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
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
Arts and Entertainment
Bob Dylan
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?