Aaron Schroeder: Songwriter who wrote for Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Nat 'King' Cole

The New York publisher and songwriter Aaron Schroeder was one of the key figures around the Brill Building in the 1950s and 1960s. He was a songwriter who preferred to collaborate with others, especially in improving the commerciality of a promising song. Several of his 300 published compositions were recorded by Elvis Presley, including the multi-million seller "It's Now or Never" (1960). He liked to say, not entirely in jest, "I don't read music – that's why I make so much money."

Aaron Harold Schroeder, who was born in Brooklyn in 1926, was a competent pianist, mostly playing by ear, who was first attracted to the big bands of the 1940s. An early success was with "At a Sidewalk Penny Arcade" (1948), which was recorded by both Rosemary Clooney and Guy Lombardo. In 1955, he was working as a staff writer for the publishing company Hill and Range when he learnt that they were supplying songs to Elvis Presley, who had been signed to RCA-Victor Records.

Schroeder was asked to improve a song by other staff writers, "I Was the One", and the result was the B-side of "Heartbreak Hotel" and made the US Top 20 in its own right. Schroeder was so impressed with Presley that he said to another songwriter, Clyde Otis, "I've got a title, 'Anyway That You Want Me (That's How I Will Be)', so let's write the song." It was released as the B-side to "Love Me Tender", and, again, made the US Top 20 in its own right. Schroeder also wrote one of the first tribute songs to Presley, "My Boy Elvis" by Janis Martin.

Presley stockpiled songs to cover his time in the US army and he had great success with Schroeder's songs "I Got Stung" (later recorded by Paul McCartney) and "A Big Hunk O' Love". When Presley returned to civilian life in 1960, Schroeder wrote his first hit, "Stuck on You".

While serving in the US army, Presley developed a taste for Mario Lanza's recordings and took to singing "O Sole Mio" for his own amusement. Presley's publisher, Freddy Bienstock, wanted a new English lyric, and Schroeder and Wally Gold wrote "It's Now or Never" in 30 minutes. The record, which was released in 1960, sold 20 million copies. Schroeder used his windfall to start his own label, Musicor. Whenever Schroeder was away from home, he would buy his wife, Abby, a new charm for her bracelet. This led to him and Gold composing "Good Luck Charm" (1962), another trans-Atlantic chart-topper for Presley.

Schroeder appeared as a songwriter in the rock'n'roll film Disc Jockey Jamboree (1957), in which Carl Perkins sang his song "Glad All Over". Besides writing rock'n'roll songs, Schroeder maintained his contact with more traditional singers. In 1958, Frank Sinatra had a hit with "French Foreign Legion" and Perry Como with "Mandolins in the Moonlight". Nat "King" Cole recorded two of Schroeder's songs, "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1959) and "Time and the River" (1960).

A fledgling songwriter, Gene Pitney, showed Schroeder his work and Schroeder was so impressed that he encouraged him to become a performer as well as a songwriter, effectively establishing the Musicor label through his success. Pitney, who sometimes wrote under his mother's maiden name, Anne Orlowski, co-wrote "Rubber Ball" (a hit for Bobby Vee and Marty Wilde), "Today's Teardrops" (a B-side for Roy Orbison) and "Talkin' in My Sleep" (Billy Fury) with Schroeder, while Schroeder placed his song "Hello Mary Lou" with Ricky Nelson.

Schroeder produced many of Pitney's singles, including the Burt Bacharach and Hal David songs "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", "Only Love Can Break a Heart" and "24 Hours from Tulsa", but Bacharach preferred to have control. Schroeder also wanted the publishing rights to the songs and in 1965 there was an argument over Bacharach and David's film song for Pitney, "The Fool Killer". Schroeder's wheeling and dealing let him down and the song (about an axe murderer!) was not used in the film and had little application elsewhere. Instead, Bacharach and David shifted their attention to Dionne Warwick.

Among his other songs were "Apron Strings" (the B-side of Cliff Richard's No 1, "Living Doll"), "Cincinnati Fireball" (Johnny Burnette), "Make Me Know You're Mine" (Conway Twitty), "Wildcat" (Gene Vincent), "Lucky Devil" (Frank Ifield), "Because They're Young" (Duane Eddy) and "Twixt 12 and 20" (Pat Boone).

In 1966, Mike Jeffrey, the manager of the Animals, arranged a publishing deal for Jimi Hendrix with a company, Yameta, which was incorporated in a tax haven in the Bahamas. Yameta, in turn, formed a partnership with Schroeder, ensuring that Hendrix received relatively little for his songs, perhaps as little as £10 in £100.

Schroeder negotiated the music rights for Hanna-Barbera's animated productions and he wrote the theme song for Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969). In 1978, Schroeder wrote a US country No 1, "She Can Put Her Shoes Under My Bed Anytime", for Johnny Duncan, but it was his past successes that consolidated his income. He would tell songwriters, "Your songs are your children – they take care of you when you are old." By promoting celebrity concerts, he and his wife did much to improve the fortunes of the Berkshire Theatre Festival.

Spencer Leigh

Aaron Harold Schroeder, songwriter and music publisher: born Brooklyn 7 September 1926; married Abby (one daughter); died Englewood, New Jersey 2 December 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick