Remembered not only as a peerless songwriter but also as a formidable personality and cheerful raconteur, 1992 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Doc Pomus was one of the real characters from rock and roll’s golden era. Atlantic Records producer and co-owner Jerry Wexler succinctly described his sphere of influence: "If the music industry has a heart, it would be Doc Pomus."
Pomus authored among the greatest songs in rock and roll history: "This Magic Moment" (recorded by the Drifters), "A Teenager in Love" (recorded by Dion and the Belmonts) and "Save the Last Dance for Me" (recorded by Ben E. King). Elvis Presley recorded at least 20 Pomus originals. In Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's collection includes the hand-written lyrics to "Save the Last Dance for Me," which Pomus wrote at his wedding, while watching his new bride, Wilma Burke, dancing (pictured below).
Born Jerome Solon Felder in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on June 27, 1925, he adopted the name Doc Pomus to hide his singing from his parents. Stricken with polio as a child, Pomus was confined to crutches and a wheelchair, though it never slowed him down. For nearly seven decades, until his death in 1991, Pomus worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, Dr. John, B.B. King and Lou Reed, and ultimately penned more than 1,000 songs during an extraordinarily prolific career as a songwriter. Directors William Hechter and Peter Miller wanted to tell Pomus' inspired story, and the result of their efforts is the acclaimed 2012 documentary AKA Doc Pomus.
"My interest in making this film first stemmed from the music which Doc Pomus wrote," says Hechter. "This was the music which I listened to on a daily basis while in my teens, and which either cheered me or consoled me when I was down. I was fascinated how Doc wrote for such legends as Dion, Ben E King, Ray Charles ands Elvis, and how each of them took his songs to everlasting hits."
Peter Miller and William Hechter’s remarkable history in AKA Doc Pomus takes the viewer from Pomus' early beginnings, reinvention as a blues singer, his songwriting heyday, and his later years as a songwriting mentor and advocate for repressed rhythm and blues artists. The film features interviews with Pomus' collaborators and friends, including Dr. John, Ben E. King, Joan Osborne, Shawn Colvin, Dion, Leiber and Stoller and B.B. King.
"It was only later that I began to learn about Doc Pomus, the man, and what a man he was!" says Hechter. "Now I was inspired by not only his songs, but by Doc Pomus himself. Here was a man who expressed himself openly and honestly, who shared his fears, and loneliness. And who picked himself up in order to move forward to create, and to overcome all the obstacles which life throws at us. I realized that this is a really a love story, and felt so lucky to be a part of putting it together."
The Rock Hall will screen AKA Doc Pomus on Wednesday, January 15 at 7 pm in the Museum’s Foster Theater. The evening will culminate with an interview with William Hechter conducted by Dr. Lauren Onkey, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s Vice President of Education and Public Programs. This event is FREE with a reservation. Seating is limited: RSVP here or at the Rock Hall Box Office.