Joe Lubin

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The Independent Online

Joseph Lubinsky (Joe Lubin), songwriter: born London 7 June 1917; married (one son, one daughter); died Los Angeles 8 October 2001.

Before the Swinging Sixties, few British songwriters had any success in Hollywood. Two exceptions were the Liverpudlian Jack Brooks, who wrote "That's Amore" for Dean Martin, and the East Ender Joe Lubin, who wrote several hit songs for Doris Day, as well as having a credit on rock 'n' roll's battle-cry, "Tutti Frutti".

Lubin was born during an air-raid in Brick Lane, east London, in 1917. He told me, "As long as I can remember, I have been singing anywhere and everywhere, which led to me writing my own songs and then trying to sell them."

He was discharged from the RAF in 1941 following an injury, and became an air-raid warden in London and entertained people in the shelters. He recalled,

We got used to wartime living and it was almost business as usual. One day I took some songs to Denmark Street. There I was in the rain, feeling sorry for myself, not even aware of the falling bombs. I stopped a small man coming out of his office and walking towards his Bentley. It was Noel Gay.

Lubin introduced himself to the noted songwriter and publisher, who returned to his office and gave Lubin an advance of £10. Soon his songs were being recorded. Vera Lynn had some success with Lubin's "I'm Sending My Blessings" and Anne Shelton with "Till Stars Forget to Shine", both in 1944.

In 1948 Lubin had success with "The Shoemaker's Serenade", which was recorded by Petula Clark, the Five Smith Brothers and the Radio Revellers. Because of a record strike in America, the song did not find an American outlet, but Lubin moved to New York. He recalled:

TV was in its infancy and I wrote bits and pieces and spot songs for the medium. I met Danny Kaye, who was going to appear at the London Palladium. I told him that he should include a Cockney song and wrote "A Paper Full of Fish 'n' Chips" for him. I was at his opening and Danny took the town by storm.

Lubin wrote additional verses for Kaye to perform at a reception at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Princess Margaret.

Back in New York, he married a magazine illustrator. He encouraged her to accept an assignment at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and they settled there. "I wanted to sell my songs to the movies, though I knew that musicals were out."

With some royalties from England, he started Carmel Records.

My wife and I went to the black area and in no time at all we got to know some very good, young musicians. We went into a small recording studio and recorded four songs, two singles. I got an independent pressing plant to press up 500 DJ copies, but the only DJs who played them were on home-based radio stations that only reached 50 people. None of the big, white stations wanted to play them. It was Snow White radio.

The radio programming led to a curious assignment:

The publishers of "Tutti Frutti" had heard about a white Jewish songwriter who was producing black records. They called me in to clean up the song so that Pat Boone, who was a million-selling artist, would record it.

The amendments were minor: Little Richard's "She knows how to love me, yes indeed" became "She's a real gone cookie, yes sirree" and both versions were hit singles. Much to Richard's annoyance, Lubin received a writing credit and thus has his name on one of the cornerstones of rock'n'roll.

Lubin also produced the 1958 rock'n'roll hit by Jan and Arnie, "Jennie Lee", which was recorded in Jan Berry's garage:

I knew I had made a hit record but I had no contract with these two under-age kids. I asked a lawyer to draw up a contract quickly, giving them a good royalty. Then I phoned some good musicians and recorded the overdubs. Word got around as I got lots of phone calls from record companies who wanted to buy my master.

Still wanting to write for films, in 1958 Lubin set his sights on Doris Day.

I wanted to meet Marty Melcher, Doris Day's husband and manager and the toughest man alive. I gatecrashed his office and talked as fast as I could, not showing any weaknesses. He said he needed a novelty song and, there and then, I sang one. He liked it and said that Doris would record it next week.

I felt he was playing games with me so, pushing my luck, I said I'd like to submit the songs, if any, for the next Doris Day movie. He said they would be starting one soon and they would need three songs, but he didn't give me the script.

Lubin went outside and waited in his car until he saw Melcher leave.

I went into the office again and said, very confidently, that Marty had asked me to find a script for him. There it was, in front of my eyes: Teacher's Pet with Doris Day and Clark Gable. I called my wife and told her I'd be home late and started to read it. My home was four miles away from Marty's office and by the time I got home, I'd written a first draft of the title song and also "The Girl Who Invented Rock'n'Roll", which was sung by Mamie Van Doren.

I stayed up all night and finished a third song, "Teacher's Pet Mambo", for a comedy sequence in which Clark Gable is too clumsy to dance with Doris Day. The next morning, dog-tired, and to Marty's surprise, I took them in to him.

Melcher used Lubin's songs and he wrote several more songs for Day, including the title songs for Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960), Move Over Darling (1964) and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966).

Lubin worked on the television series Bonanza! and The High Chaparral, but he declined an offer from his friend Dick James to publish the Beatles' songs in the United States. Although Lubin continued to write, he did not write any more hit songs. When I spoke to him earlier this year, his files had been destroyed in the last California earthquake. He said,

I have a printout of all the songs held on the publishing organisations' computers and, for the life of me, I can't remember many of them.

Spencer Leigh