman is to be released in June by Ace Records of London.
During the late '50s and early '60s Pomus also wrote with Phil Spector ("Youngboy Blues"; "Ecstasy"; "Here Comes The Night"; "What Am I To Do?"), Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber ("Youngblood" and "She's Not You") and other Brill Building era writers.
In the 1970s and 1980s out of his eleventh-floor two-room apartment at the Westover Hotel at 253 West 72nd Street, Pomus wrote songs with Dr. John, Ken Hirsch and Willy DeVille for what he said were "…those people stumbling around in the night out there, uncertain of not always so certain of exactly where they fit in and where they were headed." These later songs ("There Must Be A Better World" and "There Is Always One More Time" in particular), which were recorded by B.B. King, Irma Thomas, and Johnny Adams, are considered by some to be signatures of his best craft. Pomus wrote "Save the Last Dance for Me," although he could not walk, and the lyrics to "Viva Las Vegas" thirty years before ever going west of Newark, New Jersey, and never, incidentally, to Las Vegas.
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